Saturday 29 June 2013

Lost prostate

A good nights sleep and a bright sunny morning with bird songs. What more could you want?
Apologies for the missed blog yesterday but we were in a 3G no-go area all day. You can catch up on Brazilian today. My leg wound woke me up early this morning throbbing a bit but all appears good with no further dressings/waxings required . I'll keep my chest hirsute in case they perfect hair transplants from chest to head sometime in the near future. We are now on the outskirts of Oxford. This end of the canal is less likeable than the earlier bits with lots of counterbalanced footbridges and dodgy locks to deal with. Only we could get lost on the Thames. From the last lock on the Oxford canal we hit the Thames supposedly heading for Hampton Court but somehow realised we were heading for Lechlade.(where the Thames starts). A quick 3 point turn and we were heading the right way. The Thames makes the Oxford canal look like an old man with prostrate problems. The lock keepers on the Thames are very helpful and friendly which makes progress into and out of the locks, often sharing with huge gin palaces, almost relaxing.  Over the next couple of days we'll pass other rowing land-marks which I'll boast about in due course. Tonight we are moored near Abingdon lock and weir, very upmarket.

Friday 28 June 2013


Drizzling this morning first thing, but dry now ( 10.00 am). We are literally in the middle of nowhere. I can report nowhere is beautiful, lovely scenery, lots of bird life, a few cows and Basil Fawlty, who gave up on his umbrella BBQ once the downpour increased in violence. He has not appeared this morning yet but I'm sure he is busy organising breakfast aboard. As we passed he was busy frying breakfast whilst barking orders at Manwell. The drizzle turned to steady rain which in turn changed to very warm sunshine before returning to rain again. Changeable I think is the technical term. This canal is a gem, but we have yet to see the kingfishers and water vole which supposedly abound here. The canal and river Cherwell run alongside each other for miles but join occasionally and split again without anyone knowing, but who cares? The satellite earth station appears sometimes on the left and sometimes on the right, as does the chimney of a derelict cement works,depending which corner you are on and how far round you are. The village of Thrupp is equally confusing,a right angle bend and electric bridge combining to catch out the uninformed, as we were. A friendly farmer assisted and we passed-through without major incident or making complete fools of ourselves (I think). The L plates continue to be great topics of conversation and jollity. Today was very international with crews from the USA, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, all very friendly and chatty. We (I use the term advisedly) have contrived to lose one of our two wind lasses, which is a great shame as "ours" were far superior to the trashy two supplied by MCC which fell to pieces at their first opportunity. We will need one replacement fairly quickly for the remainder of our canal trip, but fortunately the Thames locks are all electric.Guess who got blamed for the loss? No prizes offered but phone lines close tonight at 11.00pm. Our current routine at locks is Lynne stays on the boat whilst I deal with the lock paddles and gates, although since my "vacant" day she is obviously concerned I might make a major foo-par and keeps a very keen eye on my lock procedures, often zipping off Tardis Two (having secured her to the bank) to help close the gates and get the paddle opening/closing sequences right. I can understand her concern but I find the lack of confidence in my mental capacity scary and further debilitating. In addition to locks we also had a number of lifting bridges to contend with. They are supposed to be counter-balanced and easily dealt with by 1 person. Most are left up as they are seldom used but 1 proved particularly difficult to operate. I pulled the chain, hung from the chain, hung from the counter-balance weights, pushed/pulled etc without success. Lynne could not help as two people holding the bridge up leaves no-one to take the boat through. I honestly cannot remember how we solved the problem but through we got.
We are moored near a village called Kidlington, a fairly nondescript place. The blog title relates to a conversation with Lynne this morning as she changed the dressing on my leg wound, ripping the old one off with about 5000 leg hairs attached. You men are wimps she said, good job  you don't get waxed.
One poignant moment occurred this morning when we passed a boat named Chaos, the same as my son Tom's favourite cat who recently lost his life to a car on the main road near his house. Chaos was a large, friendly, pale tabby with attitude and loved by everyone he met.

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Pigs & blue lights

The pig place turned-out to be an excellent stop-off point. In beautiful scenery with a decent pontoon and electric plug-ins, plus a general supply shop, the owners ,Sara and Dean were very helpful and friendly. Dean knows a thing or two about boats, having lived on one for several years, and offered some possible solutions to our electric problems, the most basic being an interior fitters screw fouling a cable somewhere. Around 10.00 pm all hell broke loose with the blue-lighted arrival of an ambulance and two paramedics. Having joked about needing an A&E  yesterday, fiction became fact as I suffered a huge hypo which, unusually, Lynne was unable to control, hence the 999 call and proof GPS actually works. Dean and Sara were brilliantly helpful, as were the two paramedics who dealt with me and the endless paperwork with great efficiency and humour. It was well past midnight before they departed and we went to bed, having eaten toast with marmalade and tea/coffee.
Yesterday Lynne contacted the canal and river rescue people (a sort of AA for boats) regarding advice on our electrics problem. During the phone call Lynne mentioned buying Tardis Two from MCC at Stensen. The engineer confirmed the "obnoxious woman" has banned them from the marina or immediate vicinity and so any vessel suffering breakdown requiring attention would first have to be moved to a safe haven. How famous can a pit bull get? Eat your heart out, Lassie.
Yesterday we ascertained the following battery inventory: 
Boat specification......  4 domestic.    1 starter.   1 bow thruster
MCC (Eddie)............... 6 domestic.     1 starter.   1 bow thruster
Actual..........................5 domestic.     1 starter.   1 bow thruster
We also ascertained Matt obtained an archaeological degree at Oxford university but lived on a narrowboat with a friend. Both needed a mooring site and the historic Tooleys boat yard became available for lease from Banbury museum, which Matt arranged, having produced an archaeological report on the site for the museum and the developers. It appears he is making a reasonable stab at running it successfully and knows his boat stuff. An educational success story.
We said our goodbyes and thanks to Sara and Dean for their hospitality and help during last night's blue light episode. They gave us details of overwinter mooring which we will seriously consider, providing it is within reasonable reach of Anstey. Lynne is cooking sausages from the pig place for tea.
We just came through Britain's deepest single lock at 12 feet. It looked scary from on top so I thought Lynne was brave in it. Summer rain has returned so we have moored early in the middle of nowhere and very scenic it is too. A Basil Fawlty guy with a Thai bride has moored in front of us and is currently cooking tea on a BBQ in very heavy rain. We're waiting for Manwell to serve food and drinks to them.

