Tuesday, March 27, 2007

What a life!

Life cannot get much better right now! I wake up in the morning to the sounds of the birds and watch the sun gently rise over the fields. Walk the dog along the canal and inspect the leaves and blossom budding. I return home after work and immediately feel the blood pressure dropping as I step out of the car and return to the boat along the canal. A glass of wine watching the red ball of sun slowly sinking behind the trees, feeds the little group of ducks that appear at my side hatch, cook my dinner, take the dog for another long walk listening to the owls and that's my evening done!

Lovely location, fascinating company to chat to each day as boats pass by - what can be better?

A couple of evening Easter performances at work over the next 2 days mean the routine will bve shattered and Waterworld will be missed on Thursday. The other day, I purchased the varnish/wood stains, brushes, sandpaper etc to rub down and re-stain my window-sills, side hatches and rear doors. Today I ordered the 'roses' transfers to replace the decoration on the doors once re-varnished. This is a job I plan to do next week weather permitting. Right now, I'd better find the dog who has spent the evening lying down outside the boat back doors and shut the generator down for the night.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


What a lovely day!

Set all the clocks forward the hour last night which means darkness now falls at around 8.00pm. Wanted to wake up this morning at 7.00 as my father was on radio 4 at that time so set my telephone clock forward the hour and then set the alarm. Woke up this morning to discover that the phone automatically sets itself forward for daylight saving which meant it had now woken me up at 6.00! The sun was warm for much of the day although a stiff Easterly wind kept temperatures down at times. I did manage to sit outside the boat on the bank this afternoon with a glass of wine in hand, dog curled up asleep under the chair and Bill plucking away on his banjo which gave the gongoozlers something to chat about.

Had the delight of an unexpected visit from John and Elizabeth off NB Helen Louise this afternoon. The popped in to have a chat and see how I was which was lovely as they are shortly off abroad and then away cruising for 6 months. Marking tests this evening when Iain and Allison off working boat Gosty Hill pulled up alongside for a chat. It's always lovely to catch up and share the latest canalside gossip with friends as they pass and especially so when it's a beautiful working boat selling coal and diesel such as Gosty Hill. Unfortunately they were out of diesel but I did manage to get a couple of bags of coal from them before watching them, quite literally, sailing off into the sunset. The demise of red diesel as we know it seems to be the current talking point with all sorts of speculation as to what exactly will happen from October 2007 and on into 2008. They also informed me that Mr. Finch has been seen working in the Braunston area so he is certainly around the area! The fire still needs to be kept in 24/7 at the moment and the flowers on the roof are still struggling against the occasional frost.The last week at school to get through before setting off for my 2 weeks cruise but not before I, once again, play host to the national co-ordinators briefing and strategy meeting of the Save Our Waterways Campaign. I volunteered a while ago to host this meeting at my school as, being in the midlands, it was the most convenient location. I have once again volunteered to host it at my school next Saturday. It is a great privilege to play a small part in this organisation that is working so hard against the Defra cuts to BW and an equally great privilege to meet with some of the most influential people on the waterways.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

General update!

I've not posted for a while on here as life has been extremely stressfull and I either haven't had the time or quite simply haven't had the inclination! The great thing with the boat is that when times get on top of you, you can simply disappear out onto the cut somewhere to clear your head and that is exactly what I've done! I only have one more week until I break up for Easter and have plans for a fantastic trip up towards the Shroppie, (my favourate canal on the system so far!) so decided to extend the holiday to 3 weeks by taking the boat out and commuting for one week from somewhere tranquil and remote!

Spent today up til now, (3.30!) doing housework! Hoovered and polished as usual but with the clocks going forward this evening I got spring fever and more than a little carried away! Shampooed the carpets and completed 3 loads of washing which is now fluttering in the breeze on the 'whirligig' on the back of Bill's boat as my ingenious contraption of mooring rope wound round the boat hook sticking in the ground and guyed with another mooring rope and stake kept blowing over; RESULT - washing dirtier than when I started!

It's a nice fact of life that boaters may not always agree on issues but will stick generally together through thick and thin. Cruising past one boat last night belonging to someone I met through a combination of this blog and 'circumstances of life' and who I now count as a friend, (details not published for security reasons,) and I noticed that the padlock and clasp on the back hatch was open. A few frantic phone calls later and it was evident that although the padlock had been forced open, nothing inside had been disturbed or taken. It does bring the issue of security a little too close to home for comfort. I heard the other day that the notorious Mr. Finch is yet again out of prison and on the loose. The link from his name takes you to the real story of Mr. Finch as told by the Inspector Morse Society but don't let that put you off! Mr. Finch is a legend for sure but certainly not fictitious sadly.

