Sunday, August 31, 2008

Last few hours of freedom!

Like a condemned man waiting for judgment to pass, I sit here counting down the hours until the new school year and term starts.
Tomorrow, an inset day to ease the shock to the system and then the rugrats are unleashed on Tuesday!
A VERY hectic weekend. Spent 3 hours in the pond yesterday, (yes, I did say IN the pond,) clearing pond weed. The ponds here have taken off amazingly and 4 trailer loads of pond weed was pulled out and disposed of. Many more, less exciting jobs were also completed both marina and boat wise with a large smattering of school tasks thrown in just to prove my impending doom. I sit here typing this aching from top to toe and ready for a holiday or at least sleep for the next 48 hours!
Spoke to Derek and Sheila yesterday of NB Clarence fame. Derek has just returned from France and visited a boat lift - Anderton eat your heart out, the French do things big stylee!

...but as Derek so rightly says, 'very impressive....but lacks soul'!

Clarence is now another 4 weeks behind schedule and completion is not due until October. I think even in th eworld of delayed boat fitting, Darren Aldridge is beginning to go into the record books with this one!

I can sense and sympathise with their frustration as the last remnants of summer, (or what we've had anyway,) ticks by and the thought of moving onto the boat just in time for the short, cold winter days becomes ever more a reality.

I'm reminded of a poem I wrote during a particularly low period of waiting for my boat to be finished when it seemed the end of the waiting would never come:

"The end will never come," I say to all who stand around,

The good things that I'm longing for seem never to abound.

"The clocks have stopped," I cry out loud for that is what it seems,

This present life that I am in, is drowning out my dreams.

The chance that I am longing for looks further than was planned,

Alone I seem to have no hope without somebody's hand.

I know it's there but it still seems so distant in this age,

I want to fly but still I'm trapped so helpless in this cage.

"Be patient" people say to me as eagerness prevails,

"Make sure you get the plans all right - sort out the fine details!"

"How long must I be patient?"I ask my friends around,

"Much longer than you think" they say and this is what I've found.

I'm sure one day the time will come, when dreams at last are real,

The longing ache inside of me at last new life will heal.

The day will come when to my friends at last I proudly state,

"I bore my patience - though found it hard and now no longer

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wot - no flowers?!

Nope - not next year!

My attention is now turning to future trips and although I have a few shorter trips nearer, (where shall I go in the October half term?) I am beginning to think about next summer.

Tentative plans involve heading north and taking in the Leeds & Liverpool and Rochdale canals. I would like to do a large circular route involving Standedge tunnel, (see why no flowers next year!) Bingley 5 rise and Burnley embankment - another 3 of the Wonders of the Waterways.

I will probably head north and through Harecastle solo before meeting my father somewhere up there for the northern most bits; I would quite like someone with me for some parts given reputations!!

This is, of course, all pending on breaches, weather, logistics and me not changing my mind in between!

Only another 3 days before term starts proper. Pretty much all of today was spent in school and I have a meeting back in tomorrow.

Monday, August 25, 2008

One week left....

Today marks a very important date - I am now exactly one week away from the start of the new school year. Although much of this next week is planned to be spent in school anyway, it is my last vestige of freedom!
I was alerted over the weekend to a new canal blog. 'Thompsons on tour' is, in my opinion, an excellent website which includes a blog and charts the travels around the system of some neighbours of mine, Clive and sarah who are still relatively new to the boating lark. The blog is an excellent read and well worth looking at.
Nothing much to report on the personal front! Spent the weekend getting sorted and back into routine both on board and in the marina. We are planning another open day for Saturday 13th September so anyone interested is welcome to attend. This is more 'brand awareness' as I have to say, the marina is fast approaching the limited spaces point but anyone looking for a mooring may still get lucky with us. Not an uncommon story is the friend of mine who turned up over the weekend simply to visit, fell in love with the place and left having signed up to come in! In the evening of that date, we are holding our annual 'end of season' barbecue. Interested boaters and friends are welcome to attend, (musicians especially as we hope to have a live jaming session!)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Back home!