Banbury again and pigs

Today marks the longest we have moored in one place (excepting a marina). I can think of worse places than Banbury. Once again we had a quiet night which is remarkable given our proximity to the town centre. As promised Matt turned up at 9.00am with electrical gizmo's and scanners, confirming the batteries are OK, fully charged and not leaking. Interestingly, we have 7 batteries and not the 6 listed on the original spec (fact or fiction?) or the 8 alleged by Eddie who still reckons we have 6 domestic, 1starter, 1 bow-thruster. Matt had suggested we "do our normal thing" today and he'll do another check in the morning in an attempt to narrow down what we are doing wrong, if anything. In the event we opted to continue our travels to Oxford, taking aboard the battery information and tips from every boater and his dog. All boaters are experts on most things boating but their information needs lashes of salt pinches. Getting out of Banbury was difficult as the lock and the lift bridge proved real bottlenecks as everyone had decided to leave at the same time. A boater kindly offered to operate the lift bridge for us but frustratingly only lifted it to within 4 inches of its maximum height which caused a coming together with our new chimney. It survived but will need some remedial work by the maker when we next pass his boat. The boater apologised as he belatedly raised the bridge to its full height. The subsequent cruise went well, through some very deep locks and spectacular scenery. At one lock a fellow boater recommended moorings at a pig farm selling excellent sausages nearo Aynho, which we found without problem. It is called the Pig Place and has lots of ducks, chickens and Old Gloucester Spot pigs. The owners live on their boat next to the farm, complete with a jacuzzi, an old racing MG and an immaculate Austin A35 van, one of which I used to own and love.

Tuesday 25 June 2013


Banbury has made a great job of making the canal a town centre feature. Despite our urban environment we had a very peaceful night and the morning greeted us with bright sunshine, clear blue skies and no wind. The first thing we noticed on our cruise into Banbury was a distinct smell of doughnuts, eventually traced to a large factory producing "own brand" supermarket bread and cakes, including doughnuts we presume. Whatever we did last night almost cured the electrics problem, we just have to remember what it was. We remain convinced Tardis Two does not have an emersion heater, despite what Eddie seems to think. After all, he only designed and built the thing so what does he know? All will be revealed eventually. The plan is to visit the shopping centre for replacement first-aid items and thereafter a lazy day. My lower left leg remains attached but I am worried about the need for a blood transfusion if the bleeding fails to stop soon. A sign next to our boat indicates a tourist information centre nearby so I assume they can direct us to the nearest A & E. A friendly guy at Tooleys boat yard in the middle of Banbury has kindly tested the alternator and confirmed it is working OK which narrows the problem down to at least 1 battery. He'll land-line it overnight and isolate the offending item in the morning. Eddie confirms it should be possible to continue with 5 batteries and replace the duff one under warranty on our return north, which sounds perfectly reasonable, I suppose. we're spending the night at tooley's historic boat yard,linked to power ready for a quick check over in the morning. Still impressed with Banbury.

Monday 24 June 2013

Tom Hanks

This morning we have descended from the high point of Oxfordshire to nearer sea level via 9 locks, all with very tough paddle mechanisms needing brute force and a little ignorance. In my ignorance a windlass slipped from the paddle arm whilst under pressure and took a large chunk of skin off my left shin. Lots of blood, hopping about and swearing. Nurse Lynne applied a tourniquet to my throat and an outsize plaster to my shin which at least stemmed the flow of blood and I was able to complete the remaining locks without further injury but more than a little exhaustion. Nearer sea level the wind has dropped considerably and the sun is out, but it still isn't warm. The electric problem we thought we cured remains a problem. I had to light the hob with a match this morning as there was insufficient power to operate the spark thingy. A call to Eddie switched suspicion (sorry) to the immersion heater we were informed we didn't have, but switching " it " off (?) stopped the bedroom TV working. The mystery deepens. We will play with a few more switches tonight and consult Eddie again. I am a great Tom Hanks fan and watched Sleepless in Seattle yet again last night which reminded me of another airline adventure I have yet to share with you. Anyone seen "The terminal"? I once spent 3 days living in  Melbourne airport. I was on stand-by for a BA flight from Melbourne to London which was full, as was the next day's . Plan B by the very helpful BA staff was to get me on a Pan AM flight to England via USA, but again that was full. Literally at the very last minute a seat became available on a BA flight and was allocated to me. In pouring rain I was escorted onto the Tarmac and plane. All aboard assumed I must be a VIP but obviously had major problems putting a name to face. I spent the first 15 minutes of the flight in a toilet towelling myself off and changing into dry clothes, the ones I had been wearing in the terminal for the past few days. Luckily for the guy in the next seat I had some Lynx available. Now for something completely different. Tonight we are moored in Banbury town centre, opposite the Castle Quay shopping centre. I don't expect to be woken by a skylark in the morning. Having tripped over and broken the cat litter tray a few days ago (it was at the bottom of the boat entry steps) we opted to walk to Pets R Us at a nearby shopping complex, except it turned out to be not so close. very near total exhaustion we made it back to Tardis Two with a brand new cat litter tray for a curry tea.
The boat names today are more theme related. A few days ago my blog was titled "Tea for the Tillerman" and today we passed a boat called the same, in the identical colours of the iconic Cat Stevens album. It seemed the name plaques on each side of the hull had been lifted from the album cover, complete with illustrations and the blue surround. It looked awesome. Even better, we passed a black boat named "Imagine",with the words of the John Lennon song etched along the sides on top of music bars. That gets my vote as Best boat.
 I once had a very religious Nigerian accountant work with me who I asked why only the good die young. this was after the deaths of Ayrton Senna, Ronnie Petersen, John Denver and John Lennon. His answer was that God took them before the devil had a chance, which I thought was daft. Next day he gave me wads of paperwork copied from the bible to support his answer. It remains unread to this day.

