Thursday, March 30, 2006

Signs of spring?

Well - eager to enthuse over the first signs of spring and the welcome anticipation of eventual warmer weather, I have posted two pictures. One of the minature daffs. that are now bursting from their buds and sticking their heads over the parapet of my roof boxes and the second picture showing 'Dave' and 'Davina', the two swans who are now well and truely into their nesting routine on the bank outside my side hatch. The field at the bottom of the marina has had its first mow today and it was nice to listen to the birds, (all-be-it competing with the distant A5,) looking at the bursting blossom buds on the hedges and trees and smell the sweet aroma of newly cut fresh grass. Simba is responding well to his collar and spray commander system but still requires the occasional long burst to tear him away from a particularly nice smell or flavour!

I am particularly worried about the weekend! The latest weather indicates a howling wind of 20+ MPH over the weekend and I HAVE to go and get a pumpout as the boat can't list over much more before ingesting water!! I also want to get it done and take on diesel this weekend as next weekend I'm off for 2 weeks and want to have an early start as I hope to get to the top of Atherstone on Saturday evening in order to have a good day locking through on Sunday. My father and a friend are popping in on Saturday on their way to Wales and I will probably enlist their help poling and pulling to get my pump out done! Watch this space where I will record the fun and games over the weeknd.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Obviously not!!

Well if that was spring - It's been and gone and we must be back into Autumn again! Spent the day doing housework etc. and just been on a good long walk with Simba. Sitting here now with the boat completely shut up, listening to the rain lashing down and the wind howling, having re-lit the fire and put the central heating back on!!

Simba seems to be going through a 'devious' phase of life! He has been ignoring my re-call commands, scavenging anything and everything he can find and the other day, apparently, even ran up to someone barking at them, (I guess raising a hammer to him and shouting that they would put it through his skull if he came near their boat again probably didn't help - oh well, the new breed of boater who brings their outside way of life onto the cut have a lot to learn !) It did prompt me into investing in a 'Spray Commander'. A fantastic bit of kit that has a remote control that can activate a bleep from a unit worn on his collar to get his attention if he decides to ignore me with the ultimate threat of being able to spray a burst of safe and odourless gas up at him if he continues to ignore me! It is brilliant - in only one walk up the 'Barge' and back, Simba has learnt that the bleeping sound means stop what you are doing and return immediately to me!! On one occasion when the taste and smell of a freshly disgarded fish and chip wrapper became simply too absorbing, a quick burst of spray was enough to shock him into submission well before any tomato ketchup even touched his lips!

Ah well, I should have enough hot water for a shower now so will switch off the central heating and go and relax in the shower, safe in the knowledge that the water will pump out perfectly thanks to the interesting array of rancid smelling fluff and dog hairs I pulled off the discharge pump filter this morning - this glamorous boating lifestyle!!

Is this spring?

Well Spring seems to have arrived at last! I am sitting here with the cratch rolled up, the side hatch wide open, the fire almost out and the outdoor thermometer reading temperatures of 15 degrees. A perfect day for going out on the boat you might say......
.....well, yes, it would be if the wind wasn't rocking me about and if the met. office website wasn't forecasting more and heavier wind tomorrow WITH the addition of a verocious band of rain coming in!

Another day grounded!!

I will simply have to make do with more housework and a long walk with Simba, who is currently lying down on the carpet under my chair not looking remotely like a dog wanting a walk! I found some nice sheets of plastic with blue tile effects on them being thrown out in the marina the other day and the tile effect is very good, not only that but the blue colour is exactly my bathroom colour and so I plan to use them to cover over a part of the woodwork where the shower used to leak and has now gone a dark brown colour as a lasting memory of a moment of temprary lack of maintenance on my part! It seems as if I'm not the only one putting these sheets to good use: a neighbour has used one strip of it to cable tie over a side of an old alluminium ladder thus making a superb and extremely lightweight gang plank - ah boaters! What a resourceful bunch, even if, at times, more than a little bit eccentric!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Work and steam!

