Sunday, February 25, 2007

Stuff the gym!

Firstly today, I have posted a picture of some lovely scenery! Found during my walk with Simba and just longing to be photographed as an indication of just how disgusting that species called 'homo-sapians' are. I am unaware of any animal in the kingdom that fouls it's own living area quite as much as people do - in fact, quite the contrary; most animals are extremely clean and tidy by nature, even going to the extent of removing waste and depositing it well outside and away from their immediate living are. What is it then, that makes humans to be so opposite when we are supposed to be the most intelligent species?

Just read in country walking magazine that evidence now conclusively proves that owning a dog is better for you than going to the gym! Apparently research has revealed that dog walkers cover an average of 676 miles each year walking their dog over the life of the dog compared to gym-goers who only knock up 468 miles! Dog walkers are alos more determined with 92% sticking to their routine whilst half of gym-goers end up back on the couch after a couple of months - try telling that to this dog.........
Anyway, the fire is lit, the wine is poured, Classic FM is playing and so for now at least - I'm at peace with the world, I just wish the world was at peace with me..........

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Aweful weather!

Well, it poured down last night - all night! Every walk with the dog now involves a hose down of all the mud from local paths that has transferred onto the dog! Took the car up to the garage to get the elctrics checked as it seems to be blowing light bulbs - got a clean bill of health except for a bit of moisture.
Being off mains for such a long period has taken a massive toll on my boat electrics and after reporting the alternator failure the other week, I now have to replace all my deep cycle domestic batteries as they seem to have given up the ghost. I don't want gel cells but do think I'll go for the sealed unit AGM type cells. 5 of those at around 100 quid each is not to be laughed at! My battery management system tells me I have 92% remaining and any heavy load throws up an error message on the control panel.
Most of my weekends are spent running the engines to generate the electricity I need for chores such as ironing and hoovering, collecting diesel and re-fueling the diesel tanks to keep the engine going in order to generate the electricity or visiting petrol stations and re-fueling the generator to keep my evenings 240v supply going. Throw into this having to take the weeks rubbish to dispose of, running hosepipes out to re-fill with water, marking and planning school work, and you can see why I sit down and relax less at weekends now than when at work during the week - who said boating was relaxing, they don't show you the real life on Waterworld!
I did manage to pop in today and visit some friends back at Trinity which was nice. Caught up on the latest news and noticed that the swans have started nesting again on the bank outside where my boat used to be moored. This year, they have a nice reed fence to shelter them, (or is it there to protect the online boats!?)

Next weekend, I'm going to have to go and get a pump-out whatever the weather as the toilet guage is beginning to move and I know I only get one week from that point. 45mins up to Rose, 30 mins there, 45 mins back - probably battling a howling gale and driving rain!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Almost Spring!

Can you believe it - almost into March already?
This evening for the first time, I actually arrived home in the daylight and Simba got an extra walk along the canal with the birds singing and the catkins hanging over the path. Although extremely wet, temperatures are very mild and my stove has been allowed to 'take its chances' during the day - no extra coal has been put on, resulting in either no fire or 'barely revivable' fire when I get home!

It's hard to believe this time last week, I was coming to the end of my week away in the boat. The first week is now gone with 5 weeks till my next holiday! A weekend beckons and the weaher is set to be gloomy and wet with a little wind thrown in for good measure, Saturday sees a date with the garage booked to sort out a light bulb on the car that tells me it's blown but doesn't appear to be and a possible visit to the local large garden centre complex purely for interest and to motivate me into believing that spring is really only a stones throw away!

My Nokia N73 seems to be performing well and certainly seems to have the leading edge on the Sony Ericsson - especially now I have the bluetooth adapter for the car handsfree kit. An email arrived yesterday from Sony Ericsson telling me that my experiences are 'unusual' and that I should have contacted them to give them the chance of initiating a warranty repair on the handset - I replied giving them the 2 dates that I had previously emailed them to express my concern and included the 'fobbing off' story that I was given on both occasions with no mention of any repair necessary, I also informed them that my father, also a long time mobile user, has just changed to the exact same phone and experienced the exact same problems - coincidence, or are they fobbing me off yet again - you decide?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Be warned not to buy Sony Ericsson!

Below is a copy of an email I sent this evening to Sony Ericsson regarding my K750i handset. Be warned that I do not consider these phones safe to rely on when on the canals!

