Wednesday 31 July 2013


Raining this morning. No dawn chorus so the local birds must also be disappointed. The M6 hums (noise not smell) in the background but it must be some considerable distance away as we passed under it long ago, alongside a gypsy (traveller/Tarmac your drive,sir?/ can we empty your skip,sir?/ethnic minority camp site). Are we now travellers? I have never resurfaced a drive in my life, unless crazy paving is accepted in this category? Or recycled metalwork (other than coke cans) but if it offers advantages I'm happy to be re-designated. Today, so far, has been only our second "wet" boating day. We finally moored for lunch near the Charity dock, really a graveyard for old boats, hoping the weather will improve this afternoon. An attempted earlier mooring confirmed this canal is very shallow near the edges, which tends to minimise  stopping opportunities as the whole canal length one side is military firing ranges and combat training facilities. Moor at your peril. Talking of military, canals and rivers were obviously well protected in earlier conflicts as "pill box" anti-aircraft and machine gun points still abound to this day.
During a dry spell we sneaked through Nuneaton yet again, although we did run the gauntlet of a bunch of their best young morons under a bridge. I think they spoke English and gave a good account of the town, one not on my must visit list. Two boat names today. A narrowboat "Bo Diddley" for you really old guitar officianado's and a Tupperware " Percy Veere".

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Summer revisited

An overcast, cooler morning, but none the worse for that ( not that I'm complaining). Having cruised past/ through Rugby several times now we have yet to actually " visit" it. Both Lynne and I had always considered it, and the sport named after it, to be way up in northern England, bleak and overlooked, rather than nestling in the scenic midlands. A visit is on the "to do" list. Healthwise yesterday was one of those easily forgotten ones, nothing to report other than endless tiredness (apologies for the excessive esses.) Using less esses is next on my "to do" list. Yesterday was also a 3G technical day which inevitably delayed blog publication, but we're back on- line bright and early today.
On the Oxford canal at Rugby is a water point designed by that famous canal engineer, Heath Robinson. it is sited right next to a bridge so is spotted right at the last moment and only has one mooring ring situated to the rear of a Cadbury flake-like bank. Whilst attempting to moor Lynne slipped knee-deep into the canal, dropping one of our brand-new fenders, which promptly sank irretrievably
To make matters worse I had a crunchy lunch moment. You know how it is when you get to my age and what's left of your teeth keep parting company with you. my soft cheese lunch suddenly produced a crunchy moment which was not good news. A dentist appointment is due to be booked, no doubt.
Our visit "home" is already looking busy.
On analysis the tooth was actually a white filling, so no tooth fairy tonight (story of my life).
After a short shower  and glorious rainbow we have moored on the outskirts of Hawksbury Junction where the Oxford and Coventry canals meet. The Oxford towpath is designated the Oxford Walk, but you will need wellington boots in places. the actual pathway is mown but they leave a sort of weed "hedge" between that and the canal, meaning you cannot see the path from the canal and visa-versa

Monday Speedo's

A bright, sunny start to the new week with lots of greyish wispy clouds floating around in a fresh breeze. Still warm, though. Moored near a place with the unlikely name of Lower Shuckburgh. Imagine trying to convey your home address to someone  in a call centre on the end of the phone in outer India who has English as her third language?  Working for Network Rail or some other British institution. The buffalo herd at the bottom of Napton locks mentioned in a previous blog I can confirm as water buffalo.    A fellow boater mentioned a local brand of buffalo ice cream to me earlier but I dismissed it as a joke at the time. It is hardly an appealing flavour, even to the new hardened, street-wise breed of children? In the event it turns out they use the milk, rather than the meat. I have yet to try it but will report if ever I do.
Talking of Napton locks I luckily managed to stop a young, new boater opening sluices without closing those on the gates above. The result would have been flooding around areas of the lower canal and no water in the upper portion. The logic was lost on him at the time but I am sure his pretty girl friend/wife/lover (delete as appropriate) got a surprise Eureka! Moment during the night.
The following leisurely cruise to Braunston proved uneventful, although the scenery was breathtaking. We moored near the village and walked to a chandlery near the lower lock, recommended by the owner of Baba O'Reilly ( the boat, not the Who track). We needed to replace the duff MCC wind lasses and some fenders inevitably lost in our travels, plus stock up on boating essentials. We discussed our electrical problems and received confirmation any fault is more likely due to the boat builder than us, giving more ammunition to our eventual claim. Looking for night moorings on the way to Rugby we spotted a likely place, which we pulled into, only to be approached by a very white, middle-aged chap in A pair of Speedo's leaving little to the imagination. he asked several questions and I answered as follows:  Q. Are you mooring?    A. Yes.        Q. Do you have pins?    A. Yes but do you need some?    He confirmed he had some but suggested I find an alternative mooring site as boats pass very fast and pull them out. Lynne and I immediately decided to move-on, not due to the alleged pin problem but more because of Speedo fear. Further along the North Oxford canal we finally moored, only to be side-swiped by a Viking hire narrowboat, fresh from collection. The young offender blamed his girlfriend/wife/lover (delete as appropriate) but half-heartedly
apologised anyway. 

Sunday 28 July 2013

Flying over the cuckoo's nest

The rain arrived with a vengeance last night, requiring me to venture out in mid-downpour to close down the mushroom vents, otherwise rain splash enters the boat and the shower unit becomes excess to requirements. However, I survived. The Wharf is an odd place. At first glance it is a large pub/restaurant, water point, camp site, general store, launderette and moorings, but is actually a small, friendly "community" including a wide cross section of all human life and actually works perfectly in a "social" way.  Having further analysed my hologram moments I really am starting to question my sanity, in a "One flew over the cuckoo nest"sort of way (Jack Nicholson). Am I sane and everyone else mad? Where does the blurred line begin? Is half a brain as good as a whole one? And what the hell?
A few locks with a walk or two in -between and I had another's hologram moment when the boat moored itself and the gas bottles changed themselves over when one emptied.It remains to be seen if the hologram eats lunch. Watch this space (excuse the pun). We are in phase two of the wild flower cycle with lots of pinks, whites and shades in between.once again at the high point of Oxfordshire a few more anti HS2(High speed train link)  posters have appeared along the canal. The thought of a new London/Birminghan railway line scything its' way through this wonderful countryside is horrific, and for what? A couple of minutes off the current journey time. Concorde was hardly a great success. Personally I would put a few extra bends in the current rail link. Why rush to get there when you can use video-link or FaceTime from where you already are,probably with a far better view?(London residents only).  Luckily most protests are from the fox-hunting fraternity so their chances of success will be high. Anyone noticed any difference since the "sport" became illegal? Nor did I.

