Friday, November 30, 2007

Another week been and gone....

I don't know, time seems to be flying by at the moment - I guess when you pack so much in to every day, that's what happens. I commented in one of my last posts about spending an hour doing nothing one evening, now I'm gonna pay for it - I have a pile of literacy books to be marked this weekend. I need to get more coal, top up my diesel, (given that my central heating is working now so I'm using more!), attempt to fix my satellite dish into a more permanently fixed position as I'm fed up with the wind and rain blowing it out of line.

I'm finding more and more software programmes needing to be downloaded onto my laptop and some have upgraded so much that I have no option but to purchase new upgrade licence keys.

Each year since the launch of Khayamanzi I have produced a set of calendars showing pictures and captions of my trips during the year. I send these calendars to people all round the world as a way of giving a gift that also updates them with my whereabouts etc. I have just sent off the disc and check for these and hope to get them back in a week or so. The company I use, (see link,) do a great job and the calendars always look fantastic and are a lovely gift as well as providing me with some great memories during the forthcoming year.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Decided to post these 2 pictures this evening. Unfortunately, I can't take credit for them. They were taken by my father in his back garden. The nuthatch, (top,) along with the Great Spotted Woodpecker, (bottom,) are both frequent visitors to his feeding station together with many other birds. Two great pictures worth sharing with the wider world.

Bridge and Buttons!

So Andrew Denny on Granny Buttons isn't impressed by my liking of the new Waterbouy. I stand by it until proven otherwise! I guess it depends on the value of what you put on the end of it that counts! My keys, (its intended purpose,) contain key sets that include a set for the marina and school keys! I figure that if it worked just once then it has been well worth the hassle and inconvenience caused otherwise!

Just watching the news. Clearly the story of the British school teacher jailed over the teddy bear issue in sudan is close to my heart - no comment!

Yet again this evening on my way home, a lorry had hit the railway bridge in Bretford. This is a regular occurrence only this time, they managed to close the whole road off thanks to the police involvement! When I turned in front of the young whipper-snapper of a copper, I casually leant out of the window and asked if he knew the quickest way round. His reply was, "do you live near here?" I told him I did to which he answered, "then you should know the way round!" I have never been so insulted in my life! I screeched round in front of him and sped away with a little cheeky 'in yer face' wheelspin!

I took off the glass shield to my nice oil lamp to light it when I got in and it fell apart in my hands! Clearly at some point it has cracked and I didn't notice it. I just hope that Rose Narrowboats have, or can get, a new one for me on Saturday.

The school production is going....slowly! For some reason, it seems to be very hard work this year with a lot more direction required than usual. 2 weeks before 'curtain up' and the panic amongst the team has now set in.....

Last night, for the first night in weeks, I sat down, did nothing and watched some TV for about an hour before going to bed - it was great and I felt so much more ready for bed and refreshed as a result. It may be a co-incidence but last night was also the first night I slept all through the night without waking up in a panic about something or another for weeks.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Stinking cold!

Sitting here feeling sorry for myself tonight as I have a stinking cold! 3 new boats came into the marina today and many people enquired. We now have around 70 boats in the 'Brinklow community' and have booked over 20 people in for a Christmas meal in the function room at the local pub in the village. A great community of people make the weekends go so quickly as we all keep popping round each others boats or stopping to have a chat whenever we pass each other!

On of the teachers at school has forged a link with Rugby Theatre who have agreed to lend us a couple of profile spots to illuminate our narrators for the Christmas show. Rehearsals are hotting up with only 3 weeks to go 'till 'curtain up'.

It looks like I'm planning on spending half of Christmas back in London and half on the boat. Probably the first half will be in London and the new year will be on the boat up the Ashby somewhere.

I'm looking forward to central heating firing up tomorrow morning giving me a tank full of hot water and a boat full of warm heat!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The heat is on....