Sunday 23 June 2013

Out of town

The near hurricane remained in place overnight but fortunately the boat did the same. The mystery of battery power shortages was eventually traced to the shoreline switch being left on (by whom?). Nothing lost, apart from battery power, soon to be rectified by an hour or two of cruising. Having set off in the aforementioned hurricane I was just contemplating donning my Woolley hat and gloves when another boater passed wearing a tee shirt, shorts, socks and sandals ! (Male). Socks and sandals.... How middle class. You see all sights on a canal. We stopped for lunch at a pub called The Wharf which serves excellent food and also has a general store and a launderette on-site. Interestingly it also lets double rooms by the hour. Who said Oxfordshire is stuffy? As I write this at 2.00 pm the sun has put in an appearance but the high wind remains. We aim to top-up the depleted batteries by cruising for another couple of hours before mooring somewhat earlier than yesterday, subject to site availability. Lots of friends and relatives laughed when we first outlined our live aboard plans, saying we would drive each other nuts ( more nuts?) spending 24/7 together in such a confined space. I have always been happy in my own company, whereas Lynne had a wide circle of friends. Looking after me 24 hours a day was hard enough when I was just diabetic, but the tumour and associated drugs have multiplied the problems 10-fold, so I am acutely aware I need to be understanding of the pressure she is under, in addition to the totally new lifestyle. I am also acutely aware, and reminded, this is my dream, my adventure.
The early summer blaze of canal bank colour is now starting to diminish as the yellow irises, the pink foxgloves, white cow parsley, pink/white hawthorn and dog roses start turning to seed. Farmland is smothered in lurid yellow rape interspersed with red poppies. Stinging nettles and wild rhododendrons are about to flower and the pale green tree leaves of spring are already darkening. Eat your heart out, Monty Dom.
By 4.30 pm we are moored  before a set of 5 locks which we hope to tackle in the morning. Moisture has joined forces with the wind to produce horizontal rain. No incidents or boat names worthy of mention today.
The title is one of those annoying"stick in your head songs". But worse, I can only guess what it is called. I think it is from the musical Oklahoma and goes something like:" say what you will, the countryside is still the only place I can settle down, dum dumpy dum dum,dum dumpy dum dum, out of town". Any offers?

Saturday 22 June 2013

TARDIS adventures 22.6.13

Following our usual early start we made excellent progress along what remained of the North Oxford canal  and joined the South Oxford version near Braunston, heading for the River Thames and London. Having rained overnight the day started cool and very windy, working itself up to almost hurricane proportions by mid afternoon, which made steering a 62 ft narrow boat on a particularly bendy canal challenging to say the least. The 9  Napton locks came and went without major incident. The lower lock is overlooked by a very old, but very complete beautiful windmill ( see photo)  whilst the middle lock is overlooked by a particularly large herd of African buffalo (?). After a stop for water, showers and cassette emptying plus a snack lunch the wind force increased and encouraged us to moor-up for the evening. As usual mooring spots were at a premium and it was late afternoon before we found one, apparently at the highest point in Oxfordshire. I should explain good mooring points are on a straight section of canal away from bridges and normally have banks supported by recycled motorway crash barriers to which chains and ropes can be securely attached .On the Oxford most of these seldom occur together, which is a shame as the scenery is fantastic and should be cherished/enjoyed. We have now perfected our "pit stops" to the standard where Red Bull and Lotus would be envious, but of course we do not change tyres whilst they do not empty cassettes. Two incidents today both involving females. The first involved a large boat being driven round a sharp and blind bend far too fast. Luckily I was progressing in the opposite direction far more slowly. More by luck than judgement we missed each other, only for her to joke about Sod's law and meetings on bends and tunnels. I told her she was lucky I was not driving half as fast as her. "Bridge/bend rage". She was one of those ladies I would hate to meet in a dark alley. The second incident involved a hire boat on a very sharp bend. The driver was younger and managed to scrape the side of Tardis Two but was obviously sorry. She was the type of lady I wouldn't mind meeting in a dark alley. A couple of interesting boat names today.....Baba O'Reilly ( for any Who fans still alive )  and a particularly large boat....Moor and Peace.