Saturday 27 July 2013

Chav city

Yet another sunny morning but now with off-white fluffy clouds as hovering threats. The forecast is heavy showers. Having cruised straight through Banbury ( the new centre of Co-Op armed robberies apparently...... Two in the last fortnight ) we have named it the Chav city as they have the biggest ( in every sense of the word)  collection of chav's ever seen in one place before. My own fault I'll admit, but my previous Panda feet blog title embedded the infamous Mud hit with a similar name in my head for all of yesterday. Considering I hated it at the time, alongside Mud, it was the worst torture imaginable. So far so good today though. Once again, no set plans for today other than getting nearer to my hospital appointment in Leicester and getting Tardis Two electrics sorted at MCC. We have now mastered how to live with the current (excuse the pun) situation by switching off the inverter last thing at night and back on again first thing in the morning. However, this success only masks the fact a fault still exists. Talking of faults, two more have returned yet again. The first Paul has had two attempts at correcting with only temporary success. The alternator belt slips and screams for several minutes when the engine is started, which means the battery charging is less than it should be. The second Paul has also attempted to fix a number of times, with similar non-results. The throttle will not "grip" at certain revs and annoyingly slips back to its original position unless physically prevented. One hand on the tiller and the other on the throttle restricts wine drinking on the move, unfortunately. I gave up noting unusual boat names whilst on the Thames as Tupperware owners seem to lack originality or vision. Stick any girls name in front of "dream" and you have named your boat. Gin palace owners are far better educated ( Eton. Oxford. Cambridge. Ashlyns secondary modern ) but you need an equal education to understand their boat names. Not that I am casting nasturtions on your education levels of course ! 
Have you ever had a hologram day? You know you have been there but no-one else seems to realise?
We traversed 9 locks and the roofless Fenny "tunnel" today without major incident before arriving at The Wharf for water and a meal. Whilst there Tardis Two got filled with water and moved backwards without my involvement, although I did manage to dump the rubbish. The forecast rain has yet to appear but the atmosphere is very humid and " thundery", in every respect.
Everyone on the canals around here seem to be making their way to the Copredy music festival, made famous by Fairport Convention. Apparently tickets are expensive and hard to come by but the festival acts also play the local pubs for free. Mooring at Copredy is also near impossible during festivals. It was full when we passed through today.

Friday 26 July 2013

Dead voles

Moored near somerton deep lock (all 12 feet of it) in very agricultural countryside. Both the cats went for an early morning forage and each returned with common field voles,who were obviously used to a cat-free environment, but no more. The fluffy white clouds are still around but totally lacking formation unless I can perfect one of these photography editing programmes? But what's the point? Let nature take its' course. If the truth be told I have not felt 100% over the past few days. Whilst fits have been in very short supply I have felt able to fall asleep at the drop of a hat and I can confirm these new anti-fit pills do play tricks on my blood sugar levels, much like the previous ones. Is it unknown for diabetics to have brain tumours? And if so why have no studies been done on the interaction of drugs and insulin? Does guinea pig spring to mind? This morning is warm and sunny so once we have summoned up the courage we'll tackle these formidable locks. One advantage of canals over Thames is the necessity for me to operate the locks. As most are very old, badly maintained and of variable mechanism it gives me a regular physical and mental challenge to confirm my usefulness, which is rewarding. The facilities at Lower Hayford proved a non-event as they were heavily oversubscribed. There was absolutely no chance of using them with mooring spaces lacking and congestion preventing any chance of waiting. We will make our water supply and cassette capacity last until Banbury, still many hours away. Watch out for gasping, cross-legged boaters. From the photo you will get the appeal of the Austin A35 van. Whilst not as pristine mine was a real girl-puller, or did I just underestimate my boyish charms? Either way it was great fun and could tell some stories.
We are finally re-united with our sausages, or at least we will be when Dean and Sarah re-open after lunch. Guess what's for dinner tonight? Our dire water situation forced us to move on, finally making Banbury in time for our sausage tea, and very good it was too. Having replenished water supplies and got rid of waste products (in every sense of the word) we carried on to our current mooring near Hardwick lock in the middle of nowhere, although the M40 and a main railway line are both nearby. The River Cherwell remains close which again questions the need for both it and the Oxford canal. Why not use one or the other and save resources? Don't tell the Government or they'll build over one of them.  The Oxford canal locks are the hardest I have ever encountered, needing Lynne's assistance on more than one occasion. As a consequence I am knackered. Overall today has been better for both Lynne and I. The aches and pains from Lynne's insect bite/swelling and my bullet wound made for some sharper than normal exchanges yesterday but today has proved more serene, thankfully.

Thursday 25 July 2013

Snakes alive

It rained during the night. Only I noticed as the tablets the chemist gave Lynne for her insect bite knocked her out for the count, giving her respite from her pain and her best sleep aboard. The weather is overcast, dry and relaxingly cool, moored close to Shipton lock, a strange triangular design (for some unknown reason ) on the river Cherwell, which came as a shock to me as I was convinced we were back on canals . Whilst "lost" in Oxford yesterday and seeking a chemist we stopped to ask a passer-by directions. When casting off a large ( 3 foot) snake swam alongside the bank looking for escape. I am no snake expert but it had all the colourings associated with Britain's only venomous species, the adder. I had no chance for a photograph or will to help it back onto dry land so we parted company. We helped a day boat (crewed by 3 generations of the same family) through the lock and the next one at Enslow. For miles the river and canal flow side by side, which raises the question: why go to all the expense and bother of building the canal anyway? They are still together at Pidgeon's lock and later as they cross the Roman Akeman Street (which you cannot see) where we stopped for lunch near an old quarry(which you can). Both cats have learned to associate the boat engine stopping with a chance to explore the nearby countryside. Lynne spotted a kingfisher this morning, only the second of our travels this year. Today is hot again, but the blue sky is dotted with fluffy white clouds just waiting to create formations. It has taken some considerable time to get this blog published today which is surprising given we are within touching distance of the  satellite earth station.......... At this point I should tell you I am no expert on canal history, royal family , government love affairs or other guff I have fed you over recent weeks. The information (surprise,surprise) comes from the relevant Pearson's Canal Companion. Over our canal boating years we accumulated several of the series and presents from family and friends ensured we had the complete set before starting our adventures. There are other guides but I prefer Pearson's as I find them easy to follow (except in Oxford) , informative and entertaining. During the afternoon cloud formations formed, sparkling white above like a Persil advert and grey beneath like suet pudding.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Pylons and clouds