I couldn't stay any longer! Today I returned back home to the Midlands and the boat. To be honest, it is rather nice to be back and sorted. Back to my memory foam bed, back to my own space, back to te cosiness of my boat, back to more rural countryside, back to school and work - WOAH! stop right there. I still have one more full week left, (although from Tuesday onwards is to be spent in school.)
Last night, we went to see 'Joseph' - another awesome show. Spent the evening before the show wandering round Covent Garden and soaking up the atmosphere.
I also spent some time whilst down south scanning some 35mm slides that my father has. Actually, he has thousands but I scanned some relating to my past and family. Pictures like this cute little lad with his bunny rabbit!
....or this sweetie at the seaside!
Interestingly enough, I have a faster and more reliable internet here than I did in London! For some reason my father's BT internet system just did not want to connect reliably and when it did - it was painfully slow!
The bank holiday is to be spent on marina jobs in between getting myself sorted for the start of a new academic year.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Throwing caution to the wind!

What the heck! You only live once!
The last 3 days have been a whirlwind of total extravagance and enjoyment and it aint done yet!
Monday - we went to see 'The Sound of Music' in the West End.
Tuesday we spent the day at the seaside. Fantastic, despite the wind which some brave kite and wind surfers clearly enjoyed.
The evening was spent eating pizza and relaxing at home.
Today, we decided to go really mad and be a London tourist for the day! A hasty few searches and bookings online this morning and the day panned out as follows:
Firstly, a, (highly recommended,) trip on the London Eye.
An almost perfect day weatherwise with fairly blue skies and a few fluffy clouds. Very good visability for miles and miles.
After that, we decided to go to visit the Tower Of London!
Fascinating and a good experience but I struggle with historic places which have become way too over commercialised and have re-built 'what they think things were like' in modern day reconstructions. I like authentic and being able to use my imagination and found the Tower very lacking here. There seemed to be a totally disproportionate number of shops!!
Anyway - the evening saw us enjoying a Nandos meal before arriving at Victoria Palace to take in Billy Elliot.
We are now exploring the possibility of either Joseph or Mamma Mia tomorrow evening as we're on a roll, (after I've done some shopping in the morning)!!
Going home? Right now - never!
I guess I'll return some time by or over the weekend so that I can spend next week back in sch.....
It's times like this, I miss London so much now I'm in the Midlands. It's fantastic to be able to 'on a whim' book a show and pop into town to see it, pop down the road to an excellent restaurant of any cuisine one chooses or select from the endless range of options to be entertained for an evening.
Anyway, it's now almost 1.00am so I guess I need to go to bed and prepare myself for tomorrows excitement!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Not there but here!

So, I'm not at home. Well, not my home anyway - not the floating one! I decided on a whim to go down south and spend some time catching up with friends and family. I came down here on Thursday and plan to spend as long as I wish here up to the end of next week. Today I went for a lovely walk over the South Downs with dad. We enjoyed the rolling countryside, warm sun and summer sights...

NB Clarence is coming on well and friends Derek and Sheila hope to move aboard around 15th September. Internal fitting out is doing well,

....and the most important bits, (the wine rack,) is clearly ready for action!

Now an Orange tale!
As reported during my summer cruise, my Orange connected HTC Tytan 11 handset has been developing connection problems. It's all to do with the mini USB at the bottom which has been slowly losing data connection and, on occasions, charge conection. I decided whilst at a stable postcode address to order a replacement under my insurance. A replacement handset duely arrived and after much 'faffing' I managed to restore all my data and configure the new unit. I then discovered that the replacement unit had obviously been owned by a company who had re-flashed the ROM to lock out all data and SMS functionality and every time any of these were accessed it simply displays a message telling me that company policy has forbidden the use of this service. I was not happy and phoned Orange to tell them so. I was informed that they would have to escalate the problem to their tech. support team who would contact me in around 4 days to attempt a resolution.
This morning at 9.00, as the Orange store in Kingston was opening - I was waiting outside! In hindsight, I pitty the poor whipper snapper who had just turned up, blearly eyed and no doubt hung over, to find me refusing to leave the shop until something had been sorted and informing all the other customers in a loud voice exactly what was wrong with their customer service.

Well, I now have another handset being delivered tomorrow morning between 9.00 and 1.00 and have been placed on their 'Premier Customer' database for a higher level of preferential treatment in future! Oh! and I will wait to see if my personal email to their brand new CEO; Tom Alexander, is replied to!!