Well, just sat down at twenty past three to start marking and so decided to type this blog entry first, (any excuse!) With the wind gusting at around 20 MPH and a wind chill of around minus five, there is no chance of going out this weekend. According to the newsthis morning, this weekend lastyear was bathed in around 20 degree temperatures - that just makes it worse! So far I have spent the day shopping, doing house work and cuting wood with Chell off NB Chell's Dream. She agreed that if we could use my saw and I helped her we would split the logs - sounded a fair deal to me! I bought a cheap, small and portable steam cleaner today from Argos, (above,) - a fantastic tool with incredible power so have just spent an hour steaming everything that doesn't move on board; I have to say it does an amazing job!

In only 3 weeks, I'm planning on my single handed trip towards the Shroppie direction but I have to say the prospect is not now looking too appealing unless something drastic happens to change the weather before then!

Ah well! I can't put it off any longer, back to the marking!

Thursday, March 16, 2006


OK, I am now officially fed up with Winter! Apparently this time last year the temperatures were in the mid teens and here we are with Snow and sleet howling round amidst a freezing easterly wind witht he temperatures struggling to get above five degrees. It has been weeks since I was last able to get out in the boat and I am beginning to feel claustrophobic! Yet again, the swans have given up hope of nesting and have gone again, yet again the buds on the trees have given up any attempt at bursting and some are even rotting on the branches. The only consolation and hint of better things to come is the longer daylight hours. Even if I leave work at five o'clock, by the time I get home, re-set the fire and clean it out, sort out all the water for me and the dog, feed the dog, cook and feed myself, walk the dog, sort out things for the morning, check and reply to emails, re-stock with coal, check diesel, gas and bilge levels - I rarely sit down for the evning to get on with school work etc till about 7-7.30 and it is nice to be able to do many of the daily chores in the daylight now - it would just be better to be able to do it with the side hatch open, the front cratch rolled up and not needing to worry about the fire or diesel!! I do allow myself the luxury of watching 'Waterworld', (it's a Midland thing!) on a Thursday evening.

I will need a toilet pump-out in the next week and would very much like to think that the journey to the pump-out station could be a weekend trip up the cut rather than a mad dash between the rain and fight with the wind! I think this is almost the longest time I have been 'grounded' since being on the boat and boy is it frustrating - I might as well be in a house!

Sunday, March 12, 2006


I have at long last given up with the HP all-in-one printer and upgraded to a Brother machine as seen above. Yesterday PC World agreed that my machine simply didn't work and so I managed to negotiate a deal on this machine! Installed simply, quality is outstanding, no paper jams and everything works!!

Despite a good sun yesterday, I resisted the temptation to go out in the boat given the forecast for today. Today the wind is biting but so far we have had no snow except for a few odd flakes.

Congratulations are, at last, due to BW for acknowledging the true extent of the unlicenced craft issue. Over 8% they tell us - that equates to just over 1 in 11 vessels, a lost revenue of £700,000 per year which could be spent on waterway improvements and restorations. Acknowledging the problem is one thing, they even talk about 'getting tough' on unlicenced boats but now I wait with baited breath to see the action. It seems to me as if BW need a serious strategy for dealing with the problem now and I look forward to reading about it in the near future. In the mean time, there is still pressure that can be applied int he form of keeping the debate open on forums and websites as well as in the press and by contributing to the online database on this site.

Just returned from a walk with Simba in which I had to rescue a family who were torn apart by my friend the swan! Half the family had managed to get split apart either side of a very angry looking and sounding swan who was pacing up and down protecting his ever growing pile of twigs that soon should take the form of a nest. I guided them round the long way to get back and avoid the swan and they followed me round. As I opened the gate andled the simba back into the relative security of my pontoon I overheard one of the children say, "why's he going in there - it's private isn't it?" I resisted the urge to inform them that the whole marina is actually private and would the screaming children please keep their voices down when they walk across our garden!!