Our quiet spot near Sandford lock proved anything but. The local teenage yob group decided to have their disposable BBQ right next to Tardis Two bow, together with black smoke and equally dark swearing, which ruined our open-air tea, to the point where we jointly decided to move location. Lynne spoke to the lock keeper who kindly agreed to see us through before packing up for the night, which he did. We finally moored opposite the village pub on meadowland. Both were busy and fairly noisy for the evening. At one point an angelic girl strolled by singing a John Denver song at full volume.......shades of the 1960's.  Apart from very noisy ducks and geese the night proved to be peaceful. Lynne has an insect bite on her leg which has caused swelling and itching so we need to locate a chemist soon. My leg bullet wound still looks horrific but seems to be healing OK, but we both still consider I should have got it stitched. My panda feet still feet. Pylons and clouds fill the horizon this morning. We must be nearly home. Still warm and sunny though. Entry to Oxford via the Thames is a much grander affair than by canal, but choosing the right route is a still a lottery. Signage is at a premium and several times we considered ourselves lost, only to stumble over a landmark listed in the guide book totally by luck. This trip we opted to join the Oxford canal via the Dukes cut but this involved doing the curvy bit of the Thames and very curvy it was too. The Tina Turner of UK rivers. Even the turn into the Dukes cut involves an acute angle and the cut is narrow, dark and sinister with lots of apparently abandoned boats littered along it. Not a place for the faint-hearted. Half-way through is a tiny lock with a strangely unique mechanism. We finally made it through, more by accident than design, to a Tee junction, again with pathetic signage. Having double-checked our route guide we set off in what was later to be confirmed the right direction. Lynne hit complimentary problems with a lift-bridge which confirmed her weight was insufficient to operate it. A passing male boater provided the necessary flab and we were on our way again, collecting tablets and ointment for Lynne's bitten leg from a chemist in Kidlington.

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Relaxing exhaustion

It rained heavily last night reducing temperatures by several degrees (not that I'm complaining). Finding a mooring place on the Thames is worse than trying to identify horsemeat in beef burgers so in desperation we stayed overnight in the lay by for Benson lock just past Wallingford. It proved interesting as RAF Benson was literally next door with helicopter exercises keeping us and the cats entertained late into the evening.This morning We tagged onto a gin palace to self-operate the lock,which did not go exactly to plan as the red alarm light flashed and we got stuck for ages, together with another narrowboat, the crew of which was sadly typical of the ilk, all grease, dirt and ripe language. We passed the spot of our grounding at Shillingford very carefully, through Days lock (another tatty one) and moored for brunch under Clifton Hampden bridge.a very pretty spot. This morning's thunder and lightening has changed to hot sunshine yet again. We moored for the night near Sandford lock having pieced together more of the puzzle involving lock keeper help many weeks ago. It appears keepers are moved around between locks as and when required so it took us all day to track down the relevant staff. Having done so we have emailed their bosses praising their actions on the day and repeating our heartfelt thanks. They all remembered us and the events of that day.
Today was much more relaxing for us as no targets were set. We should be back on canals tomorrow.

Monday 22 July 2013

B list celebs

The geese made an awful mess on Tardis Two roof during the night which made an early morning wash-down necessary. The journey to Reading proved uneventful, apart from getting progressively warmer.Marlene met us at Caversham bridge with a cat litter tray to replace the one she accidentally demolished on board yesterday, and very nice it is too. I am sure the cats will appreciate it.
A few yards away from our mooring spot was another,named Justice, which belongs to a canal boat magazine journalist, Steve Haywood, with whom we exchanged "Hello's" this morning. Canal Boat magazine describes Steve as "opinionated on most aspects of the waterways but entertaining with it." He also has several boating books to his name, one of which I have read. In the canal boat world I guess Steve is a B list celeb but in the wider world I suppose he is off the alphabet. From Reading to Wallingford took for ever and the temperature reached new heights ( the hottest day of the year) until we finally moored at Benson lock, having scoured the scenery for suitable sites. Mooring is not easily found on the Thames.

Sunday 21 July 2013

Panda feet

Wedding two of this trip up and down the Thames went well, although on this occasion we attended the reception only, at a large hotel on the outskirts of Marlow. Unbeknown to us we had passed it on our way to London, only recognising it via a huge fountain in an equally large lake next to the Thames. Arrival at the hotel was underwhelming, giving the initial impression of entering an industrial estate. But once on-site it was better, although you needed a route map to find your way around.The wedding apparently went well, as did the reception with a mixture of live "rat-pack"singer and1960's disco. The sudden change from one to the other took some getting used to and created some hesitant pauses, but overall it worked. The evening and night were cooler. My Nephew (all 7ft 12 of him) and his bride make a great couple. I "slept-in" this morning prior to the next section of our trip home.I leave you with a view of Marlow and a warning against wearing Jesus sandals on the back of a boat in bright sunshine !  We spent the early afternoon cruising between Marlow and Temple lock by way of entertaining Marlene and Brian's grandchildren.To say Tardis Two was crowded would be an understatement but it has to be said Lynne and I make a far more efficient lock team than four adults and three children. the too many cooks syndrome? Leaving Marlow yet again we eventually moored on an island near Shiplake. Once again we passed through Henley where a D-day boat rally took up most of the river space. Henley lock,strangely, is named Marsh lock and is totally nondescript, almost an engineer's afterthought. At the end of the Thames lock building scheme I guess they suddenly realised they had missed one, stuck a pin in the Thames map and Built Marsh lock.