Monday evening, I have tickets for a West End show with Fleur - a long standing friend of mine, (my only actually!) I'm not going to say what for as the show is a surprise and she may read this; I'll let you know when I return and what it was like!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Main site updated!

I have updated my main Khayamanzi website.
The update reflects new routes covered on the map under the 'boating information' link as well as new photographs and stats. under the 'Cruise pictures' link.
The total trip included exactly 300 locks and 321.25 miles, (not including dozens of swing and lift bridges!)

Back home!

To be honest - I'm not really sad this year! It's been a heck of a trip with new experiences but many more dramas and very hard work. I'm really rather glad to be back in the security and comfort of the marina. Set off this morning in the predictable drizzle which did eventually clear up to leave sunny spells. Arrived at Hillmorton locks just as the hire bases were all arriving. I am stunned at how little knowledge any of the Viking boats had! Clifton cruisers seemed to know the most but the Viking hirers all arrived not knowing the first thing - they didn't even know to close the lock gates first once the boat had entered!!

Shortly after leaving the locks, this little chap landed on my red ensign looking for nectar!

You can just see his wings on the edge!
A quick text to Andrew Denny as I passed Granny Buttons at Newbold to let him know she was safe and snug and then finally arriving at Brinklow at 7.54pm. A pump-out and diesel and then onto my berth to phone for a Chinese meal!

I installed the CD for my Tiscali broadband but it consistently refused to accept my WPA key. A phone call was made to tech support during which time my internet installed itself and suddenly started working! It now seems to be working fine and unless it's my imagination - it seems to be faster than on my old laptop!

Tomorrow, hoovering, washing, cleaning, take on water, shopping and then relaxing ready to go to school Monday onwards.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Last full day of the holiday!

If all goes to plan, I'll be back in the marina tomorrow evening some time. Then I can get the boat sorted over the weekend before spending the rest of the hols. in school - except, that is, from the bank holiday week when I hope to visit back down south to catch up with friends and family.

Set off this morning in the drizzle from Banbury and headed through the locks until Cropredy! That was fun. Met loads of boaters there who were there for the festival and got very tempted to stop. Weaving between all the boats and grabbing pictures as I went was tricky! It was most impressive though and many boaters had really gone to town. Here's a selection of pictures from the trip through.

Eventually I made it to my favourate tree! I love willows. Don't know why, I just love them.

A couple of treats today as I passed NB Two Jays. I think they recognised me but I have to admit to being totally switched off until past them - sorry guys!

Then past NB Lucky Duck - and I was still just as switched off - again, sorry! It sounds aweful but I've had so many people calling out chery 'hellos' in a knowing sort of way or introducing themselves that I get a bit confused - I'm having a mid life senior moment!

Anyway, finally moored a couple of miles from the Napton Flight, (bridge 125 to be precise!) with a good satellite signal and 3 bars of an Edge signal for internet.

Talking of internet - can anyone help?

Some readers from Iceland have contacted me to ask if I know of any pay as you go scheme for data? They are hiring an NB at the end of August and want to keep an online blog. They have a USB dongle for Iceland - anyone help with how they might be able to do this for the week or even pay for one month?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Too much excitement!

Woke up this morning and although the sun wasn't shining it was dry and very warm. Actually last nights emergency mooring looked very pleasant in the cold light of day!
Arrived at my second lock to a guessing game - were these cows right? You know the saying and the clouds were very threatening.
Well, they weren't and the day stayed dry all day long. Very exciting day though. Here's a picture of Somerton Deep Lock....
....little did I know when I entered the lock and took this picture what drama lay ahead! I arrived at the end of 6 boats. The lock seemed to be painfully slow filling with more water coming out round the gate than in through the top paddles. Well, when I entered - it gave up completely! I got three quarters up and then stopped. Several boats had now arrived and we decided to drop the boat again, open the gate and attempt to shut it again. The gate simply would not shut tight. We poked and prodded and felt all sorts of lumps and bumps that appeared to be stopping it but simply couldn't shift them. Eventually I phoned BW who told me they would get straight onto it and ring me back - they never did to this time! In the meantime, I suggested flushing some water through. It is in a long pound and is fed by the Cherwell so water wasn't a problem. None of us thought it would do any good but in the words of the boat behind, "It's all good fun messing baout with boats and locks anyway". Low and behold - it worked!! Whatever was blocking it vanished and the gate shut tight - we were back on our way. I didn't phone BW back as I felt they ought to come and check it anyway and they never bothered to phone me back either!
However, at the next lock, Aynho Weir, I met this going on...
Apparently they were testing to see what force it took to open the gates. I enquired further. The first test they did took 80KG to open it. "What should it be?" I asked, "well, 30 would be the norm." came the reply!! They also tested to see how much torque was needed to open the paddles.
I never did find the results for that one but they handed me a piece of paper explaining what was going on.
Quite innovative - a star rating for each lock and canal in terms of usability!
I like the sentence that says, '... you might of encountered stiff gates and paddles....'
'Might of', 'MIGHT OF' everyone knows it should be 'might have'!! I spend my life correcting the children with this one and it really bugs me!
Anyway, I did spot 2 brand, spanking, shiny new lift bridges on the way.
All very nice but I still find this is my favourate type of lift bridge....
Moored this evening in the town centre of Banbury. Good 3G intenet signal and even a good satellite signal - things are looking up! All in all, a very pleasant and exciting days cruising. Tomorrow - even more excitement as I pick my way through the first day of the Cropredy Convention!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Rain, rain, rain......