Right, waffle, (and therapy!) over and I'm now off to mark a huge pile of test scripts from my pupils!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Snow again!

What a bizarre weekend! The school discos on Friday evening meant that I didn't get home until around 10.00pm. A hectic evening then insued with washing, battery charging, dinner cooking/eating and fire setting. Finally getting to bed at gone midnight. Had a meeting first thing Saturday morning and then spent the afternoon doing all the jobs I didn't quite get round to on Friday! Sunday was spent ferrying some friends to collect their car as they have just moved their boat to another marina doing some school work and tidying up a few bits around the marina here.
Imagine my surprise went I went into the bathroom this afternoon witht he outside temperature reading 8 degrees and came out with it reading 2.4 degrees and a layer of white covering the ground! I think it was more hail and sleet than actual snow but it did make everything look quite pretty and I have uploaded a couple of pictures above of my spring flowers on the roof looking resplendant in the snow. A biting wind all weekend and the forecast of more snow, sleet and wind next week is set to prove that we aren't quite 'out of the woods' as far as winter is concerned quite yet! I did manage to get one decent length walk in for Simba this weekend but the biting wind and the profusion of spring lambs which kept him on his lead most of the time meant that I don't think either of us were particularly sorry to return back to the warmth of the boat.
Edited at 9.00pm!
Disaster - end of the series of 'Wild at Heart'! For the last 6 weeks or so, my Sunday evening has rounded off with a South African bottle of wine, a vibrating massage from my massage chair (!) and Wild at Heart on ITV1. This evening was the last in the series. I don't think there has ever been a series on TV that I have followed quite so religiously as Wild at Heart. I guess this programme can really only be fully appreciated by those who have visited and have fond memories of South Africa. Next week, I will have to find another programme to end my weekend and accompany my bottle of wine - perhaps back to classic FM TV, a great way to truely unwind and end the weekend in readiness for the stress of the forth-coming week.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Weekend away

At last - a lovely weekend out! My father came up Saturday morning as it's his birthday on Monday and we went up to Woodlands Garden Centre up past Trinity. We then took Simba for a long walk around Battlefield at Bosworth and ended up for a coffee and snack at the Cafe Wharfside at Sutton Cheney. On the return home, the sun was warm and although the wind was 'interesting' the call of the open water was just too much. Bill had already gone out on Friday and so we followed his plan and set off down the cut to Hillmorton. Although he ventured through the locks at Hillmorton, we stayed moored up just this side and spent a pleasant evening on board. Sunday morning and Bill phoned to say he was just locking back down the 3 locks - a hint, if ever there was one, that he wanted some crew! We leisurely (!) finished breakfast and walked back up to lock him through the bottom of the locks. He doubled up on us and we settled down to a session of coffee and biscuits being entertained by Bill on his Banjo and Mandolin, (not at the same time of course!). The picture above shows this whilst the new music on my main website, www.khayamanzi.com) is the live recording of this session.
An interesting return back into the marina through the wind and an enjoyable chat and walk whilst the Sunday roast Pork was being cooked!
I have re-organised a couple of links on my main website and added a link called 'General Stuff' I didn't want the links to extend beyond the page, causing the visitor to have to scroll through endless links and so have added this link which leads to my poetry page and my 'sounds of the cut' page. This is because I want to make the 'sounds of the cut' more of a feature and have added a lovely recording this weekend of the bells of the church at Hillmorton and I felt this page was a little lost in its previous location.
A phone call today informed me that my good friends Steve and Julia on NB Even Balance, have plans to move this weekend to Ventnor Farm Marina on the Grand Union. I will be helping them move their car this next weekend. They were potentially interested in moving here to Brinklow Marina but circumstances have dictated that they move a little quicker than originally planned and so have made last minute arrangements with Ventnor.
An interesting phenomena was brought to my attention courtesy of my trusty newsfeed reader, that of Andrew Denny on the very famous blog Granny buttons. It can be read about here.
Andrew has managed a Googlewhack with his site! That is, a results return in Google that returns only one result! Typing the words: 'bodhran gongoozler' into Google currently returns only one true result linking to Andrew Denny's Granny Buttons blog. Of course this phenomena is very time limited as it totally depends on Googles indexing system before it changes, but an interesting phenomena while it lasts!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

What a couple of days!

The ideal 'dream' of living on a narrowboat certainly doesn't make you immune to the everyday trials of life! Waterworld and other such 'lifestyle' programmes show the rural and tranquil idyll and certainly not my last couple of days!