Collected my heating unit again this morning after a bleary start to the day following on from a late night last night at work! I got home last night at just after 10.00pm and really didn't feel like getting up this morning as temperatures dipped to -3.7 degrees over night. John helped me re-install the central heating system and even mounted it on rubber feet so that it now runs almost silently from inside the boat. The only trouble now will be that it won't wake me up in the morning when it fires up!! Apparently it had only done 600 hours which was nothing in 4 years and was in a very bad state - I even have the rusted away and sooted up old burner as a momento!!

This evening: steak, chips and peas, a bottle of beer, central heating running flat out to support the coal stove and curl up in front of X factor with 'Countryfile' magazine to read during the ad. breaks while Simba snoozes at my feet - doesn't get much better than that.....!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Getting better...

A much better day today! I have just about got everything up and running again laptop wise and most of the regular programmes I use seem to be fine. In a way, it's done me a favour given that I had so much clutter that the machine had slowed right down - I didn't realise how slow it was until now!

My central heating is sorted and I should be able to collect it and ask John to help me install it again on Saturday, good job as the weather forecast is not great for the weekend! My little stove has worked over-time since not having heating and the early mornings have been decidedly chilly, I'm just glad the Eco-fan is still working well and pushing some heat to the back of the ship!

Late night tomorrow evening as I have to run the school discos! A quick visit to the boat to walk and feed Simba before returning to school - oh joy!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Where do I start!!!

The last couple of days and everything has gone wrong!!

I'll start with the positive. My Ecofan arrived back home on Tuesday and seems to be working well. The blades are spinning nicely and the warrenty has been extended for another 15 months for the inconvenience - can't say fairer than that so as long as it continues to work well, I have no hesitation in fully recommending Calfire for Ecofan repairs. See their link on the right in my 'recommended companies' list.

Ever since then, it's gone down hill rapidly! Arrived home yesterday to find that Simba had been ill during the day due to over-enthusiastic 'tid-bit' feeding by some of my neighbours! After several scrapes, shovels and carpet washes thanks to my trusty Vax, I'm only just getting rid of the smell this evening. I then spent the evening attempting to download sound effects from the website we use for our Christmas production. At 10.30pm, the final sound effect was saved and edited and I was about to begin the process of burning the disks when my computer got very aggressively attacked by some little virus that tried to hack its way into all my registry keys. A moments lapse in concentration on my part in dealing with the warning messages that were deafening me and the little blighter was free to roam all over my laptop, result: one totally useless laptop with no .exe files accessible anywhere on the system. I resigned myself to the necessity of formatting and starting again. Lost activation keys, missing disks etc. etc prevailed and I finally gave up the fight any more at around 1.30-2.00am this morning. I took the machine into school today to continue the work at odd moments and things got worse, resulting in one teacher, (who used to build computers for a living,) oferring to get it all going again for me for twenty quid! Cheers Craig!! I am now in the process of re-installing all the twiddly little bits to get it up and running fully again. Fortunately I store all data on a 500+GB external hard drive and so photographs, videos, audio and documents are safe. I have lost all email addresses however so please could anyone who feels I might want your email address send me an email so that I can save the address.

The final insult this morning was when I pulled open the kitchen blind and it fell on my head pulling all the screws out of the wall!! To boot it all, I have a sore throat and nasty cough developing that some little darling has passed on to me and really don't feel great!

I just hope that my central heating unit can be repaired easily and on time for John to help me install at the weekend as the forecast is not good for the weekend to say the least.

More cheerful news next time hopefully...........

Monday, November 19, 2007

Just like buses....

Just like buses my blogs.... you can wait for days for one to come and then you get three! Been alerted this evening by avid reader and share boat owner Don of this interesting site! The blog of NB Pickles should be interesting and certainly the blog style so far is humorous and well written. I guess the owner has to have a sense of humour - the plan is to follow the fit-out of a 70' sailaway in 30 days whilst still working and then move to live aboard!! All I can say is good luck. It will be interesting to see the efforts. The final twist in the tale is that the boat is planned to reside somewhere on the Ashby Canal - my old haunting this space!!

