Friday, October 31, 2008

Back home!

Well back home at last! This is what the Atherstone flight look slike at 7.00am on a cold October morning....
Khayamanzi has just slipped her moorings and my father is walkingon to set the lock. We completed the flight without passing a single boat! Early morning mist together with smoke from a wood stove makes amazing scenic pictures, such as these little ducks still half asleep...
This picture struck me! With all the talk of the rediculous bollards and the money wasted in installing them, I liked this. I felt it needed a caption - something like '...the light shineth on the glory of the bollards!'
Passing between the locks and my father took this lovely shot of Khayamanzi winding her way up the flight.
And so we reached the top lock.
4 BW lock keepers, all standing on the lock side swilling tea and enjoying jovial banter but only a single grunt offered in my direction and a complete blank towards my fathers cheery 'Good morning'. I guess when you have an MBA from Her Maj. one doesn't speak to passing peasant boaters any more!
Passing Les Willson Narrowboats on the way home and a local farmer was dredging out the canal bed with his JCB at the end of the 30+ line of moored boats you have to crawl past. I asked if he was extending the online moorings and he replied in the affirmative. "How far?" I enquired, "until the motorway bridge," he laughed pointing way ahead to the end of the field. I phoned BW. Just what is the status of the current policy regarding one less online mooring available for every 10 marina berths created? 3 departments later, I got through to an answer machine. I left a message but no-one bothered to reply so far. Am I the only boater who gets a tad fed up crawling for miles on end on tickover past lines of moored boats? I wonderd if the farmer even had permission for this? and if he does, why are BW on a single handed mission to end all last remaining enjoyment of cruising their waterways as a touring boat?
We turned into Brinklow at around 4.00pm to a glorious sunset.
Pumped out the loo, moored in and went straight off to explore Ikea in Coventry and Homebase in Newbold! I now have a sofa! Wel 2 boxes in the boot of my car to be precise but I hope tomorrow they will become a sofa. Watch this space....

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Day 006

Well - what a day!
Just about to take off this morning when a voice from a passign boat called out, "is that Andy?" Turned out, it was someone I had communicated with via email when they live din Australia almost 2 years ago and were now proudly cruising their own boat, NB Gleemaiden. They pulled up and lent me spanners to check my loose wire on the alternator but to no avail. Cups of coffee were shared during which I mentioned that I was on my way back to Brinklow. "Brinklow Marina?" they enquired, "Yes," I replied, "well I never," they continued, "we have a mooring booked there and are on our way to it now!" It never amazes me how small the boating world really is despite stretching to all corners of the nation and covering many thousands of miles!
We moved on to Hopwas to meet up with our RCR engineer outside the Tame Otter pub. The engineer duely arrived and pronounced my leisure battery alternator dead! Unfortunately, being the leisure alternator it isn't covered by them but he did carry one in stock and £70 later I was fitted and charging well. The alternator supplied didn't have a connector for my Adverc battery management system although I have heard that these units are sometimes the cause of alternators failing too soon - a fact, evidenced that the alternator replaced today was only around 2 years old! I have decided that I won't re-connect the Adverc and see what effect this has on the longevity of my alternator.
The breakdown meant an innevitable delay in leaving Hopwas and it was gone 2.00pm when we finally set off. I very much want to be back home by Saturday to get my sofa and finish sorting out my saloon and my father needs to be back home by Saturday to travel back down south for Sunday so we decided to push on and cruise a little into the dark. I know some disagree but I love night time cruising - it takes on a magical air and and an element of unfamiliarity in areas otherwise quite familiar. We arrived at the bottom of the Atherstone flight at around 5.30pm and decided to push through the first 2 locks knowing that there was good mooring after them. As we pulled out the second lock, a side hatch opened of a moored boat and a now familiar voice called out, "is that Andy?" We pulled in front of Richard and Audrone of NB Gleemaiden in the dark as this picture shows of my father having just moored the bow in!
Richard appeared, torch in hand, and invited us round for something to eat - an extremely welcome and very kind offer, one which was hastily accepted with the promise of a bottle of wine to contribute! A very pleasant evening was spent with them both and even Simba was allowed to join in the socialising on their boat.
Tomorrow we plan a relatively early start witht he possibility of geting back either tomorrow evening or first thing Saturday morning.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How to move a bookcase!

Set off this morning in bright sunshine. The sunshine continued for most of the morning but it turned duller and more chilly as the day progressed. We decided to stop early as it was geting very cold and we had already made the decision that the bookshelf in my saloon needed moving to make room for my new sofa and that today was as good a day as any for doing it! We moored just after 2.00pm just before Hopwas on that beautiful stretch that was so scenic before the brand new railway was built and just at the start of the millitary firing range!

So, how to move a bookcase.

First, empty the entire contents onto the dinette table and chairs....
Secondly, remove the book case carefully from its exisitng position: on the back of the dinette....
Next, re-build the shelves like giant Macano set in its new position, preferably with help from ones father....
Finally, re-stack the books in their new home having thrown out 2 black sacks of ones no longer required....