Thursday 20 June 2013

Tea for the tiller man

We had friends for tea yesterday after the deluge had passed (great weather for ducks). Misty this morning but the dawn chorus was just as good as always. The perfect alarm call. Warm and sunny today ,perfect cruising weather. We made good time through Rugby which looks a pleasant place,although we only got to sample Tesco's, before mooring near a collection of radio masts, the tallest being 820 ft. Used to operate the first trans-Atlantic radio link between London and New York in 1926. It now transmits time signals from the Royal Observatory with an accuracy of 1 second in 3 thousand years, a bit like old British railways. Two minor fits today. Our strategy is to set-off relatively early and moor-up early too which seems to suit our joint metabolises. One more boat name for you today: moody cow.

Tardis 2. Nuneaton 0.

Having returned from the land of the fairies and back to some semblance of sanity (me) it was decided we would set off early before the forecast rain could start. It was cloudy but warm first, then changed to sunny and hot before changing back to where it started. We beat Nuneaton for the second time without incident or injury, hence the title, with thanks to my computer expert Terry in Verona, Italy, who once again rescued my blog by an emergency dongle top-up. Bless him. We made good progress to Hawksbury Junction just in time to entertain lunching gongoozlers at the Greyhound pub, which sits overlooking the tightest U turn on the canal system where the Coventry and North Oxford canals join, which no doubt offers endless entertainment. Both canals run parallel  for a mile or so before joining, apparently to maximise toll charges for both. We passed Mancetter where Boadicia's last battle with the Romans took place in AD 60.   80,000 of her "troops "were slain, which almost makes Tony Blair appear a saint in comparison. Her only saving grace was committing suicide soon after. We managed to collect our Sky cable from a very strange boater at Stretton Stop before the heavens suddenly opened, dumping monsoon-like rain on everyone. All boaters were in a mad frenzy to moor before drowning, including us. Our first pins-only mooring exercise for many weeks. I was just about to say I'll let you know how successful the exercise was in the morning but some ignorant owner/boater just charged by at one hell of a rate,dragging our front pins free in the process. He had gone by the time I found some dry wet-weather gear to put on to shout at him and attempt to rescue the situation, which I did, just in time for another prat to"flash" past as I gave him a verbal assault. Once again I returned inside drenched to the skin. Our shower now resembles a laundry. We must be the only boaters to follow the rules and slow down when passing moored vessels.
The North Oxford runs alongside the M6 motorway for many miles which raises the question "why did they construct canals close to motorways, or railways for that matter?" If the weather improves we aim to get on the South Oxford canal tomorrow and subsequently the River Thames near the weekend. the following statement was sent by a fellow blogger following my vacant adventures yesterday

Wednesday 19 June 2013


Very sunny and warm. 4 hours after set-off we have made it through 11 Atherstone locks, knackered and hot. Who said cruising is relaxing?  I had a vacant morning supposedly drug related.(anti fits, not Ecstasy) On a number of locks I almost opened/closed the wrong paddles at the wrong times when I obviously know better. Fortunately other boaters were around to correct me, otherwise half the UK canal system would be empty. We had a long lunch break to review the morning and plan future strategy. We need to record these issues for discussion with my consultant next time we meet. In the meantime we'll need to share steering/lock duties better and see how it goes.  Talking of lacking communication, our Sky man (not David Bowie) went off with a vital cable which connects the magic box to the satellite dish but has promised to reunite us with it sometime on our travels,not easy to arrange it seems. I should point out he has no connection with Sky (nor do we) but is self- employed.
Two guys followed us through the locks, helping-out as necessary. They had an elaborate series of hand signals to communicate if another boat was on it's way down the lock prior to them entering. On one occasion an older boater arrived to help and asked if the hand signal meant leg-by, a cricketing signal used by umpires to scorers. Our friend stated he was a rugby league fan, to which the old man said " I suppose you think cricket is for Nancy boys ?" which kind-of took my breath away. Was it a barbed comment or a genuine mistake? Our friend chose to ignore it and on we went. Back to the subject of boat names, another came to mind from the distant past which I'll relate without comment : Passing Wind.

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Ridiculous to sublime

Following yesterday's frenetic assault on the Guinness book of records longest canal journey today was much more relaxed. We had a leisurely breakfast followed by a leisurely cruise to Polesworth, a leisurely lunch and another leisurely cruise to Atherstone locks, with a short leisurely break to take-on water, dump rubbish and empty the all-important cassettes. Rather than tackle the formidable locks before bed we opted for an early dinner, and  
an early morning assault after a good nights sleep. By early I mean before lunch. It's tough this retirement lark. After several days of re-familiarising myself with canal manners I am forced to make a sexist remark about female owner/drivers who have proven themselves to be over-forceful and rude. Yesterday one barged (excuse the pun) Lynne into overhanging trees at full speed and passed with a sickly grin over her face. Later another played chicken with me over who was to get through a narrow bridge first from opposite directions. Being the gentleman that I am I gave way and allowed her through with no damage to bridge, boats or life, for which I received no thanks and an equally sickly grin. We'll check-over the locks this evening and plan tomorrows leisurely strategy. 