That sems to be the theme of today!

Set off this morning at around 9.30 from outside the Waterman's Arms on the Thames in a steady drizzle. After about half an hour it had turned to a torrential downpour. For the rest of the day, the weather alternated between the two until I finally gave up at 4.30pm and moored just below Northbrook Lock on the South Oxford. I had hoped to get to Lower Heyford but was well and truely beaten! Just as well as, since mooring the rain has intensified to an absolute relentless deluge and this has persisted and is still going strong now. I'm a tad worried about the other end of this...

It's where the Churwell joins and runs with the Oxford and its what got me trapped in Banbury last year. It now looks increasingly like I might get trapped the southern end if I'm not careful - how ironic that would be!!

Almost every lock was against me on the way up from Oxford although I did manage to get help with most of the lift bridges including the one on the sharp bend at Thrupp where a foreign gentleman busy taking pictures of me was press-ganged into service for me. Luckilly he found it very amusing and his wife took over the photographing as he posed in various positions whilst trying to keep the swing bridge open for me!

A brief stop at the floating farm shop for some essentials. Bread, a jar of pickled gerkins, a tub of tomatoes and a bottle of lemonade to make up my San Gria that one of my children bought for me should the sun ever re-appear!

What a charming place that is and what a lovely person Jane is. I coulod have stayed for hous taking in the atmosphere of a bygone and more trust worthy age but rain once again urged me to push on. It's lovely that places like this still exist in this beaurocratic mad world and where an honesty box can still work - long may it last and I would urge all boaters to pay a visit on their way through to support this worthy and useful trade. As Jane herself cheerily called as I pulled away, "it's only for passing boaters like you who keep us going." A much better report on the shop can be found here.

It looks like I'm going to have fun passing through Cropredy! I'm going to hit it just a few days before their famous Cropredy Convention. Apparently, traffic is already 3 abreast in places and I was told that locks are interesting due to the number of people who stagger out to help you lock through. Apparently you need one hand for the windlass, one for the boat and another to prop up the willing helpers who are a little worse for wear!!

I want to get as near to Banbury as possible tomorrow - ideally in it but this may be pushing it a little even for me!! I guess it depends on the weather.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Last day on the Thames!

Left Beale Park this morning and set off to Goring where my father left for home. A very pleasant cruise from there with rain, sun, wind and just about anything else mother nature could throw at me! Fortunately more sun than anything else so the journey was good and I made good progress past many interesting landmarks.
Just approaching Abingdon lock and I spotted Maffi's boat.
A quick hello before passing through and spying the unmistakable front doors of Bones.
Sure enough, moored up waiting for the lock and Maffi and Bones appeared to 'help', (or rather watch and laugh at another single hander struggling!) as I locked through!
Finally moored at the Waterman's Arms again in almost the same spot as on the way down. Tomorrow - off the Thames and back to more comfortable surroundings of cruising shallow and narrow ditches!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Day 015

It is hard to believe that todays pictures have been filed under 'day 015'! 15 days into the trip. Currently moored at Beale Park on the Thames having just squeezed into a lovely spot as the rain started - now, it is lashing down!
I shall start with a picture of last nights blog post being published!