Water buoy

I shouldn't be telling you this as they have strictly limited stocks and I want one!! For some time, I have been watching the website of this amazing little gadget which was first seen on Dragon's den. It seems to be the answer to loosing things overboard. Cork floats don't float if anything is too heavy, those little things that fire a line up to the surface when they fall in simply explode when the keys are dropped or banged but this seems to be quite clever! The water-bouy. costs twelve pounds something and seem to be quite a clever design. An email to me this evening confirmed that limited stocks are now available on pre-order with a hopeful, (but not guaranteed,) despatch for Christmas. It's on my Christmas wish-list so don't all rush to get one!!

Central heating.....

OK, after reporting on the snow last night, I am pleased to be reporting on the fact that my central heating boiler should be back with me this weekend all being well and providing I can get back to Birmingham to collect it. Apparently the burner has collapsed! Sounds painful but it does mean that I need a new burner - total cost; an estimated one hundred and ninety pounds!!

The parts are on order and the engineer will ring me at the end of the week when he knows that it is completed and working again. Hopefully, it will be ready for Saturday so that John can be available to fit it back on again and next week, convenient hot water and central heating again....

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Correct - those little white dots on the picture are snowflakes, well sleety type snowflake things at least. Just took Simba out for a walk and get hit flat in the face by a million litle slushy snowflakes. I can also confirm they are covering the pontoonand banking up on my windows of the car. It's too wet for them to come to much but at least we can say we had snow in mid November!
Heartbeat keeps going off due to the build up of snow on my satellite dish! No, it's not a wind-up; it's absolutely true. I've had to pick my way along the frozen gunwales carefully to wipe away the snow several times now as the dish is pointing directly into the prevailing wind direction and the sticky snow is covering it. I have posted a couple of pictures below showing the accumulated mass (!) of snow at 9.00pm!!


All night the rain was lashing down and the wind howling. Woke up this morning and the satellite had blown out of line and the cable filled with water! I sorted that out and then John arrived and we took my central heating unit to the rendezvous at the Motorcycle museum in Birmingham! Hopefully that will be sorted soon and I will be able to collect it and get it fitted back on. The wind and rain hasn't stopped all day today and it has been thoroughly miserable. Did something almost unique this afternoon - had time for ME!! It was so miserable that I updated my main site with pictures and details from my October half term trip, updated the map of where I have been and added a slideshow and some music to the homepage. The rest of the time was spent cooking a delicious sage and onion stuffed roast pork dinner and reading magazines - a thoroughly enjoyable, lazy and 'all too rare' day!
Just for interest, I googled the images for the key word 'Narrowboat'. A little late but an interesting read none-the-less, was the first image linked to the BBC news story of a narrowboat falling off a lorry onto the M1 - I bet that broke the crockery! There is an interesting series of pictures showing the recue!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A good day!

A really good day although busy as usual! Woke up this morning and John came round and helped me take the central heating unit off. Amazingly, it went very well and the picture above shows the unit off and ready to be taken for servicing. The second picture shows the hi-tec solution to keeping the water and antifreeze mix in the header tank - a permenant marker pen shoved in one pipe and a wooded tapered door handle shoved in the other! Crude but it works. Tomorrow, John and I will take the unit to Birmingham and meet the guy who's going to service it for me.

I then went with John for a little run out on his boat given that the weather was so lovely today - crisp, chilly but with an autumnal sun shining. Here is a lovely shot of Simba's best mate Daina peering round the back of her boat!
Returned back this evening for a big chinese meal and now settled down watching the X factor, (sorry - nobody's perfect!)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Boaters help Pudsey!

Visit the 'No Problem' blog and leave a message in the 'shout' box and Sue and Vic will donate 5p for Children in Need for every message! What a great idea for remote boaters to help. Well done Sue and Vic and all the very best.

Almost 100,000 hits!

Just noticed that I have managed to notch up 94,516 hits on my main site since its creation 4 years ago! Almost 100,000 hits - not bad I think!!

No Ecofan arrived today so hopefully it will appear in the post on Monday. Tomorrow John's going to help me take the Eberspacher heating unit off and I'll take it to Birmingham for repair. I hope he will be able to mend it in a week as I'm going to miss it on those chilly mornings and it's going to be a pain having to run the engine to get any hot water; lucky I have a twin coil calorifier!! I also hope to service the batteries whilst I have the floor boards up in the engine room.