Having owned mobile phones from the very first day they were on public sale and through the same network for the last 10-15 years, and having cruised extensively much of England in my narrowboat during that time, I feel well qualified to make the following statement:

I have owned phones of almost all makes and types and my latest acquisition was a Sony Ericsson K750i. Alarm bells should have started ringing when I got home and realised that amongst the 20 or so 'polywhatsit' ring tones, there was none even remotely resembling a telephone ringing. My telephone had an excellent camera facility, first class video messenging service, brilliant MP3 player, amazing internet service, superb fm radio, awesome organiser.... but simply the worst ability to pick up a signal through my network I have ever had the miss-fortune to rely upon.

Why is it that modern mobile phones, (and yours seems to be the worst at this,) spend all their effort and technological capablilities developing gimmicks for young teenagers and totally ignore the most valuable apsect of a TELEPHONE? After repeated complaints to my network provider, they have, at last agreed with me and obliged in providing a free upgrade, (well within my first year with your phone,) and I am eagerly awaiting my new Nokia so that I can start making and receiving calls again.

I need to add on this blog that I am extremely pleased with the service from Orange in acknowledging this problem and being prepared to waive the upgrade fee in order to 'get me sorted'

Half term - day seven!

The final day of half term! Without question, the anticipation of a holiday is far greater than the actual holiday itself - certainly the anticipation lasts longer; I'm already starting to anticipate the Easter break: I have the next 6 weeks to anticipate a holiday lasting only 2 weeks!

This afternoon I went for a long walk up the Oxford with Simba. Walked up to all the boats moored at 'All Oak's Wood' and stopped to have a chat with the owner of NB 'More to Life' before returning. I had to pause at the car park where everyone feeds the birds and took 50 or so pictures of Blue Tits and Long Tailed Tits flitting around before taking a gentle stroll back home to water/feed my roof boxes. I have posted a couple of pictures from the walk.

I am now sitting here typing this with the side cratch rolled up, the side hatch wide open and not a sound but the background music of Classic FM coming from my radio - bliss! Simba is curled up asleep on his chair in froont of a low burring fire but I'll leave him to tell you about his day in his blog! I have the last 2 or 3 logs ready to go on the fire this evening when the temperature drops and then it's over to coal for the remaining season. I have decided to let the fire out during the daytime from now on and re-light it each evening when I get home. I know this means more work in the evenings but the temperature shouldn't drop now to anything that will cause Simba problems and I really want to start saving coal and feeling optimistic about the warmer weather coming on! Talking of warmer weather, not only did I pass a large field of lambs today but right opposite there was a tree bursting with catkins. I have a glass on my dining table with some buds and 'pussy-willow' in, to act as my Springometer! It is nice now to still have relative daylight until anything between 5.30 and 5.45pm. The barmy spring evenings sitting or standing outside the boat with a glass of wine chatting to good company, (the neighbours,) doesn't seem too far away but then.....maybe I'm being a tad too optimistic for the middle of February in England!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Half term - day six!

Well and truely back home! My father left at about mid-day today after a full fry up for breakfast and a shopping trip to Sainsbury's! He travelled down to Aylesbury in Bucks. to some friends who have a small caravan that we might be able to borrow for the May half term so that we can continue our tradition of a walking holiday in May, despite his motor caravan having been stolen - this year we fancy the Peak district.

A look through the Orange shop online and I have placed an order for a free upgrade to the Nokia N73 as seen above. I am seriously hoping this will be a better phone as regard signals than my current useless Sony Ericsson! This should arrive next week. It has a 3.2 Megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics and that swayed it for me given that I tend to use my camera phone as much as possible for website/blog pictures, I then spent hours trying to track down a Bluetooth adpater for my car hands-free kit with little success.

I know some people keep up to dat with their favourate blogs by using a feed reader, (an easy to use, free on is,) and for those who do, my feed address for this site is: I'm just plugging this as it's an easy way for you to be automatically notified of any new posts. If anyone is particularly dedicated, email me and let me know and I can add your email address to a list that will automatically email you any new entries.

I have just been out for a kayak up the Oxford canal and back. It's not particularly warm with very grey, cloudy skies but the total lack of any wind makes it feel warmer than the ambient temperature actually is. The washing machine is nearly finished so chores are calling.....

Friday, February 16, 2007

Half term - day five!