Saturday 20 July 2013


Having been forced to moor "unauthorised" we survived the night to be woken by ultra-keen Marlow rowers being coached at some unearthly hour. A sunny, breezy morning. Our new friends , met during our journey yesterday phoned to tell us of a mooring space vacated in an "authorised" zone and we swept into formula one mode, swopping grid places in an instant. The space was an exact fit between two gin palaces which required great concentration to moor without damaging (or waking) them. We assumed they must have enjoyed themselves in the local wine bars last night. Our new friends own a large Tupperware boat/small gin palace (martini palace?) and originate from Sunbury.....small world.
Marlow is a picture-postcard small town, with one of the widest stretches of the Thames flowing through. To say it is a pricey place to purchase a house would be an understatement. I have not checked estate agents adverts for fear of financial meltdown and, unless you are seriously well-heeled I would recommend you do the same.

Friday 19 July 2013

Upmarket pest

Sunny, warm morning but overall a cooler night with no bugs.Slept well. Canal boats sit low in the water. Where we are currently moored the grassy bank is window-high. Whilst drinking my coffee a black mink kit stared at me and squeaked a bit, but disappeared before I could get a photo. The cats took no notice whatsoever. At this point I should mention the vole Phoebe brought home last night was the small, common field type and not the chunkier and rare water one, which would have been a tragedy. Early start today hoping to avoid the heat and crowds.
Bray lock gets our grumpy lock keeper of the day award. Nothing to do with the lock, he got uptight about us using the full length of the water hose around the corner to fill our tank. Does it matter if you only use half a hose? apparently so. After a long, hot cruise we finally made Marlow only to find the next lock on the Thames has broken, trapping dozens of boats in a section with insufficient moorings. Hence we( and dozens of others) are currently moored "illegally". The alternative being cruising up and down the same stretch of river all night. Will we be clamped, towed away or scrapped? Tune in tomorrow to find out.

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Nomadic charter

We are all set and ready to head for our next destination, Marlow, where another family wedding is due to take place at the weekend. Although new to the nomadic lifestyle we have already become restless at our present location, having renewed old acquaintances and family ties, possibly more than we could have hoped for. I managed one fit and one hypo within the day, but feel I'm getting to grips with the new drugs/insulin relationship (hopefully?)
It is a very warm and sunny morning again, apparently continuation of the longest UK heatwave for over 7 years. Not that I'm complaining of course. 
Our boat electric problems continue but we are coping better with them. Eddie has suggested most live-aboard boats are permanently moored in a marina, linked to a permanent electricity supply and only cruised on the occasional weekend, which we found very amusing. Getting your excuses in early? 
Needless to say the Dyson parts failed to arrive yet again but we have yet to find out the latest reason why. Their parcel tracking system is slower than their delivery one, it seems. 
Whilst having a winge a mention has to be made of our sky man (not David Bowie) who we need to meet yet again. Thanks to Terry, Freeview works but thanks to not David Bowie Sky doesn't. Time to get our wasted money back?
0900 and we're off. All deadlines passed. Fabulous cruising weather. Sun and blue skies.
1400 and we are moored near Chertsey for lunch. Regular readers will be aware of the incompetence of a naval multicar insurance company which I had the misfortune of dealing with over recent months. Like a bad smell they have re-appeared with yet another foul-up, claiming one of the multicar policyholders is no longer covered, although they have now admitted confusing vehicles and names plus sending a "standard" email to the wrong person. They have agreed to send a "non-standard"email to all involved attempting to de-fuse the powder-keg and despair they created. Can you insure against incompetent insurers?
1800 and moored at Runnymead in shade, yippee.(I'm not complaining of the heat, but it is great to find shade after a burning hot cruise). We are outside the M25 again and have seen our first electric pylons for weeks.The plan is to set off earlyish in the morning to avoid the heat
2200 still awake and watching TV. A cooler evening and very few bugs means we can relax a little. Both cats have been out and about at their new location, Phoebe even brought "home" a vole, her first since aboard which is encouraging.

Tuesday 16 July 2013

New anniversary pit stop team

 We cracked a a bottle of champagne for our Silver wedding  (25 years) anniversary breakfast and changed pit-stop crew for the next twenty five years. Terry taking over captain duties (but only on the boat !) and cruising us to Kingston looking for a carrousel to cover the tiller in these extreme heat conditions and a new mobile phone as mine had died of a broken back. The former proved impossible to find as, surprise,surprise, there has been very high demand recently. The latter was easy as I knew exactly what phone I required, the original Nokia 100, still produced and available at £7.43 on pay as you go, which caused a lot of hilarity in the phone shop.
Katie arrived early to add her congratulations and order a carrousel on-line for us, guaranteed delivery today. I will not hold my breath. My leg injury looks like one of those bullet wounds on "The Lone Ranger" or "Rawhide" old westerns, no blood or visible collateral damage. We now think it should have been stitched at the time as a large scar is likely to remain. Otherwise it is OK.
We have decided to leave for the Marlow wedding early Thursday morning. 
I managed to get through yesterday fit-free  until half way through our anniversary meal in Pizza Express ( we know how to celebrate, us old-uns). We now have a prescription for my change of drug strength so can alter my regime today and monitor results thereafter.