The saloon is now ready for my sofa and just a few tidying up and sorting out jobs.

It sounds as if all went well today, well not quite!

Just as I finished and was hoovering up the dust and sawdust, I noticed that the alternator light on my dashboard was glowing and the warning alarm was sounding. It did this before but I managed to track it down to a loose wire on the back of the alternator. Wiggling the wire stopped the alarm but I simply could not get the light to go out. Unfortunately. all my spanners and tools are in my truck for use round the marina so I have had no alternative but to phone RCR. Their usual customer service level is still in place I am pleased to see, with the friendly and re-assuring voice on the other end enquiring if we need any provisions or crew relayed. I hope to get a phone call in th emorning to give an ETA of an engineer. I just hope it's only a dodgy wire and doesn't need a new alternator - wath this space.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Day 004

A lazy start to the day havign had the best of bright sunshine before we 'took off'! By the time we reached Woodsend Lock a steady drizzle had started. As I approached the lock, I could see a figure standing up the top, hands on hips, watching me - you just know, don't you when someone is at a lock who you know and my sixth sense proved right as I entered the lock and recognised the figure of Jo standing at the top with NB Hadar above waiting to lock down.
Keith was nowhere to be seen but appeared as I passed by. It was lovely to see them both on their way down the GU to collect coal before returning back North up the Oxford in the new year.
Hadar is one of those boats that is a joy to see and hear every time you pass her.
We continued on witht he drizzle getting heavier and the sky getting darker and more threatening all the while. By the time we reached the cutting at Armitage and took on water - it was thoroughly miserable!
We turned at Rugeley having been beaten by the weather and wanting a more relaxed trip back and headed back to our current mooring in Ravenshaw Woods just before the locks and turn at Fradley tomorrow. By the time I passed Kings Bromley, the rain had developed into a heavy and very wet snow/sleet storm and the ambient temperature was reading only 2 degrees; much colder with the wind chill.
I am planning a rebuild of my saloon! If I move my book case onto the starboard wall next to the drinks cabinet, made my laptop table into a lizard shelf, I could fit a small sofa in there which I would really like, together with a small coffee table next to it which could house my laptop and printer. This would then make my saloon much larger and give me the opportunity to route my wiring more neatly and eliminate the trailing cables that currently dangle round my saloon!
Now, I'm off the take a look at Ikeas website!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Day 003

A bitingly cold day today!

Set off this morning headed for Tamworth. An uneventful day passed us by with pleasant cruisinf in a fair amount of sunshine although a biting wind kept the wind chill factor very low. Passed through Tamworth and the 2 Gladcote locks which are, thankfully, much faster now-adays than their previous reputation

Completed the Fazeley juncion turn...
and on towards one my favourate stretches of water down by Hopwas.

The threat of rain as we passed through Hopwas kept away and we passed on through the millitary range and down to the junction at Fradley. A queue of boats coming out of Alrewas, boats behind us and a boat turning down onto the Coventry caused the innevitable chaos that is part of 'Fradley Junction'. We felt a bit of a fraud as we slipped through the swing bridge, made the turn and into the almost empty and waiting lock, leaving yelling and shouting between confused Anglo Welsh and Canaltime boats and a frustrated private owner who had no idea where they were all going!
Our final mooring for the night was found between Shade House Lock and WoodEnd lock in Fradley woods - deep water, golden trees either side, rural fields as far as you can see and a good TV signal although not from the satellite dish; I swear that thing is going int he cut!!
Tomorrow: Rugely, Armitage - take on water then on towards Great Haywood and Tixell.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Day 002

A lazy start to the day. The rain hadn't stopped all night and was still going strong into the early morning so a full fried breakfast was in order. Steve on K2 set off at 10.40 to turn before passing us on his way back to Brinklow.
We continued on with the rain easing and the sun attempting to come out until reaching Atherstone.
An uneventful but enjoyable passage down the flight with even the sun smiling on us all the way - a first for the Atherstone flight!
We continued chugging onwards until a setting sun and very chilly wind forced us to moor up just after Alvecote at 4.30.
An hours attempt at a satellite signal and I finally gave up and hoisted the trusty aerial. I have ITV clearly which is all I need this evening for Frost!
Tomorrow we head through Tamworth and Glascote towards the 2 junctions. My apologies for small pictures while I'm away but relying on my faithful mobile and a couple of bars of 3G I felt reducing the images might take me less time with the evenings ritual of 'blog posting'!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Day 001

First day over! Very cold with a stiff wind but at least for most of the day, the rain kept away. A very pleasant cruise to Atherstone broken only by photograph stops....

Hawkesbury Junction....

and then the final mooring just before the first of the locks and just after bridge 33.

My crew member abandoned my boat for a more deluxe version and got on surprisingly well with the speedwheel on K2!

It was nice to catch a fleeting glimpse and passing shout to Ernie on Ten Bob Note as we started away from Brinklow.

This evening is a photograph swapping session and then tomorrow K2 turns to return while K1, (Khayamanzi - the original!) continues through the locks and onwards!