Set the stage lighting today for our Christmas show. Confetti canons and pyrotechnic cartidges are on order. Discovered that one of the peripatetic music teachers had managed to break the faders off of our lighting desk so had to order a new desk. 16 replacement lamps arrived to change a set of Par cans from flood to spot only to discover that one lamp didn't strike - a new one is on its way!! On the plus side, the kids had their first main rehearsal on the stage today and they did very well. From next week on we have 5 x 2 hour sessions of rehearsals each week to get them up to speed, meanwhile the daughter of our head of music had her opening night as Jane Banks in Mary Poppins on the west End stage on Wednesday.

Had quite a shock yesterday when I was delivering a history lesson on the important changes in the Victorian era. I pulled out an old record player from the back of my cupboard to illustarte the idea of progress - none of my 11 year olds knew what it was until one burst out, "it's a record player - my gran told me about those!" Boy, do I feel old suddenly!

Today was the anniversary of nine years since my mother died. Amazing how time flies!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ecofan update etc. etc.

Today I recieved the following email from Calfire who refurbished my Ecofan which promptly packed up!

Hello Andy

Your unit is repaired and on its way back to you. The motor had failed which is quite unusual. Also yours is the first unit refurbished here to have subsequently failed so please accept our apologies for that.

A copy of the RI form is attached.

Best Regards


I await its return but the attached RI form explained very clearly the strange failure of the motor and replacement of the bimetallic strip as well as apologising profusely and extending my 12 month warranty to 15 months. Can't say fairer than that! These things happen and it's always the response that counts rather than the unfortunate event.

Looking forward to the weekend. I feel I need to sleep through the whole of it mind you but I can't. I have to take the central heating unit off and, with the help and guiding expertise of John, disconnect all the pipes without blowing the boat sky high and hopefully take it over to Birmingham to be repaired and serviced. With the temperature down to minus two degrees already this evening and the lowest temperature minus five last night, the prospect of living on the boat for the next week or two with no central heating system is just a little too much to anticipate even with my stove glowing a bright red colour as I type!!

Monday, November 12, 2007

So far, so good!

Phoned Calfire this morning who are the people who refurbished my Ecofan. So far so good as they instructed me to immediately return the unit and they will investigate. At the cost of another seven pounds, I have returned it to them - watch this space to see what they say??

It seems that a good quality Eberspacher engineer is hard to come by! All my boat engineering is provided by Martin Plant who works from The Ashby Boat Builders Center. Martin is a fantastic engineer who provides a sound and very reliable service using his amazing knowledge and is highly recommended but obviously very busy. Unfortunately he doesn't do central heating boilers! He did recommend one guy who was also recommended by John in the marina. I'm not going to advertise the guy here as he has actually retired but will do a few units for friends!! He has agreed to take a look so this Saturday John has agreed to share his expert knowledge and show me how to take the unit off and disconnect it and then I will take it over to Birmingham where the guy works. This does mean a week or so with no hot water or central heating!!!

Wow! Just watching Autumnwatch and listening to the guy looking at hibernating bats. These little creatures have got it sussed! For the entire winter months, they find a cave and shut down completely. Apparently they only take a breath once every 90 minutes!! I want to be a bat!!

I must get some boat jobs up to date this weekend. I seem to have spent so much time over the past few weeks working for other people that my boat has been totally neglected. I need to wash the curtains and service the batteries to mention just a couple of tasks. The up side of life at the moment is that school, although busy, is great right now. My kids are super and it is always fun when we start rehearsals for the Christmas show. Only this afternoon at the end of our first rehearsals, on lad came up to me and said, "Mr Edwards, I've got a good idea for the warriors costumes, I live near a venison farm and thought we could get some hides to make into cloaks!" Another boy stood on the stage and proudly announced his line, " Ladies and gentlemen," he yelled, " the chief's baby has been born, a healthy boy weighing 8 l b's and 10 o z's, (spelling the letters out!) Rehearsals had to stop while we rolled about laughing before explaining the finer points of metric and imperial!