Monday 15 July 2013

Yet more vacancies and sunset

Yesterday was blisteringly hot (not that I am complaining). In addition I had a particularly blank day with the occasional fit thrown in for good measure. Not good for me but worse for Lynne and Linda who took responsibility for my safety and succeeded, against all odds ( cue for a song. Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes). With their help ( Linda and Lynne, not Joe and Jennifer) I managed to collect water and empty the ablutions at Molesey Lock without major incident before cruising past Dave Gilmore's recording studio boat, exchanging greetings with an unidentified man and woman sunbathing on the front. The return trip was interesting as a large armada were congregating for the last manned lock operation of the day (7.00 pm) but all fitted in and we were entertained for the remaining evening by some young couples on a narrowboat moored opposite. (If you see what I mean). Apart from being good movers (Buzzcocks, Faces and some crap rap) they were also obviously very good friends ( I think that is the correct terminology?)  apart from that the evening was cooler, although I am not complaining. I feel ok today so far. The old two steps forward one step back routine. Terry cruised Tardis Two to Kingston and back very professionally. The lack of garden show traffic was a great help and made the return trip far more relaxed. On our return we took the opportunity of filling with water and emptying the ablutions without the need to go through Molesey lock. A distinct lack of fits today but my Leicester support nurse (who is actually supportive) has recommended upping my current dose age to see if things can be improved. Nurse Lynne intends commencing the new regime tomorrow, but in the meantime I need to obtain a different prescription. Nothing in life seems simple anymore,but I'm up for the challenge.
Moored as we are in the Thames equivalent of a cul-di-sac you would expect a quiet and sheltered life, would you not? As previously reported there was a lurid party last night, and a few minutes ago a young lady wearing flippers and little else slid down the weir on an inflated settee and li-lo then proceeded to deliver them piece by piece to various boats opposite . Bizarre or what? We were intrigued. If we manage to figure out what the hell is going on you'll be amongst the first to know.
See spectacular sunset below.

Sunday 14 July 2013

Early start

Linda and Terry arrived mid-afternoon yesterday having followed my travel instructions and arriving at another destination around half a mile away. The tropical temperature didn't help their mood but a glass of wine or two eased the tension , further assisted  by a drink and meal at The Bell in Hampton, a short walk alongside the river. Although the table for 8 had been pre-booked the meal took forever to appear, even though most were salads. We reckoned they fresh-grew them to order. The meals were good but the desserts took forever to appear again complete with profuse apologies from the waitress who managed to get us a free bottle of wine and 1 free dessert for our troubles,bless her. Out of pure sympathy we offered a good tip which she politely refused but was convinced to accept eventually.
It was a very hot day and the pub air-con was not working. We Brits are famous for moaning about the weather and I have promised myself not to. today is extremely hot (Sunday) but by mid morning the Belling engineer had replaced the dodgy hob and Terry had installed the new dongle and got the TV to work for the first time in days. Good results, but the printer refuses to co operate and remains inactive.
It really is extremely hot, but I am not moaning. We are thinking of moving Tardis Two to a shadier spot through Molesey lock to allow us to sleep better tonight. We had planned to cruise to Waitrose this afternoon but opted out due to the heat and last day of Hampton Court flower show and Kingston regatta. But I'm not moaning.

Saturday 13 July 2013

Stars in their eyes

Hot and sunny today. Spent what was left of the morning after another late get-up washing the boat. Firstly I moved the dirt around using our colourful mop and coal bucket (minus coal, of course ) then rinsed off with river water. The result looked worse than when I had started so I repeated the process using mains water with much better results. Until the next time she looks beautiful. Tom arrived with our old Henry Hoover ( The Dyson replacement parts appear to be lost in the post. Sound familiar? )
Tardis Two looks immaculate inside and out. Yesterday I had a "loose brain in the head" day whereby my brain appeared to be less securely secured to my head than is normally the case. The feeling remained all day but seems to come and go today. To make matters worse " Tie me kangaroo down, sport" was my stuck in the head tune yesterday, but thankfully gone today. A heron sat watching us from the island this morning. They really are a grumpy looking species.  For those of you who remember the TV show "Stars in their eyes" a heron would be the contestant to announce, "Tonight Matthew, I intend to be Jack Dee" .

Relaxing at pace

We're still struggling to  get the rate of this relaxing lark right. Relaxed we are, but at a faster rate than planned, if that makes any sense. Yesterday we were supposed to pick-up our GP friend from Kingston for a leisurely cruise for Lunch at a riverside pub in Walton on Thames, return him to Kingston whilst picking up another GP cruisee on the way past Hampton Court  What could possibly go wrong?   
Well, for a start we overslept and, having contended with very heavy Hampton Court Flower Show river traffic, arrived very late at our meeting place, only to battle with the same ferry traffic on the way back. Hence a very relaxed lunch on board Tardis Two moored alongside a pub In Walton was late, as were all following arrangements, including the final one of the day to meet friends of Lynne on board. We collapsed into bed exhausted at 11.00pm. A great day..... but relaxing?

Thursday 11 July 2013

Dalai Lama and Marie Celeste

We literally missed the boat yesterday. My friends at Molesey had finished their row before I had time to text them apologising for our non attendance due to other friends arriving to view Tardis Two. Our meeting has been re-arranged. Socially this trip has been a great success, although attempting to fit everyone into our available time has not proven easy. Tomorrow we have managed to double-book a cruise but feel sure everyone will get along fine so all should work-out well. Yesterday was not a good day, healthwise, and today  proved similar. A headache and general lethargy, so we opted to take things easy. Lynne watered the gardens and I tidied unruly areas. Last night a small fishing boat arrived near Tardis Two with 4 men aboard. This morning it was still there with no sign of life aboard, other than 4 fishing rods hanging over the sides. By lunchtime the fishermen had re-appeared and the boat headed off towards Kingston. The fridge and freezer alarm lights were flashing again so we ran the engine for a couple of hours. Another email from Eddie again outlined the supposed relationship between battery capacity and , power useage and recharging ratios, to which I muttered under my breath "b******s". We should have an interesting meeting on our return to Stensen.
Talking of meetings, our GP friend is shortly off hiking in the Himilaya's and we asked if he has arranged to meet the Dalai Lama, as Lynne and I are great admirers. Following our discussions I think a meeting will be requested and prove inspirational. I sometimes claim to be an atheist, which is not strictly true. In times of crisis  or extreme emotional stress I do utter " for God's sake" and quietly seek guidance from "above". To my mind Buddhism is the purest religion, although I am not sure it is one, strictly speaking. Having my time over again I would be Buddhist. The Dalai Lama watched and enjoyed Monty Python's Flying Circus, and has a twitter account.  Can you imagine the Pope or Archbishop of Canterbury doing the same?  My ideal dinner guests would be Dalai Lama, John Aspinall, Joanna Lumley,Ayrton Senna, Cat Stevens, John Lennon and John F.Kennedy ( lots of John's)
If I was threatened with being dumped on a dessert (desert?) island with 4others I would name Tony Blair, George Brown, George Bush and John Terry as my preferred dump'ees but guarantee my release prior to the delivery helicopter flight.
125th Hampton Court and Dittons Amateur Regatta 20th July 2013.