I keep checking the status of the pussy willow buds in the hedges and my bulbs on the roof. Every time they start to grow and swell, a cold snap halts their progress. They are as desperate for spring to begin proper as I am. It will be amazing if anything grows this spring given all the false starts the weather has inflicted on us all. I even swept the chimney yesterday int he anticipation that it will be a good while yet before the stove can be shut down even just during the day times.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Another post!

My blog posts are like buses, you wait for days for one to come alonga nd then suddenly you get 3 in one weekend!

I have just returned from another good walk with the dog. I reckon I walked about 5 miles along the towpath and explored some footpaths across the fields. Ended up sitting for a rest on my favourite style on a bridge over the canal with views across the hills. Sitting there and the sun was warm with the wind rustling the surrounding trees, the dog was lying down panting under my legs while I watched a little robin flitter about on the ground not more than a few feet in front of me. A pair of Long Tailed Tits were playing around in the trees next to me along with a Dunnock and just as I was about to leave a tiny Wren flitted onto a low branch in front. I walked back taking a more direct route, listening to a green woodpecker screeching in the distance, only to be disturbed by a pheasant noisily protesting as he flew off from the path in front of me. Almost back into Hinckley and I had to pause and watch a heron circling round looking for a good place to land and a kestrel working hard overhead to maintain a near motionless position from his vantage point above. I am sure if you look hard enough it's possible to see the hedges and copses beginning to turn green; certainly a close inspection reveals little buds beginning to form. My noisy neighbours, the swans, have returned and are asleep on the bank outside the boat as I type this. Ah well, back to the un-natural world of work tomorrow and for another 5 days there will be no time whatsoever to stop and stare and enjoy the things you find in your surroundings. A precious few moments enjoying solitude and peacefulness of the natural world around is like a weekly fix: deprived of it, and it's hard to think how one can survive another hectic week.

BTW, credit must go to the canalworld forum and one of its members for posting the picture above. It made me laugh as I wondered if this was the hi-tec. method of meteology the met. office actually use!?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

A good day.

Well, today was a good day! I managed to do almost all of the chores needed to be completed and more! Washed the car, sorted out all the cables on the boat, re-placed the jammed in bulb, cleaned out the shower pump filter, did the housework, sorted out the toilet seat(!) and managed to take Simba for a long walk in the evening sunshine. The sun was shining from a cloudless bluesky, the birds were singing and the ducks were back into their pairs, picking their way across the frozen canal. For much of the day the canal was frozen but this evening, the temperature is barely below freezing point and most of the ice has cleared.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Another weekend!

Woke up this morning to find the boat had stopped rocking! As I climbed out of bed, there was a loud crunching sound and I realised that the boat was frozen in and the ice around me was forced to break from its position of embracing the hull. A quick glance at the indoor/outdoor thermometer told me that it had got as low as -7 degrees overnight and was -6.8 when I woke. A light snow flurry had dusted the frozen marina water like icing sugar and the frost was weighing down the branches and grasses along the towpath. Even the resident swans have given up their attempt to nest and disappeared. The canal has been frozen over for almost a week now but the gently creeping sheet has now reached my boat and the available water left for the ducks to swim in has diminished daily.

The possibility of more snow overnight has been forecast with the promise of warmer weather and a return to the beginnings of spring by the middle of nest week.

In the mean time, I will be forced in again this weekend due to the weather and will need to cart coal and diesel in the car as the central heating has been on so much over the past week that the fuel tank must be pretty low! As usual, I have a long list of work to do which includes, replacing a blown, (and jammed in!) bulb in the back cabin, inventing a more reliable method of keeping the toilet seat in the 'up' position than the current velcro system, tidying up the knitting of wires that link this laptop to the assorted paraphernalia around it, cleaning out the filter on the shower pump as well as the usual housework and stocking up duties.