I want to start a collection of pictures called 'signs of the times'. I was prompted after seeing a canalside sign in a pub garden stating, 'parents are reminded that their children are their responsibility in this garden.' I thought at the time, how sad that we live in a day where parents have to be reminded by signage of their responsibility for their offspring! If anyone has any pictures of signs that either state the absolute obvious or in some other way is indicative of the rediculous age we currently live in, I would be very grateful for a copy! This is the kind of thing I mean....
I meant to add on Saturday but completely forgot! A short cruise out on Saturday morning and I passed Chas and Ann of blogging boat NB Moore 2 Life. It was a quick passing 'hi' which always seems to be the way but a joy to see them anyway.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Ecofan again!!

Having recommended Calfire who refurbished my Ecofan unit and provided excellent service at the time, my unit has now become extremely lazy! Over the last week it has slowed down and now never spins anywhere near full speed. In fact, even when a nice log is burning well on the stove and the embers are glowing red it only spins at a speed so slow you can still see the blades turning!!

I have emailed them to tell them andwe'll see what happens but I am almost certainly going to have to send it back again - more expense and more hasstle. For the time being, I will keep their link on my recommended companies list but I'll keep you posted with any updates.

A nice lazy day today. Actually had about an hour to mysef this afternoon which was nice.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Nothing special to report!

You know, I almost feel obliged to update this blog with something even though I have absolutely nothing to say! Had a lazy start to the day and then fought the wind and occasional shower to get diesel and pump-out. The rest of the day was spent doing bits of this and that and not a great deal in particular!

The next few weeks are going to be very hectic school wise as we have started rehearsing for our Christmas show. Our school does the Christmas show big! We are starting rehearsals for at least 5 hour sessions per week starting this week and my life is going to be chaotic as I organise the sound, lighting and effects, help with rehearsals, finish the last parents evenings, attend several big evening/after school meetings and all the usual associated stuff of junior education running up to Christmas!!

Sunday, November 04, 2007


What an idiot! I have been informed by Adam that the consultation on red diesel closed on 31st October! Typical of me, too late for everything. Ah,well;I felt good doing it anyway and got it off my chest!

I have also received the following reply from Derek of NB Gypsy Rover regarding my post on coconuts:

Hi Andy, Regarding your recent blog on coconuts and Hindu's, as far as I am aware the Hindu's scatter the ashes of their dearly departed on the water and the coconuts and other fruit are to nourish the spirit on its journey back to their birth place. I have actually retrieved a coconut from the canal and opened it only to find its natural contents. Apparently their are only a few rivers in the UK where it is legal to scatter ashes on the waterway but its probably the old story of what they don't know they won't worry about.

Many thanks for this Derek, I wonder if the training shoes are there to speed the journey to the after-life?!

Spent the morning doing this an' that around the boat and the marina and this afternoon John and I decided to chuck the dogs in the car and take them off for a long walk up my old stomping ground on the Ashby Canal. A really lovely walk midst the autumn leaves and sunshine. This evening, the temperature is down to 4 degrees already and the full roast, (including home grown parsnips thanks to my cleaner at school,) is sizzling in the oven nicely. The coming week heralds two late evenings of parents evenings - oh joy!

Saturday, November 03, 2007


I have just spent the last hour composing my email in response to the red diesel consultation. I have copied it into this blog post below for your interest. For those interested, the RBOA statement can be found by following this link. If you haven't emailed your response DO IT NOW to It is very important that the government see that, at the very least, we are concerned and vocal; it might just sway any thinking!

My email is as follows:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I feel compelled to write regarding the proposed increase on tax for diesel used by ‘pleasure craft’. It is extremely sad that, yet again, our country has had to ‘bow’ to the ‘one size fits all’ regime of the EU; a community that simply does not and can not hope to understand the particularities of this great and, (sadly becoming increasingly less,) unique country.

However, in light of the fact that common sense has again bowed to beaurocracy, it is important that, at the very least, those making decisions in power attempt to understand the considerable issues and implications they face.