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Medical confidentiality

Yesterday was once again scorchingly hot. Tom commandeered me for gardening duties once again, giving me the opportunity of exercise and meeting some old clients. Sadly two of them have ended-up in old-folks homes with their houses up for sale, further supporting our decision to pursue an active retirement life, stimulating mind and body, thus reducing the inevitability of dementure and pressure on family members/finances. I returned to a hot Tardis Two absolutely knackered. A quick cool shower and a couple of hours sleep helped recharge my batteries. If only it was that easy to do the same for Tardis Two. For the evening we were re-united with a very long-term best friend, who we first met as our GP many,many years ago. An absolutely brilliant doctor and wonderful company he has seen our family through life's medical dramas ,and heaven knows there have been lots of those.
His uncle was apparently Mayor of Zanzibar many years ago and he attended the same school as Freddie Mercury of Queen fame.
We had an excellent meal and evening, agreeing a further meeting for a cruise on Friday, weather permitting. Our social calendar is positively overflowing, happily.
Tardis Two has been invaded by black ants. How the hell do they get aboard? Answers on a postcard please. I have always had a theory ants will inherit the earth when mankind inevitably blows itself apart so maybe the process has started already. An ant-powder purchase looms.
I had a minor fit early this morning, easily explained by me forgetting to take my pill last night. What was that earlier dementure comment?
We opted to cruise towards Sunbury in the hope of linking up with a friend who lives on an island, but we missed him so went to Kingston Waitrose for essential supplies, mooring for free right outside the shop. Posh or what?
We are off out yet again tonight hopefully to meet some more old rowers (I hope they will forgive me calling them that), this time from my Molesey days but we have already been way-laid by friends and work colleagues having popped in to see us, so our plans are already composted. How will the day end? Has it already been scripted? Watch this space.

Monday 8 July 2013

Rovers Return

We decided to walk to KGSVBC rather than terrorise the unfortunate rowers from Tardis Two as previously planned  because experience had shown mooring space near the clubhouse and, more importantly, at The Swan pub, were in extremely short supply. We arrived in good time, ascertained some brave souls were out on the water(sweaty old trainers lining the pontoon) and broke into the compound to await their return. Two quads and an eight materialised from the heat haze and a heartfelt reunion ensued, helped by copious amounts of cheesy chips and alcohol at the Swan.
I had many good years and times at KGSVBC where my rowing skills were greatly enhanced by Martin, Peter, Mark and others, although skills and rowing are not normally mentioned in the same sentence as my name.john Thompson and I both rowed (?) at Molesey but like frustrated vultures waiting for something to die we both wished to compete in some rowing competition before we died.
In sheer frustration we badgered someone into entering us in a pairs event at Walton on Thames. We trained and trained and trained until, shortly before the event we got Ted Bates, a coach with a dry sense of humour to watch us and assess our chances of success. Having watched us his only comment was that our many individual faults complimented each others and we may make a "surprise package". The surprise was that we avoided hitting Walton bridge and completed the course.  In what position we finished was never queried or confirmed but we were happy to have taken part and survived.
Shortly after this success we both transferred from Molesey to KGSVBC, but it has to be said the vast transfer fees reported at the time were false, although the taxman strangely never got in touch. During the transfer and with a foot in each camp I won a ninth share of a grand wall plaque, my only rowing trophy, in a combination, mixed eight at Molesey vets head. The handicap system was obviously very complicated as it took hours to decide the result and apparently included rower heights, weights, hat sizes and inside leg measurements, together with Lycra quality and design criteria. But win we did. I have never seen the plaque since. Many more events were entered during my KGSVBC days but the small section of plaque remains my sole rowing glory, but what fun we had. 
Special thanks to all concerned tonight and to Sarah Searle for the lift home.

How cool is that.

The feet cooling plan proved  to be not required but some neighbours went one step further and actually went swimming at 2300hrs. It cooled us down just watching them. Both cats returned unaided via the cat flap during the night which is encouraging. Any doubts we had of them not settling into boating life are receding. The boat electrics continue to cause concern. We are beginning to think the Stensen electrician learnt his trade in the  Boy Scouts or via a Lego apprenticeship.  The difficulty is trying to make your point against the designer/builder who is convinced Tardis Two has more electrical equipment on than it actually has. The Belling hob engineer is due tomorrow. Today looks like being similar to yesterday, hot and sunny.
I had a Groundhog Day helping Tom with 3 gardening jobs and a trip to the recycling tip. Thankfully Tom left me in the car there or I could now be fertiliser. My lack of fitness caught up with me by late afternoon and I returned "home" knackered to within an inch of my life. Tea,  a short walk to my old KGSVBC boatyard and cheesy chips in the Swan should round the day off nicely. Hopefully someone will give us a lift home.

Sunday 7 July 2013

Club Tropicana

Hot and sunny very early this morning.  Pimms for breakfast? Brilliant wedding and reception yesterday in equally blistering heat. I love weddings. Inevitably happy events. Tom transported us there and we cadged a lift "home" from a boat enthusiast eager to look at Tardis Two, which had both fridge and freezer alarm lights flashing (nothing new there,then). Both cats managed to disappear into the night on our return. Sadie quickly returned chased by a "resident" cat but Phoebe proved more elusive and returned in her own good time, much to our relief.
Katie and our three elder granddaughters arrived for their pre-arranged cruise to Kingston at 0900 hrs and were very keen to set sail. they all took turns steering until we moored in Kingston Town Centre for free, met Tom and partner Hayley for lunch and a little retail therapy before Tom steered us to Teddington lock and back to Molesey lock, through which we went by way of an experience for all concerned. Before returning to base we filled with water and emptied the ablutions. Overall it was a great family day and very,very hot. Everyone enjoyed it I think, we certainly did. Exhaustion has now overtaken us and we may need to sleep with our feet in the river to keep cool.