Work has been extremely stressfull but rewarding at the same time. Yesterday my Ipaq 4150 PDA that runs my entire life decided to terminally die on me. Not only has it totally given up the will to run any programmes or even restore from my backup files but the screen is cracked resulting in the touch screen stylus not operating. Great timing as this evening I had parent's evenings at school and my children's entire marks and grades were stored in my little secretary! I managed to print off enough information to 'blag' my way through this evening and bit the bullet to upgrade to an Ipaq 2790 as seen above. I hope this should arrive some time next week and so allow me to begin the lengthy process of re-installing the software, upgrading the software that won't run with this operating system and attempting to re-load and gain access to my data. I have also discovered that for some strange reason I purchased an extended warranty on the original and now damaged Ipaq and so plan to arrange a warranty repair on that to keep as an emergencey backup device given that my entire life is run by it.

I returned home late this evening after the parents evening to discover that I had left the inverter on all day resulting in seriously depleted batteries - I have now been running the engines for the past 3 hours in an attempt to restore enough power to get me through tomorrow and still be able to run my washing machine tomorrow evening!

My Eberspacher central heating system has, in the last couple of mornings, decided not to fire up on the first attempt. Granted it does eventually kick into life, but only after a pregnant pause with me holding baited breath waiting for the expected roar of it to burst into life after 2 or 3 attempts. This evening I have been running the system for the past 2 hours in the hopes of burning off any carbon deposits from the glow plug and tomorrow, I will see if it made any difference or simply waster another 2 litres of diesel and 20 amps of electricity!

Although the weather looks set to be fairly dry for the weekend, I think the wind will be the preventing factor from any anticipated excursions. Forecasts indicate gusts of up to 20+ MPH and that means a decided 'no-no' for any boat movements yet again. Today was beautiful! I took a walk up the local sandwhich bar at lunchtime, (an extreme 10 minute luxury that I forced on myself knowling that I would be late home this evening,) and on the return journey the sun was positively hot on my back.

At school today, I had an eco-school assessor in to assess if we were environmentally friendly enough to be awarded our 'green flag' status. We passed and are now officially the first junior school in Warwickshire to be awarded this national status - my baby, so naturally I'm chuffed and extremely proud of the children who are so enthusiastic about this project.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Bill the Banjo Boy!

OK, with his permission I thought I would upload a picture of neighbour Bill playing his beloved banjo! I seem to have mentioned him a lot lately so felt it was time to upload a photograph. Bill is an excellent banjo player and an active member of the The Friends Of American Old-Time Music and Dance and attends many of their events.

As for me - boring as usual! My world revolves around school during term time and the boat during holiday time. As we are currently in term time, there is nothing to report. A beautiful, still and calm day today heralded the feelings of spring and 4 swans flying overhead forced one to stop and stare during my morning 'dog walk' this morning. I mentioned being requested to attend court as a witness later this year for the 4th time, despite not being paid anything for the previous appearances; a phone call to me this morning confirmed that I was now not required to attend any more and they were extremely apologetic for the lack of payment to cover the costs of my supply teacher and asked me to fax the letter across immediately so that they could chase it up for me. Sometime, sad thought it is, it pays to make a fuss - other than that, nothing to declare!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Eclipse and weather!

Last night was a full eclipse of the moon! Bill and I were out watching it, along with many other people across the country I guess, warming tipple in one hand and shaking binoculars in the other, (shaking due to the cold - nothing to do with the tipple, of course!) Conditions were stunning and it certainly was spectacular. Thanks to my father for the picture above, taken despite the South West London air quality! Today we have enetered another climatic zone! Rain has been lashing down all day and the wind is making the marina waters more like the North sea than beautiful rural Warwickshire! In fact, the water is so choppy it is hitting the bank and spraying up over the driveway areas just like a coastal storm.

I am currently taking a welcome break from school work to type this blog. Another welcome break came from helping Bill earlier to tidy up a few piles of wood left by the builders - I have to say, an hour of this, (despite the howling wind and pouring rain,) was almost better than preparing reports for parents for the coming weeks parent/teacher evenings.An exciting week ahead; Late night parent's evenings on Monday and Thursday interspersed with meetings/after school clubs etc should ensure that I don't arrive home earlier than 6.30-7.00 most evenings.

Yesterday confirmed my desperation to go out for a good weekend in the boat - somehow, the weekends marking and work seems almost quite nice when moored out along the cut and in the sunshine. Four weeks till Easter and not yet sure where to go. My father can only join me for the second week of the holiday so not sure whether to have one week back up the Ashby then return, meet my father and head off somewhere else with him or go up towards Tixell and the Shroppie again and see if he can meet me en route somwhere. There is a big market for someone to produce a list/directory of places to park cars safely along the canal system so that when boaters arrange to meet people - either friends or crew, they can consult the directory and make arrangements. Of course, such a list could be abused by the 'bridge hoppers' or even provide a car thief's personal planner but that's life; it would still be handy for us all. How about an online directory..... ummm! now you've got me thinking. Anyone else think it would be a good idea or is it just me?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Lovely day!