Monday 17 June 2013

Boat names

We set off from Stensen at 10.00 am  yesterday morning having suffered yet another electrical disconnection during the night, traced to a multi-socket trip switch on our pontoon.. No surprises there,then. Freezer food survived yet again.  Filled with diesel at Shobnall marina for a ridiculously low price and bought the compulsory anchor and chain for our Thames trip, although how we'll manage to lift it into the water without suffering a hernia remains to be seen. Shobnall marina is a revelation and the exact opposite of Stensen. The staff are friendly, the cafe serves edible food with a smile and the chandlery actually has a range of every  boaters needs. One of our gas bottles emptied last night, Stensen yet again had no replacements so Shobnall got our trade. Rumour has it MCC have lost the Aqualine boat building business so life looks like getting tougher for them, which is a pity for the work staff who are all a cut above the management. This could be a blessing in disguise as they will have to change to survive and it is certainly a business worth changing and keeping for the future. I hope Mick and Craig are taking note of the opportunity?  Yet again we cruised the Trent and Mersey as our escape route to London via Oxford. it does not improve with familiarisation unfortunately. Today varied between overcast and cold, sunny and warm, plus very light rain this evening-the sort you have to run around in to get wet.    I always attempt to remember particularly witty boat names encountered, but promptly forget them prior to blogging. The most common are Daisy Bell, Kingfisher and the ilk. The best today was Me and Er (think about it) , Belly Button and Empty wallet. Wegonnandunnit rates highly. I have seen Emily May but no Emily May not,  yet. Gypsy Rose  plus G & T crop up regularly and a hire boat was named Titanic. Next place on the map is Fazely Junction where we take a very sharp left turn onto the Coventry canal. We had two guided tours of Tardis Two yesterday. The second couple moored behind us last night and joined us for drinks and a more detailed tour prior to an Indian meal at a nearby restaurant. Thanks to Lynne our boat is quite unique, very light and airy compared with others, more of a permanent home than a  weekend occasional "cottage", which seems to be appealing to others. We'll look into a commission arrangement with Stensen if we cannot raise sufficient funds for an outright purchase. We are unable to process credit card donations unfortunately. Health-wise yesterday was not good, with two mini-fits and generally lots of vacant moments. No fall-ins or major incidents to report. Apologies for the intermittent blogs, due to no-go areas. The good thing about constantly moving is blogs get published eventually. Both cats have begun to settle-in but neither like locks and  have developed a habit of waking us up early. Time will tell....sadie has taken To sleeping in the wardrobe while Sophie. Sleeps absolutely anywhere she wants at anytime. She was verbally assaulted by 3mallards through the boat window this morning, following similar antics by 2swans yesterday. Wildfowl and cats is not a good mix apparently. Today varied between warm sunshine and cool clouded sky's. healthwise I suffered mini fits hourly but not progressing beyond the acid indigestion stage, which is the lesser of two evils. Having both overdone the cruising and locks exercises we are both knackered and have noted the need to slow life speed to boat speed, starting tomorrow.

Saturday 15 June 2013

Back to fitness

Still aboard at Stensen mid-afternoon , way past our set-off time. Having enjoyed over two weeks of fit-free living I was woken at 4.00am by the mother of all fits, a pounding headache and a bout of physical sickness. Another big step forward and even bigger back. I feel ok now but Lynne is insisting we stay at Stensen until things have settled for a while, whilst I am keen to get going. We need to fill with diesel from Shobnall marina around 2 hrs away which I am willing to go for, but it may have to wait till the morning. We pass there anyway so no time will be lost. Frustrating times.

Friday 14 June 2013


Sunny and warm so far today. We think everything is aboard now, including the cats. Lots of people think we have opted-out of life in general, but unfortunately this is not the case. We are still governed by those unelected eurocrats   in Belgium and the British government, elected on a manifesto immediately changed or forgotten once in power and spending (excuse the unintentional pun) their time undoing everything the previous lot did until taking their turn in opposition and so on and so on and so on. Even on canals we have stupid laws imposed similar to the infamous "pasty" tax, but in this instance it applies to fuel. Diesel used to power the boat forwards or backwards is subject to fuel tax, whereas the same diesel used for central heating and other "domestic" uses is exempt, even though contained in the same fuel tank. There is no exact formula for working out the percentage of fuel used for each task and anyway, will vary boat to boat. The most accurate way of ascertaining percentages seems to be via tossing a coin. So far it has varied between 20-80, 25-75, and 0-100, the latter obviously being our preferred option.  At least with the almost certain demise of our traditional third party and the meteoric rise of an alternative the above status quo may change forever and an element of common sense  prevail. Our lives are governed by multinational companies and politicians to whom money is the holy grail, overriding any semblance of compassion or the will to resolve some simple problems to put right the many wrongs of this world. Opt out? Chance would be a fine thing.      I had another hypo very early this morning which indicates I need to re-assess my insulin needs with the new drug regime. Lamotrigine and insulin clearly was not a happy partnership so I need to ascertain how Keppra and insulin get along. There is no previous experience for reference so, once again it is down to trial and error. A sort of life or death drama.

Thursday 13 June 2013

Thunder and lightning

For a weather report check the title. Arrived at The marina to discover some kind soul had disconnected our mains electric supply. Who or why will remain a mystery. Having said that, the number of electric hook-up points does not match the number of boats wishing to use them so the trails of wires would give any qualified electrician a shock. Lynne was dead chuffed as she had filled the freezer with food supplies for our Thames adventure only yesterday. Apart from runny ice cream most items appear to have survived but it remains to be seen if we will after eating it. We have re-connected to power and run the engine for a bit to replenish the batteries. The Sky man (not David Bowie) has swopped the dodgy magic box for a working model and will swop back once it is repaired. We do not expect to see him again.  A towel rail has now been fitted in the rear loo (no pun intended), a spice rack in the galley and the mini Dyson battery  "Hoover" hung in the cupboard. DIY skills? Who needs them?  We replaced the two Rio rear tyres as one had a slow puncture and both were beyond their "sell by dates". The tyre shop crew were excellent and offered us any amount of old Ford Fiesta tyres we needed for fenders. We declined on this occasion but said we would take them up on their offer if and when we needed to. Engine service tomorrow and cats on board. The weather forecast is rain and high winds but we are still hoping to get away at the weekend. Intention is one thing, reality another.