Saturday 6 July 2013

Health review

A gloriously sunny day, perfect for a wedding, the reason (excuse?) for our trip South. The whole thing has perhaps been a step too far too soon? I had been weaning myself off the happy pills for many months, to the point where I was taking none and feeling OK with it. However, the return South to my old haunts has already proved too emotional. It is difficult to judge my own moods as I am "in" them, but discussions with Lynne this morning resulted in a decision to revert to minimum happy pill dose age until "normality" resumes. On reflection it is the memories of full fitness/health that have returned to haunt me, not the area. The latter I can live without, the former still troubles me, obviously. My relationship with Lynne is more important to me than life itself, so if the happy pills help I have to accept it, temporarily. Don't get me wrong, this new life I am loving , so I am sure return to neutral territory will balance my emotions again. 
Onwards and upwards.

Friday 5 July 2013

Nostalgia overload

Bright and sunny with a few fluffy clouds. We are moored downstream from Molesey weir. The water here is deep and lively which causes the boat to move a bit and create some strange creaking noises which we will attempt to eliminate this morning, otherwise sleep may be at a premium. Lots of visits by family and friends during the afternoon and evening which was brilliant. So many people to see. By way of nostalgia we opted to eat at our favourite Italian restaurant in Hampton Court overlooking Bushey Park, lafiamma. Whilst enjoying our meal a huge Red Deer stag chose to watch us through the window. Luckily we were not eating venison or we could have felt guilty. The photo below is of Garrick's Shakespeare Temple and in the foreground "Astoria", a houseboat built in 1913 at a cost of £1million (at today's exchange rate) ,but was more recently purchased by Pink Floyd's Dave Gilmour and used as a recording studio for "A momentary Lapse of reason"and "The Division Bell" albums (Pink Floyd's) and Dave's own "On an island". Dave once gave me a friendly wave as I rowed by, my only claim to fame. We toodled off to Kingston Upon Thames this morning to top-up with diesel and replace the rope broken in the sandbank debacle. A sleepy afternoon out of the hot sun is planned.

Thursday 4 July 2013

Infinity found

We arrived at Hampton Court early afternoon in warm sunshine. The last few miles proved very emotional for me. Every stretch of river, every landmark, every tree, brought fond memories flooding back. They have almost completed a new bridge at Walton On Thames which looks spectacular. It replaces a tatty old steel one with four concrete pillars set at strange angles which caught many a rower out, including myself once or twice. Sunbury lock reminded me it was the last to be tackled on our sponsored row from Pangbourne, by which time I had cramp in both legs, dozens of hand blisters and a numb bum. I am reliably informed Atlantic rowers avoid the latter problem by wearing nothing on the lower body and a sheepskin seat cover, but I opted to ignore this advice for the safety of other river users. Hampton School boat club reminded me of my capsize following the longest I had ever rowed a single without mishap. Coach Roy fished me out, wrapped me in silver foil and returned me to Molesey in his motor launch. The capsize was my fault for failing to secure my bow-side blade properly otherwise the trip would have lasted far longer and have set a record distance for me. I subsequently managed a return trip to Kingston when with KGSVBC which remains my longest single trip ever. Our Hampton moorings seem OK but Tardis Two rocks and rolls a bit, perhaps due to the depth of water and high winds?
On the subject of how the other half lives I noticed even the wildlife was more up-market the further south we got.
Widgeon replaced Mallards and the geese became Egyptian (I think. I have yet to locate my wild birds book). I have not had the opportunity to check- out fish species but I suppose they will now be Dover Sole and/or Salmon. 

Wednesday 3 July 2013

Politicians,Bankers and Plebs

Leaving Henley for Marlow and Maidenhead makes you realise how the other half live in the UK. The houses lining the Thames can only be afforded by politicians, bankers ( note the spelling ),sports personalities and A-list celebs. Another World entirely. Cliveden was the scene of the John Profumo, Christine Keeler scandal in 1961 which toppled the Conservative government of the time. The magnificent house with amazing views over the Thames and surrounding countryside now belongs to the National Trust. Maidenhead Rowing club were heavily involved in Sir Steve Redgrave's early rowing career and over-nighted my sponsored rowing boat for Joel and I. The Thames almost encircles Windsor Castle (surely one of the largest moats in the world ?) so it seems to linger on the horizon for ever. In this region I became aware of air traffic from Heathrow airport, none of your toy A350's or B737's but real beefy planes like 747's and A800's....oh,joy. Which raises the question why would the Queen choose to build Windsor Castle under the Heathrow flight path?  We cruised through Runnymede, where the Magna Carta was signed and subsequently the JFK memorial erected. In my early romantic days I used to park my aforementioned Austin A35 van next to the RAF memorial and watch planes arrive at and leave Heathrow with a girlfriend during the summer evenings.  Who said romance is dead? We then cruised through Staines and the lock keeper at Penton Hook Lock taught Lynne how to throw ropes accurately. We moored at Laleham inside the M25 and met-up with Lynne's sister and brother-in-law. Traffic on the M25 was going slower than we were. No change there then.

Tuesday 2 July 2013


Cruising through Henley today made me nostalgic for my old rowing days. Do I miss it?   Of course I do ! At this point I must thank my son, Joel, his first coach and mentor, Dickon Poole and my first coach, Roy Mumford (bless him) for introducing me to this tremendous sport which I will always love. Dickon set up Molesey Schools Rowing Association to enable youngsters to take part in a sport they would otherwise have missed. Roy was a dedicated coach. MRSA was a fantastic success, now sadly missed and a great loss to British rowing. Via a joke (I think) Dickon managed to get me involved in the physical side of the sport, initially with Molesey and then with KGSVBC, for which I will always be grateful. Thank you guys.

Clean for Hampton

Having moored close to hoses, bins and cassette emptying facilities we made full use of them all before setting off on our travels again early afternoon. Tardis Two looks pristine having had a full wash and wax, although Lynne is complaining the windows look streaky. Another job for later perhaps? The water tank is full and the cassettes are empty. Happy days. We spotted a boat named Cirrhosis of the River and another Tardis yesterday. We should pass the Queen's barge (narrowboat, please) at Henley apparently. See below. Having washed the bloody boat it rained all through Henley,all through Marlow and until we moored tonight at a place called Bourne End. Having said that, as I write the precipitation has stopped. Henley regatta actually starts tomorrow so we were one of the first crews to test the course. No cheering crowds to wave at, unfortunately. My first visit to Henley was when Joel and his Molesey crew won the National Schools Head of the river race there ten or more years ago in the most horrendous horizontal rain. At times it was almost raining upwards. The rain today was a mere drizzle in comparison.