OK, I'm back in the marina with 3 bars of 3G service. Decided, in light of my 'brush with fame' yesterday to publish a picture of my brother 'hob-nobbling' with another star recently - I think he felt he had to compete!

Left Napton at 9.00 this morning in decidedly 'iffy' weather and the rain came down just before Hillmorton locks; enough time for me to go below and do some ironing and make some lunch! Large scale towpath works made locking through Hillmorton interesting to say the least with squeezing between barriers and over tools etc. Stopped at Napton Narrowboats for diesel and gas and caught up with Brian from NB Noggin and more recently NB Raffles at Trinity Marina, he too has left Trinity for a better life!

Another stop at Rugby for a trip to Halfords in order to purchase a cheap fifty quid radio/CD unit to replace the one at the helm of the boat which has finally succumbed to one downpour too many. Finally arrived back at Brinklow at about 4.00pm in a dead calm with no rain or wind at all. 850 pounds lighter and half an hour later and I was collecting my car from a rather horrendous garage bill - but at least I know it is all working well now. Last year, I bought a Sony Ericsson K750i mobile phone - don't bother! It is totally useless in making or recieving calls but great in all the daft areas I don't want. I have constantly complained to Orange about it's lack of ability to pick up a signal anywhere and finally today they agreed to replace it for me with another make/model of my choice so I'm off to browse the Orange phone shop!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Half term - day four!

An interesting day to say the least! Still moored at Napton for the day but planning to head off home tomorrow. The BBC sent a taxi this morning to pick us up at 11.00am and take us to Olney in Bedfordshire where dad was to be interviewed for a documentary on BBC1 scheduled to be shown at Easter time on John Newton - all to do with the 200 year abolition of the slave trade being celebrated this year. One of dad's books is related to this area and so he was being 'wheeled on' as a resident expert in the field! Turns out the presenter was none other than the legendary Rick Wakeman! We spent a very enjoyable lunch in the company of Rick and the TV crew and the rest of the day was spent chatting to him and dad being interviewed by him before returning back to the boat in time for a delicious evening meal at 'The Bridge Inn' at Napton, (highly recommended,) then back on board in time for Waterworld on the TV - a good day, except that I have just had to re-type this blog 3 times thanks to a dodgy link to you-tube I was trying to post! Rick Wakeman at his best!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Half term - day three!

The day started with a cloudy sky and biting chilly breeze. A lazy morning started the day with an eventual 'cast-off' at about 10.00am. A couple of hours to the top of the Napton flight and by the time we arrived, the sun was streaming down and fleeces, gloves and hats were coming off. Despite waiting for a boat coming up out of the top lock, somehow all the locks were against us on the way down - One boat we did pass in the flight, (coming up,) told us there was nothing at all ahead of us going down. Our conclusion was that either the boat coming out at the top drained every lock behind them to leave them empty or the flight leaks like a sieve!
I asked my father what was news worthy today and he told me that he nudged a lock side whilst entering in a strong cross wind and nagotiating an unlicenced boat towing another boat - I think he is trying to suggest that him touching any part of a lock is news-worthy!
Finally moored up this evening outside The Bridge Inn at Napton. Excellent satellite signal, excellent digital signal for my back cabin TV and even 3 bars of 3G signal for the computer. We are now here for a couple of nights and plan a pub meal tomorrow evening and the final return journey on Friday. Hope to be back in time for me to pay an astronomical bill on my car; only went in for a service and a few piddly jobs and needed 2 new back tyres and new rear brake pads!
This evening we have a beautiful pork joint roasting in the oven with thick crackling spitting away, (apologies to any vegetarians reading this!) leek and carrots in a cheese sauce, roast potatoes and roast parsnips - who says you can't cook decent meals on a boat! The only down-side is that the meal will be later than planned as the gas ran out half way through and we didn't notice so I had to change a cylinder!
Did a few jobs when moored up this evening - tidyed the cratch, washed the mud off the sides of the boat, sawed up some wood and moved a load of pig iron and the anchor to the starboard side in an attempt to correct an increasingly severe list!
I have posted a couple of pictures of todays cruise. The top one of a fantastic old rickety footbridge and the second one of cruising through a typical pastoral scene on the Oxford.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Half term - day two!