An interesting and traditionally slow journey back down the few remaining miles of K&A, passing this chap heading towards Newbury.

Having reported of the 'helpful' farmer who snapped my boat hook on the way up, I can now report on even more 'helpful' cyclists who have managed to do this....

The last manual swing bridge and 2 cyclists decided to lend a hand by opening the bridge.... and then closing it again before I had passed through! The result is this little beauty on the name panel and right across the sign written name! And yes, it goes right back to bare metal - an absolute blinder and needless to say, I was not happy. Does anyone know of anyone who might be able to repair it or is a complete panel re-spray and re-sign write??

Ah well, I read a report last night that said that the K&A could be closed to navigable through traffic in as little as a decade due to poor maintenance and very low visitor numbers that make it a non viable navigation to plough endless money into. Good job we 'did it' while we could! An email from Tony Collins of the Coventry Canal Society and a fellow Save Our Waterways campaigner has asked if I would be willing to talk to the press to put the record straight regarding the state of the canal system. This comes in light of BW's latest report published that paints a very rosey picture. I now have sufficient facts to shed a little more reallity into the situation!

On the way down to the K&A I paid £29.50 for a 2 day Thames licence. On the way back up I have had to pay nearly £60! Thirty quid difference to cruise the same length of water - the difference is down to my timing. I arrived today at lunch time and so needed to pay for 2 days to be safe - rediculous!

OK, here's a question - how do you know you're on the Thames? see things like this parked in peoples back gardens!

Tomorrow, dad 'jumps ship' at Goring and I continue single handed up and onto the Oxford. The amount of work to do at school is now increasing in my mind and I'm at the stage of wanting to get back as soon as possible now in order to get it done and have a holiday!!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Last night on the K&A!

Set off this morning in a very heavy drizzle which gradually developed into a torrent and then back to a drizzle again! This evening - a different day!
Moored up on the outskirts of Readin just below Aldermaston for a barbecue in the evening sunshine.

We even managed to stop off and get a pump-out and diesel at Reading Marine who were officially closed but were willing to unlock, pull out all the pipes and service us in readiness for the Thames. Every time we have had any dealings with Reading Marine we have found them to be outstanding and helpful with a willingness to go above and beyond that is rarely found elsewhere. I have added them to my excellent service list on the right! Hats off to you guys.

Tomorrow, the plan is to leave the K&A and head up the Thames. It will be with some trepidation that I push against the current upstream through and past Goring - the site of the fateful fire some 4 years ago now! The Oxford beckons and to be honest, I'm beginning to have withdrawl symptons for the narrow canals!

Tonights blog comes from the bank as I sit here sipping a cool drink and watching the sun set behind the railway line (!)

Friday, August 01, 2008

Life at last!

Got some catching up to do this evening! Finally, I have managed to scrape 2 bars of a 3G signal with the phone propped up in the front cratch window!

One of the joys of boating is meeting some truely great people. This has been none more so apparent than the family we shared the Caen Hill flight with. They were on NB Sonata, an Ownerships vessel. It made life easier, more fun and the 4.5 hours it took seemed to pass so quickly.
Then we met Trevor. A single hander who has cruised much of the waterway and who we shared many locks with yesterday. We learn so much from him, shared so many great stories of his experiences and so enjoyed the passage together. I am thinking of heading North ontot he Leeds & Liverpool and Rochdale next summer so may meet him again as this is his home waters, (as much as a CCer can have 'home' waters!)
We were even treated with the experience of passing Oak and Ash half way up Caen Hill - the immaculately kept hotel pair owned by the retired vicar and his wife.
Today we made very slow progress. Started late as we decided to have a fried breakfast, stopped early to take on water and do some shopping and then crawled through some very 'interesting' locks before deciding to moor up early on the River Dundas just before Newbury and have a barbecue - well, the barbecue is still yet to come!
We also had to wait at one lock for the horse drawn boat trip to wind and return - of course we didn't mind this at all as it was a beautiful sight that snt shivers up your spine just watching! Incredible handling of the pair in a gale wind and so friendly to chat to - both crew and horse!
Tomorrow hopefully, Newbury and on to Reading for a pump-out and full tank of diesel for the return trip. Diesel down here is an average of 98p per litre whereas it is still 83-86p per litre in the Midlands - what a variation!