Wednesday 12 June 2013


Sunny and cool with fabulous cloud formations. We have sorted out more clothing and food for our trip, including suitable "posh" gear for the two weddings we plan to attend. The Sky man (not David Bowie) has arranged to visit Tardis Two tomorrow so we have delayed our next visit till then, when hopefully we can give the cats their first boating extravaganza. Our local Post Office has moved on from GPO radio muzak to Gem, our local station. We can now listen to the top 40 albums whilst queuing for a first class stamp.  Life is now generally  fit-free but I have reverted to feeling tired from the time I get up until going to bed early again, but hey-ho, it is still major progress I suppose.

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Kung Fu comeback

At the end of a cool, overcast day all evidence of Bruce Lee's wounds have healed, virtually without trace, thanks to the wonders of modern science (pot of paint and a brush). That's the midnight blue cabin paintwork restored, leaving the red and black hull scars caused by the inevitable contact with locks, moorings and other miscellaneous canal odds and ends to be dealt with tomorrow (weather permitting). A quick wash and shine shampoo application will then restore Tardis Two's pristine appearance once again.
The pit bull appeared sedated today so we booked our winter mooring and confirmed our departure for the summer (?) at the end of this week. Our Sky man (not David Bowie) is offering to replace our dodgy satellite locator. Packed with modern technology  and the bloody battery packs up !! The engine will receive it's first service on Friday prior to our long-term departure.
This site has now recorded almost 4,500 hits. Thanks to one and all.

Monday 10 June 2013

Ups and downs

our first adventure concluded it is time to reflect on the ups and downs of the trip.
UPS:.............1).  The confidence gained in all boating operations by Lynne and myself. You name it, we encountered and beat it............2). The loin-cloth man. Who would have thought it? The midlands in a cool June. Something for the ladies. Pity about the low temperature.............3) the thrill of crossing the channel in a narrow boat, or so it seemed at the Sour/Trent junction..............4) The faultless performance and handling of Tardis Two................5).  the weather. Mostly sunny and warm as evidenced by our tropical suntans and sandle markings.........6) My health
DOWNS:    1)  The poor state of the rivers and canals, particularly locks)on the Trent and Mersey. CRT will have their work cut out over future years if any noticeable progress is to be made................2). Lock rage. Only one incident to report. one old bat with a luminous red visor who had a go at Lynne for leaving her to deal with the lock for her boat to enter (nothing to do). Lynne explained the situation to her husband on the boat and he confirmed "she moans at everything"............3) the pair of young pillocks jumping in and out of full locks. We pointed out the hazards involved, particularly nasty diseases, but they stated they had been doing it for more than ten years without problem. They looked fit and well so who are we to argue? .................4) Crew tensions. The first week passed without major problems but the little niggles became greatly amplified during week two, by which time Bob had almost perfected his Bruce Lee impression. His chain fighting skills improved each time mooring chains were required, but in each instance the only casualty was the Tardis Two paintwork and my patience. The former will need urgent and delicate painting skills. The latter exploded a few times to release pent-up tensions but only gave temporary relief.

Sunday 9 June 2013

Come in number 22

The last day of our Leicester Ring trip. A very cold start and finish, with warmish sun between. Nothing exciting today other than 3 sets of  absolutely awful locks, soon to be reported to the Canal and River Trust. How anyone is expected to conduct a holiday or relaxing boat trip through this crap is beyond me. I know the government and British Waterways miserably failed to maintain or improve Britains waterways for many years, but to lumber CRT ,as a charity, with this rubbish is shameful. I wish them well. On the plus side, things can only get better. I'll reflect on our trip tomorrow, but overall it went well and improved Lynne and my skills and confidence to the point where we can fulfil our dreams of quietly  cruising out the rest of our days.  

Only Thursday

Moored in Shardlow for the night. Historic village full of canal nostalgia. The New Inn garden was full of tattoo's and builders cleavage's so we opted to eat in the Malt Shovel nearby. When I asked the girl behind the bar for a table for three she looked at me as if I had just escaped from a loony bin and said, "We only do food on Thursdays". As today is Saturday We opted for the Clock Warehouse near bridge 3 which is a converted canal warehouse full of memorabilia and wonderful food. highly recommended.
Truly full and knackered we staggered back to Tardis Two for an early night.  I spent the whole day at the tiller through Zouch, Normanton on Soar, Kegworth, Ratcliffe on Soar and Sawley locks ( manned and electronic) near the river Derwent entrance. I feel pretty good and seem to have avoided fits for the past two weeks, although I had a hypo (low blood sugar) early morning Wednesday, totally my fault.