I live aboard my narrowboat in the Midlands. I am not a ‘liveaboard’- I am a boater who chooses to live aboard. I own property and hold down a respectable career as the Deputy Headteacher of a very successful junior school in Rugby. I live on my boat as it is a way of life I enjoy and find very relaxing and I am passionate about the history and nature of our waterways. My boat is well maintained and fully compliant and as such, living on it is NOT a cheap way of life! I am concerned that I am going to be unfairly penalised for my chosen way of life through no fault of my own and wonder how this affects my human rights quite apart from my legal rights to purchase heating oil at a reduced rate of taxation?

At present, you are proposing three options for the introduction of an increased rate of tax on red diesel. Option C is simply not viable nor fair, given that by far the majority of my ‘normal’, (normal meaning day to day living as opposed to holiday cruising,) usage of red diesel is for running my central heating system, hot water heating system or for generating electricity, (a strange anomaly how my self sufficient and considerably greener lifestyle is about to be penalised in this current ‘green’ climate?) I do not believe that the Inland Waterways Association’s suggested rate of 25% discount bares even a close resemblance to my actual proportion of usage which is much nearer to the Residential Boat Owners Association suggested rate of 60%.

As regards options A or B, I would have no problems signing any necessary declaration ‘at the pump’ to state the general split of diesel used for propulsion to that for heating/generating etc. in order to receive an immediate tax reduction but would be extremely uncomfortable at having the unnecessary added burden of having to claim the tax back on an annual or 6 month basis, (I would assume if this was the case that the cost of time and postage etc. could also be included?) The possibility of my boat fitting a second tank is totally untenable as is the option of fitting a new tank to rid my boat of the red dye, (my diesel tank is integrally built into the hull of my boat!) Much less, are the chances of boatyards and marinas, (not to mention the many diesel selling working boats that ‘eek’ out a living on the waterways,) being able to fit the necessary equipment for selling two separate types of fuel.

It would seem to me that the only fair option, (given the state we find ourselves,) is to apply the lowest possible taxation rate across the board, (taking into account the statistics of amount used for heating/generating,) and if that has to be higher than is legal, (given my legal right to buy heating oil at a lower rate of duty,) at least allowing me the option of re-claiming the tax unnecessarily spent, through the simplest and easiest means possible for everyone involved.

I would seriously urge all decision making people to consider very carefully the options available and discuss fully with all the relevant bodies, (especially the RBOA,) in order to prevent a ‘maintenance fee’ style fiasco occurring on our waterways.

Thank you for your time in reading and considering my views,
Kind regards

Andrew J. Edwards

Coconuts and trainers!

It is well known in the boating world that the two most often sighted items floating in the canals are trainers....

....and coconuts....
I have often wondered as to the origins of these items and there is an interesting thread currently going on on the CanalWorld Forum suggesting that the coconuts are down to Hindu funerals. There is still some speculation as to whether the ashes of the deceased are placed inside them, money and gifts are placed inside them or they are simply an offering to the gods. The debate continues and it is an interesting one; maybe someone can help?
As the trainers, no such debate exists! I can only suppose they are either knocked overboard or disgarded by kids mucking about canalside in summer weather? Both items obviously exist for a very long time due to the longevity of their materials and so have a chance to accumulate.
The last of the daffodils were planted today so I'm ready for the spring! It was nice to have a break during the planting in order to chat to a lady on the bridge, (sorry, I didn't ask your name - oops!) who was a follower of this blog. It was great to chat about all sorts of boating issues and opinions and gave me a valued chance of getting my energy back for the final few bulbs!
On a more serious and much sadder note, we are all devastated this evening by the news that one of the residential team here, a new boater who was very much 'living the dream' and was always seen waving and smiling was tragically killed last night in a car crash. I spent much of this afternoon with John helping the family sort the boat out for them and shutting it down. It brings a sobering thought to everyone when something sudden happens like this and all our thoughts are 100% with his family and friends at this sad time; it's times like this that the boating community has to put all differences aside and pull together.