A lovely day! Weather glorious and sunny to start but did cloud over as the day progressed. Started the day with a full fried breakfast and eventually set off at about 9.15. A clear run through the Napton flight as not only were they all in our favour but many of the entrance gates had been left open. In fact, I just commented to my dad that you couldn't get more favourable conditions with the locks and the very next lock, we found a family of walkers who were there to help us through and opened all the gates for us!

Turned at Fenny Compton and started heading back, finally mooring at bridge 130 at 3.30pm. Enough time for me to go off for a paddle in the kayak and for dad to do some work in preparation for this interview on Thursday. My radio/CD playerin the engine room which I use when cruising has given up the ghost. I think it got just a bit too much water in it once too often and I now have to look for another unit as soo as I get back. Tomorrow, we back up through the Napton flight and plan to moor up at the Bridge Inn. I have posted 2 pictures above of my 2 new boxes made by my father! The first is the chainsaw box, complete with protruding chain guard and the second is a very smart box which covers my generator to keep the rain off it, complete with a clear perspex panel at the back to allow me to see the warning lights. I have suggested that my dad ought to go into business making and selling boxes of odd shapes for all those little narrowboat jobs!
Anyway - I'm sitting here nowlistening to the rain lashing down on the front cratch and the wind whistling round us. Surprisingly, I managed to get an excellent satellite signal almost straight away this evening so that's one bonus.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Half term - day one!

Such is the power of the 3G datacard I am now able to post updates daily whilst cruising! Having said that, I am only able to connect via a GPRS signal today so considerably slower; still good enough for emails, blogs and web browsing with a little patience though!

Set off at 8.45 this morning from the marina and cruised through the Hillmorton 3 paired locks, (all in our favour!) in blistering sunshine. By the time we reached Braunston, the wind was whipping and the rain was beating in our faces. Finally moored at the foot of the hill at Napton just before the first lock - ready to be tackled tomorrow. Final mooring at about 3.30pm which gave us enough time to modify a box for my chainsaw that my father made and build a great little box to go over the generator and keep it rain free. That is now drying in the cratch having just been painted 'Bounty Maroon' and dinner is being served - pork chops, potatoes, leeks/carrots, brocolli and crackling!

More tomorrow but here's hoping for a better day of weather!

Friday, February 09, 2007

More snow!

Well, today school was open for business as usual but this afternoon heralded the arrival of more snow. Just about the end of the school day and the snow started coming down more heavily yet again. I came home as soon as possible and just in time as I couldn't get up the driveway into the marina due to the ice and snow, 4th time lucky and I made it to the top and parked safely! This evening the temperature was rising and the snow is turning to sleet so I don't expect it to hang around much longer. Next week is getting shorter by the day!

My father has a TV interview on Thursday next week with the BBC about John Newton - all part of the slave trade abolition anniversary this year, they will be sending a taxi to wherever we are on the canal for him but it does mean we will loose a days cruising. I have asked if I can go along to pass time and they have agreed so should be interesting day. This does mean that we probably won't get to Banbury now but we have a box to make to cacoon my generator in and a few other little jobs as well as me having plenty of school work to do so should be kept busy. It is a nice feeling not to have to go and get a pump-out tomorrow but have to spend the day sorting out/cleaning the boat ready.

I really can't get to grips with this satellite dish!! I had a signal quality up to three quarters but since coming back in, I can't get it even a quarter high. I must have spent hours in total in the snow and rain trying to tune it in but to no avail. I have now given up and am using the freeview box to watch Frost! I have one of those finder boxes with the bleeping buzzer and the flashing lights but that doesn't seem to do much - surely someone should must do a fancy digital one that makes setting it up easily and idiot proof - just for me?

Thursday, February 08, 2007


Good job I didn't suggest yesterday that the forecast of heavy snow might not be true! Woke up this morning at 5.30 and there was no snow at all, woke up again for the final time at 6.30 and there was a light dusting, by the time I was leaving to drive in to school it was coming down heavy and the road was quite dangerous. Half way in to school some of the staff started ringing to say that they had heard announced on the radio that our school was closed - neither I, nor the Head knew that or had made a final decision! The decision was made to remain shut and I continued into school. At about 9.30 we decided no more phone calls were likely and so locked up and left for home - an interesting journey!
I decided to make the trip up to Rose Narrowboats for a pump-out to save me one job on Saturday. Another boat had already gone through breaking the ice for me so I dolled myself up and left. 45mins. later I was at Rose. It was only at this point that I realised I had left my cards and wallet in my car back in the marina! Fortunately they know me so allowed me to continue and when I got home I travelled back to pay, (although I had to be pushed up the hill to get out of their driveway!)
On returning home, I went out with Simba to take a load of pictures and take him for a long walk. The middle picture above shows my driveway! Well not quite but it is the view of Cathiron Lane - the entrance in and out of the marina. The other two show my trip to get a pump out - exciting!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