Saturday 8 June 2013


Cold and overcast start to day, but sunny and warm by afternoon. Left our overnight mooring at 08.15 ready to drop Lynne off at her pick-up point ( no comments please ) The Albion pub, Loughborough. Derek and Sue duly arrived as we disappeared into a Turkish "supermarket" for today's supplies. The remaining two man crew and I carried on with our journey towards Stensen. The first lock was eventful, overlooked by a little old lady on one of those frightening electric trikes, who suddenly became very active, indicating Bob had fallen off the lock wall, fortunately onto a grass bank rather than the water. She offered to help Margaret get him up or call an ambulance, but Bob eventually indicated he was OK and got up unaided, seemingly uninjured but with a raging hump, depositing himself on the boat settee where he threatened to remain for the duration. Margaret and I completed lock duties at that one and the next, fortunately helped by an upcoming crew.  The next lock boasted a water tap and a cassette disposal unit. The former was blocked by a moored boat and the latter manifested itself as a very large ,smelly plastic tank with no rinse-out water supply. We somehow managed to fill the water tank but the  plastic hose-reel disintegrated when rewinding. The cassettes were emptied into the smelly tank and rinsed out on the river bank. Having entered and left the lock,which leaked both ends equally, I suddenly remembered the cassettes were still on the river bank. It was a relief ( excuse the pun) to find them still there when I returned. From there we went through 3 locks with two very brave Tupperware boat crews whilst our recovering crew member girded his loins for return to duties and any required future activities. The junction of the Soar, Trent and Airewash canal proved confusing but we eventually made it onto the Trent and Mersey. At one point I thought we were crossing the Channel , such was the width of water. Good practice if we ever decide to get over to France.

Herons and cormorants

A very hot, sunny day.  We spent the day on various sections of the Grand Union canal and rivers Soar and Wreak. All are indiscernible from the other, apart from the rivers having currents whilst the canal is still . Leicester came and went in a trice. The photo is of Tardis Two in front of the National Space centre, which seems quite appropriate. We also passed the old Wolsey factory, set up by cardinal Wolsey to produce the first Y front underpants.  The locks in Leicester are all hard work and in need of some TLC but the scenery is surprisingly pleasant, particularly passing the Watermead country park, confirming our impression of the city gleaned from the road journeys. We rescued a boat named Valery which had run aground trying to negotiate the wrong bridge arch, the lack of signage being firmly to blame. We had previously made a similar mistake attempting to get under a bridge via a pigeon-netted arch, fortunately stopping before becoming permanently entwined. The best lock was our last of the day, Pillings, which is a drive-through during summer months and a functional lock in the winter to help control water levels. After days of not seeing a heron we saw at least 6 today, one sunning himself with wings akimbo like a bird flasher. A cormorant also put in an appearance as did a herd of long-horn cattle with a particularly fierce looking bull, not one to pick a fight with. We have been forced to give up on our ambitious plan of returning to Stensen Saturday morning. Instead friends are going to pick up Lynne in Loughborough, reunite her with our car and she will then attend our youngest daughters boy friends birthday party in London Saturday evening, conveying my sincere apologies to all and sundry. I will return Tardis Two to Stensen for her service, where I'll stay till Lynne returns.

Thursday 6 June 2013

Bull.china shop. Conundrum

A warm, sunny and very busy day. 1tunnel ( half a mile) at Saddington, home to many bats, and 21 locks, the first 5 double which we shared with "Nanny and Grandads Boat".  sharing lock duties with another crew makes life much easier. This was Lynne's first experience of double locking and,once again, she did very well and is now a fully fledged boater. The closer to Leicester we get the tougher the locks become, mostly due to vandalism of the mechanism's. the last lock we came through near Fosse Park shopping centre was actually locked ! ( The Canal and River Trust standard key fitted, fortunately). Tomorrow we get onto the river Soar which should prove interesting. 
Graffiti is also becoming more prevalent. 
Due to a bull in a china shop moment involving one of the crew and the hose reel Lynne fell over and cut her foot. A few swear words and a sticking plaster later, all was well again and the crew remain friends, sort of.   I have spent my life believing everyone learns from their mistakes, but if you're perfect and never make any where does your knowledge come from? Is it in the genes?  Answers on a postcard please. I have always been a great believer in " If it ain't broken, don't fix it", mainly because of my restricted DIY skills, but still find it difficult to comprehend why people still like to fiddle for no discernible  reason even though their DIY skills far exceed mine. The end results always seem identical as the damn thing never works again.  Tardis Two is showing the scars of 2 weeks under constant use, but still receives compliments from other boaters and gongoozlers. Foxton locks is a magnet for gongoozlers and is always crowded. Certainly not the place to make a boating foo-par, which Lynne avoided to her great credit.
 Having lost a days cruising to rain we will have our work cut out to return to Stensen by tomorrow night but we'll give it our best shot.
Another good day healthwise.

Credit crunch

Sublime to the ridiculous. Cloudy and cold today. Shorts and sandals abandoned, replaced by sweaters,socks, jeans and trainers. Apologies for no blog Tuesday and Wednesday, caused by lack of credit on my borrowed dongle. If you are reading this you'll know the dongle recession has been overcome.   Today Lynne took us through the Husbands Bosworth tunnel (slightly over 1mile) and down the extremely daunting Foxton locks ( 10 staircase locks dropping the canal 75 feet). See photo. 
Fortunately there were two lock keepers on hand to advise and instruct, otherwise I hate to imagine what could have happened. We have moored near the Saddington tunnel (881 yds) which is apparently inhabited by bats. We'll tackle that in the morning. The Grand Union is a terrific canal, passing through some stunning countryside. I had always associated it with the traffic of coal and quarry stone from the north to London, but it has transformed itself into a real jewel. Healthwise I am better than I could have prayed for and have been able to take long stints of steering Tardis two, something I feared could never happen given my problems over the past year or so.