The what day is it syndrome

We are currently moored near Shiplake lock and weirs. The dawn chorus has been exclusively ducks and geese, the latter in their hundreds. Canada geese operate a crèche system whereby a couple of "parents" look after other families to give each other a break, which seems to work well. Did you know ducks first invented the bidet? Just watch them land (on water) and you'll see what I mean. We heard a cuckoo yesterday, Lynne for the first time ever and myself since I cannot remember when. Whatever happened to cuckoos? Something to do with EU regulations I suppose. Nothing to do with travel restrictions as we don't seem to have any. Two plus points emerged from our recent sandbank adventure, both being wildlife related. Two Red Kites and a Great Crested Grebe kept us entertained during our lengthy stop. Both species are amongst Britain's most beautiful birds, the former only saved from almost certain extinction in recent years, the latter keeping us guessing as to where he would next appear after diving for food. We rarely guessed right. Apparently the sandbank at Shillingford is due for dredging this winter and was deposited during the extreme Thames flooding during 2012.
We have yet to find the Tardis Two electrical fault(s) but have developed a strategy to deal with it. We now avoid watching TV late into the evening, switch off the inverter plus all electric lights and retire to bed for a read by torchlight(Lynne). I just sleep.
Healthwise I am OK. My new drug seems to let me operate on more "normal" insulin doses, which I have yet to perfect. My leg wound is healing nicely and generally I am feeling reasonably fine, other than tiredness taking hold early evening.
We're heading for Henley and Windsor today - infinity and beyond, beneath magnificent cloud formations and a hint of sunshine.

Monday 1 July 2013

Mobile laundry

Sponsored memories

Zooming down the THames as we are today brings back many happy memories of sponsored rows enjoyed/suffered in earlier life. For Kingston grammar school (as a member of the veterans club) I joined a mixed eight rowing from Radley rowing club covering 80 miles to Hampton court raising funds towards cancer research and a new rowing club house for the school. Only 6 weeks previously I undertook a sponsored row in a pair with my youngest son from Pangbourne to Hampton court raising funds for his World Challenge project trip to Tanzania. In all , both rows covered 141 miles and raised enough to cover the Tanzania trip and completion of the club house, but cancer has yet to be beaten unfortunately. The very friendly lock keeper at Day's lock was there all those years ago. Lynne was part of the pair support fact, she was the pair support group ! Her job was to supply bananas and sports drinks or water to us at each lock, armed only with a sat-nav and mobile phone. Out of 31locks the only one she missed was Day's lock but the keeper was able to inform us double rations would be available at the next thanks to a phone message from Lynne. I have lost count of the regatta's attended or competed in on or near the Thames over the past 10 years or more at places like Wallingford, Beale Park, Pangbourne, reading, Shiplake, Henley, Abingdon, Marlow, Maidenhead, Dorney, Egham, Twickenham, Molesey, Thames Ditton, Kingston and Richmond. Each has a story to tell if only time could allow.

Gin palace redemption

We left Basildon early in warm sunshine to ensure maximum use of our schedule without the need for rush, passing Radley boat club where my aforementioned sponsored row (my second) commenced. The river is truly majestic. Badly signposted, but majestic.Each lock has a nearby massive weir but you only discover the respective lock and weir entrances at the very last moment. Boats queue for the locks in "lay-bys" and the rules are: First in, first out. Use bow and stern ropes. switch off engine. All locks have two keepers, all extremely friendly. The river was not particularly busy. All was going well until Shillingford where there is a particularly sharp, blind bend, around which appeared a large, black narrowboat at full throttle on the wrong side. The lardy, bald  blob of a driver with the largest builders cleavage you could ever imagine hanging over the back of his shorts and boat (obviously where he keeps his brain cell) had no intention of slowing down, stopping or avoiding a massive accident. (Hence me only recognising him from the back. I'll have nightmares for the remainder of my life or until I happen to meet him again armed with my barge-pole). I slammed Tardis Two into reverse, stopping on the proverbial sixpence and swung towards what was left of my side of the river, only to embed her on a very shallow sandbank. Fortunately the large Tupperware gin place following managed to avoid hitting my rear end and the sandbank ( there's a vision). No amount of forward or reverse throttle even threatened to move us and a tow from the gin palace also failed. Another Tupperware boat with an all-female young crew stopped to help but only managed to break our bow rope, although they did offer to report our problem to the next lock and phone back. I very reluctantly gave them my phone number. In the meantime I phoned the Environment agency helpline to report our problem and to my delight and surprise they were very helpful and supportive, offering to raise the river level and keep in touch, which they did every ten minutes for the next 5hours. The lock keepers at both Day's and Benson locks also phoned regularly to check how we were, let us know when more water was being let through the weirs and to recommend emptying our water tanks to reduce draught and weight. A few boats offered to help, but most were lightweight Tupperware ones. Apparently the river rescue people do not work on Sundays, probably the busiest time on the Thames ! A dad and his son in a passing canoe gave assistance. The dad stood on the sandbank and used his paddle a a shovel in an attempt to dig us out. It failed of course, but kind of him anyway. After 5 hours in the very hot sun a particularly big gin palace silently cruised round the corner and rescued us, towing Tardis Two backwards into deeper waters. To say we were overcome with relief would be an understatement. We both collapsed in tears and hugged as if we had just survived a massive natural disaster, waving frantic thanks to our rescuers as they disappeared over the horizon. Both were middle-aged and very "down to earth", unlike most gin palace owners from my experience. I'll never say another derogatory word about them.
The Benson lock keeper even phoned us on our way "home"from a pub meal at the renowned Miller of Mansfield to check we were OK. How caring is that?
As we cruised through Moulsford after our release we were cheered and applauded by previous "supporters", feeling like Arsenal after one of their many FA cup and/or league win open top bus parades through Highbury.