I have taken the liberty of uploading several pictures today as this morning was so beautiful! I got a text message this afternoon from neighbour Bill to say he has sent me some pictures of the mornings sunrise. Today was the first day that the marina was frozen over properly. According to my weather station, the overnight temperature dropped to -7.1 degrees. Once again, the early mornings walk with Simba was magnificent. This evening there is forecast to be heavy snow, with depths of 10-15cm possible. Last time snow was forecast, I made the mistake of casting doubts on the reliability of he forecast on this blog - I have learnt my lesson and won't say a word this time except 'watch this space'! Many thanks to Bill for these magnificent pictures.
A large shop this evening heralded the onset of my half term trip away in a few days time. The weekend is planned to be spent cleaning, watering, etc ready to set off. A severe list to port currently indicates an extremely full toilet tank and a cursory glance at my affectionately called 'poo-ometer' certainly confirms this. Hopefully I will pop up to Rose on Saturday to get this done along with dieseling up and taking on coal.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Cold again!

After a lovely warm weekend, temperatures last night dipped to below -5 degrees. Sitting here and the temperature outside is already -2! The mornings have been beautiful - walking the dog amongst a crisp and very hard frost over the fields and footpaths. Apparently more and heavier snow is forecast for Tomorrow night into Thursday. I have to confess to loving the snow and would rather like some significant snowfall but it seems a very long time ago since any snow worth mentioning.

Only 3 more days until the 'off'. Bill from NB 'The Boat', (my neighbour!) informed me today that he had to crunch through quite a thick layer of ice on the Oxford to get a pump out at Rose Narrowboats. My toilet will also need pumping out either at the weekend or on my travels next week.

I have uploaded a picture of my father's new car. Since his van was stolen, he has purchased a Ford Galaxy - it's a kind of compromise between the high driving position of his camper van together with the space it provided mixed with the luxury of a modern vehicle - something he hasn't been used to in the past!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Great weekend!

What a great weekend! Didn't start too well on Saturday morning as I decided to do some shopping in Rugby and left my keys in Argos. After retrieving said keys, I was half way home when I realised I had left a cheque in Argos that needed posting. A few phone calls sorted that out. I then got home and had bought some new bed sheets only to discover they had given me the single bed set instead of the double! A return visit later and that too was sorted.
My brother then arrived for the weekend and things rapidly improved. The sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky, not a breath of air or wind and the bridge to the marina was wide open calling for me to go out. 30 minutes later and I could have been anywhere! A trip up to Rose Narrowboats and back down and we finally moored in 'All Oaks Wood' for the night with still a couple of hours to kayak around, (see the picture above of my brother steaming past Khayamanzi!) A brisk walk the few miles into the nearest village and we were sitting by a roaring fire with a huge meal in front of us. The night fell very cold with my temperature sensor telling me that it had dropped to -4.8 degrees over night. Sunday morning arrived and there was a thick frost, a thin layer of ice of the Oxford Canal and a blue cloudless sky yet again. After a lazy breakfast, we decided to head back but yet again the call of the open water was too much to ignore so we motored on past the marina and tuned at Willow Wren before returning home. Getting in was a 'piece of cake' with no wind whatsoever. My brother then left and after a hoover and quick clean, I took Simba for a long walk to photograph the first signs of spring and then returned to finish cleaning and settle down for the evening.
A big spring clean needed next week on board before I leave on the Monday after next weekend for my half term trip south down the Oxford. Apparently they have forecast more snow for mid week - watch this space!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Half term - all systems go!

Plans for the half term week in a weeks time are all systems go! The stop planks are up in the marina so I now have confirmed plans to pop down to Banbury for a week and back.

This evening I walked the dog over the fields and had to stop to stare! On one side of me was a large crystal clear full moon, rising gently above the fields and on the other side a vibrant red sky displayed the last of a sinking sun - it was a fantastic sight and one that boaters are privileged to see often but rarely so clearly and rarely in their own mooring.