Hat of 9 lives

Yet another sunny day, cool in the wind, hot out of it. I now have suntanned feet and legs. We passed very close to Watford Gap services. So close, we could smell McDonalds. It was difficult to ascertain if the Watford Gap weather phenomena actually occurred today as our speed of travel made any contrast very gradual. The Grand Union Leicester arm is very scenic, wide and easy to navigate. Watford staircase locks proved less daunting than expected thanks to the help of a friendly lock keeper. We were raised 410 feet. Lynne took us through Crick tunnel (1 mile) , even passing a boat coming the opposite way, without incident. The tunnel is dry one end but extremely leaky the other, causing lots of crew movement. My baseball hat got blown into the canal twice. Lynne rescued it first via the back of someone else's boat and Margaret fished it out from the bank second time around. 2 quick rinses in clean water,drip drying from the tiller and it looks as good as new. TARDIS Two received a wash this evening. As evidence of my renewed health and confidence I washed the roof whilst standing on it (with life-jacket of course). She looks pristine now. The mop handle ended in the canal but was easy to retrieve.I think we are around 25 miles from Leicester.  the loin-cloth man yesterday was also wearing a cowboy-type hat and Jesus sandals apparently but both Lynne and Margaret confirm the loin-cloth was his only body clothing when observed from side-view.I think I left my loin-cloth at home before the holiday and have no hope of buying one from a canal chandlery, so it will have to wait till our next trip. It will feature in a future blog.
We are still on-target for getting back to Stensen prior to our car trip to London for a 40th birthday bash Saturday evening. No rushing in our new life.

Monday 3 June 2013


Fabulous sunny and warm day yet again. Shorts and sandals for the first time this summer. Currently on the Grand Union canal, Leicester arm, having completed the North Oxford, Braunston tunnel ( one and a quarter miles) and now heading for Crick and Leicester. A bit of a mutiny last night, largely about methods of mooring. In the old days it was possible to tie-up the boat onto a mooring pin without the risk of some moron untying it for a laugh during the night. From there  it moved-on to tying mooring ropes to the bankside  boat stud, but the moron's evolved to untying them from there.  So the latest recommendation is to tie to the waterside boat stud so if any moron wishes to untie it they have to walk over the boat, alerting anyone aboard. However, some crew members have failed to evolve at the same rate as the moron 's and thus a lively discussion ensued regarding mooring techniques. Perfection leaves little scope for reason, compromise or humour. After a quiet night and an apology all was back to "normal" this morning. On the way to Braunston we spotted a man on the bank wearing a hat and what appeared to be little else. Closer inspection "revealed" he was, indeed, not wearing anything other than a flesh coloured loin cloth and a rucksack. It was a hot day but not that hot, although Margaret and Lynne were certainly sweating. The north Oxford is very pretty with long straights and many bendy bits, but heavily overgrown. The towpaths are knee deep in mud, so certainly not recommended for cyclists. In contrast the Grand Union is better maintained, with excellent towpaths. Braunston tunnel is in good condition but wet weather gear is recommended. Fortunately our headlight and navigation lights worked well. We went through 6 sets of double locks with another boat and very friendly crew, which made the experience enjoyable. Healthwise I feel 100 per cent better, a great recommendation for the boating lifestyle.

Sunday 2 June 2013

PAS & CFAS ecstacy

As we came to the end of the Coventry canal I had the chance to reflect not only on the beauty of it, but also the stunning display of electric pylons and fluffy cloud formations along its' length, sure-fire ecstasy for members of my two favourite societies.
Today we travelled through Rugby to somewhere near Braunston, via a major shop in Tesco. Once again we had a very warm and sunny day. We managed to get one of our mooring chains stuck between metalwork and concrete tonight so we 'll need to get a replacement somewhere .
We aim to get somewhere near Crick tomorrow having traversed Braunston tunnel, one of the longest on the canal system. TARDIS Two is behaving herself and has caused no problems to date. Her rudder has eased itself with use and handling is perfect. No fits again today so things seem to be improving all the time.

Saturday 1 June 2013

We survived Nuneaton

Against all odds we managed to cruise through Nuneaton without incident or stopping. For Nuneaton read Birmingham, For Birmingham read previous blogs. There is one word to describe both...avoid.
The Anchor we ate at last night had a beer garden full of tattooed individuals and pit bull terriors. Inside it was ok and the food excellent. Nuneaton also appears to be populated by pit bull terriors and tattooed humans (I use the word with hesitation).  Apart from that the remainder of the Coventry canal was brilliant.  Hawkesbury Junction is unique on the canal system as it has the sharpest U turn you are ever likely to encounter, which has to be undertaken in front of the Greyhound pub and dozens of slightly sozzled gongoozlers. I managed the manoeuvre without problem and had to wait for entry to the stop-lock ( only 4 inches deep and originally used to collect tolls between connecting canals). Thereafter we were on the North Oxford canal, badly maintained by British Waterways before they dropped the lot on the new Canal and River Trust charity, who have a lot of work to do before the canal is of an acceptable standard. Although it is very scenic there is a chronic shortage of mooring places and the footpaths are awful. We cruised past the other Ansty (note the missing E) and Stretton Stop before mooring for the night amongst some long-term moorers. Next door is an Australian just split-up from his girl friend , Margaret informs me. He seems quite normal compared with your average boater who come in all shapes,sizes and mental states.  The day has been endlessly warm and sunny.
I feel really well and relaxed, apart from a badly bruised knee, having been attacked by a windlass at one of the many locks tackled yesterday. This relaxing lark is really knackering. The TV picture is crap so for entertainment we have been watching a mother duck and her very young brood of 11 ducklings, 5 yellow and 6 dark. We wonder what she had been up to whilst courting?