Well, true to his word, Martin Plant, the engineer, arrived almost dead on 8.30 this morning. Two hours later and I had 5 brand new clean and shiny 11o A/hr deep cycle wet cell leisure batteries fitted. It was nice to be able to use the hoover straight away without the engine running and without the power shutting down and warning alarms bleeping all over the place! I did take a picture of the new and very neat battery banks but with this new phone, I somehow managed to loose it!

The sun was shining, the sky was blue, a skylark was singing overhead and the call of the cut was just too strong to ignore. A gentle breeze that was gusting somewhat stronger by the time I cast off helped me out by blowing the bow round nicely for me and passing under the marina entrance bridge, I felt spring was definately in the air. I can feel more regular trips out coming on, and soon my Friday evening exits will be able to be resumed, with the return journey on Sunday afternoon. I have posted a picture above of my trip up to Rose Narrowboats and I don't care what anyone says, 'there is nothing, simply nothing so nice as messing about on boats'. The journey up and back was enough to make me feel I was returning from my 6 week extended summer cruise - it was lovely with the warm sun on my back and only the background hum of my engine to compete with all the birds tweeting. Diesel, Coal and a pump-out were the order for the day at Rose andon returning, I decided to take Simba out for a long walk over the Battlefield at Shenton and up Ambion Hill - one of my favourate places to go on the Ashby and still very much worth the longer drive over to visit. Yet again, whilst walking over the hill, I was bemused by the number of people who liveabord and never or rarely move the boat. People often ask me what the best thing about living on a boat is. I have posted a picture of it below!
Tomorrow, the weather id set to be aweful and so I have left all the work for then! I have a good number of hours of planning, preparation, marking and various other school management tasks to be done as usual for a weekend and so if the forecast is correct, tomorrow seems a good day for doing it!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Trying to be interesting!

What can I say - I will try to be interesting tonight; even though I don't really have anything interesting to say! You know what they say - one man's rubbish is another man's interest! My deepest apologies to those who follow my blog on a regular basis and who have found it deprived of interest over the last few weeks. The truth is, for many, varied and legitimate reasons I haven't been out in the boat for some time with regard to weekend trips and life has become somewhat void of fascinating or inciteful nuggets of wisdom to impart!

Well, here goes....

We have had a lot of interest at school in our bird box camera kit with a pair of blue-tits popping in and out on a regular basis. See some video footage at:

Martin Plant, the engineer, is coming tomorrow morning at 8.30, (!) to replace my battery bank. Perfect timing as this evening, I didn't even have enough power for my washing machine or hoover. The last set of cells have lasted me 4 years which is good but it will be good to get some reliable power again on board. My planned exciting trip to Rose Narrowboats for essential routine boat services is still on with the weather forecast to be relatively OK for Saturday but dreadful on Sunday. Bill from next door took a trip out today up to Rose for no other reason than to escape and get gas - I did think of him whilst standing in the middle of a busy playground at school this morning as the weather was glorious. I hope to make a trip to Braunston at some point over the weekend to support the SOW campaign weekend. Right now, the rain is lashing down on the boat so hard that I've had to turn the volume up to watch Frost!

About a year ago, I was asked to attend court as a witness to something. The first 2 occasions and the case was postponed at the last minute, then I attended. The case was then continued and I was requested to attend a second time, again, at the last minute it was postponed. By this time, I was cross and only attended again on the condition that they sent a taxi to collect and deliver me from school. I sent them a bill raised by my school for the cost of a supply for one afternoon, (approximately 80 pounds,) and got sent a cheque for 4 poinds 95! Today they had the cheek to send a letter asking me to attend again. I'm afraid I got very cross and phoned them up to inform them that there was no way I was going to attend voluntarily and that they would have to send a taxi for me and deliver me back and I would need in writing, before the day, that they would cover a days supply cover for me. The school would have had to find almost 700 pounds to cover the cost of this. It has certainly made me think twice if ever I was requested to be a witness for anything again and made me realise even more how much pompous judges believe the entire world should revolve around them - after all,why should my school be penalised for my actions in being an upright citizen? If my blog ever goes quiet for an extended and unscheduled period - find me a good solicitor as I've probably been arrested. I know one thing, if I do have to attend again, I shall answer every question with a resolut, "I'm sorry but I can't remember!" If I prove to be a useless witness - maybe they'll regret muckingme about and never call me again!