Friday, October 24, 2008

At last.....

Got here at last!

End of a week and beginning of a new one as far as I'm concerned. Tomorrow morning I plan to be off fairly early to get as near to Atherstone as possible. Water up, untie and let the holiday begin! Heading north towards Tixell Wide direction although I have no urgent plans to get to the wide - just that sort of way....

Hopefully my brother will be tagging along on K2 for a couple of days for the company which would be good.

Tomorrow evening, I hope to post a blog entry from away somewhere - watch this space!!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Weekend over again...

Weekends go so quickly! The temperature is relatively mild at 13 degrees outside but a brisk and chilly breeze makes it feel much cooler. The fire has been running all weekend although I expect to let it out during the week. This morning, I spent a while washing John's carpet on his boat! I have a Vax carpet washer and he wanted to avail of its services. Pollished the mushroom vents, did another load of washing, all my marking, my French homework, (I can just about say hello now!) and have now sat down for a short bit of 'me time' whilst dinner is cooking.
NB Clarence looks increasingly boat-like. The carpentry looks fantastic as seen below.
She looks quite cosy too in this shot.....
Hopefully, it won't be too long now before Derek and Sheila are at home here at Brinklow with Clarence as a new addition to the family.
A week ahead of performance management interviews at school interspersed with rhearsals for the production. My father should be arriving up here on Friday and then Saturday we're off!!
....there you are Eileen - is that interesting enough for you!!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Weekend - day 1

The alarm clock went off this morning at 7.30 and it was not a welcome sound for a Saturday morning! By 9.00 I was on the touchline screaming at my school football team, getting wet feet from the heavy dew and freezing hands from a chilly wind. In the end it was all in vain as the team finished 3rd in our group missing out on the semi finals by one point. I finally arrived home at around 1.00pm to start my own chores. Managed to get a pumpout, pollish both sides of the boat ready for my holiday in a weeks time, clean and hoover the inside, top up with diesel, stock up on crickets for the lizards, stock up on coal, clean out the fire, do my ironing, fill up with water and sit down whilst my dinner is cooking at 6.00pm.
Here's a picture to show the season!
Well stocked up on coal with smoke pouring from the chimney. In fact, such is the amazing community here at Brinklow - I'm burning my first wood of the season. They have recently cleared a whole load of trees down All Oaks Wood and boaters have been scavenging like mad! Some of the boaters here have also collected a load and brought it back up to be chopped and logged. They took more than they needed and so have told others to help themselves: already logged and split - how kind!
I notice the government have finally seen sense with metric and imperial. You see Mr. Brown - it is possible to say 'no' to Europe; now try sayig no to them about the tax on diesel for pleasure craft in the UK!! I would love to know how much of my money has been wasted on totally futile regulations such as the metric/imperial ludicracy - at the end of the day, why the heck does it really matter what unit you use so long as you get the right amount of stuff!

I've published this picture above for 2 reasons: firstly just look how shiny it is after its pollish today! I swear by 'Spray and Shine'! I'm sure some boffins will tel me it's the worst thing to ever put on your paint but my paint is 5 years old and doesn't look too bad on the stuff! I have never washed the boat in its life and can shine and wax the entire boat in under 30 minutes! The second reason is this - spot the scratch! This is the side that managed to 'collect' the aweful scratch during the summer as reported in a previous post. You can still see it and it needs more work but the initial touching up has made a huge difference.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Holiday looms!

Only one week before my trip towards Tixel. This weekend was planned to be a very busy one with large washing and shopping trips planned as well as cleaning the outside of the boat, topping up the batteries, tidying the cratch and engine room etc. well it just got busier as I have now got to supervise our school football team tomorrow at a local football tournament! I have to be there for 8.30 and as it's a tournament I expect it will take most of the morning. My work and chores will have to wait till I get home and Sunday.

A lovely day today - strong sun and changing leaves on the trees. It really is a beatiful time of year. This evening, I got home and, as the temperature had dropped to 5 degrees lit the fire. By the time I had got out of the shower, the temperature had risen to 9 degrees and the boat was roasting! I'm now sitting here with all the windows and doors open and the fire shut right down desperately waiting for it to go out - I shan't do that again. The central heating really is the best option at this time of year until it becomes reliably cold!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Cranking up the pressure!

My second accordion lesson this evening and boy is the pressure being wound up! I got a score of 99% for last weeks pieces which wasn't bad but still 1% away from what I'd really be happy with!

This week I'm expected to contort my fingers into positions they really weren't designed to go in as I practice scales, arpeggios and pieces of music that look like something out of a work from Beethoven, (the next piece in the book after Jingle Bells to be precise!)

Spent around 30 odd minutes this evening when I got home from the lesson practicing to make sure I could remember everything - not sure I improved in any way but at least I might remember what I'm expected to do tomorrow. I need to clarify something with our music specialist at school sometime this week as there was one arpeggio written in my book that I simply can't recall!

Only 2 weeks to go until half term and my trip towards Fradley and possibly Tixell if I get that far. The weather is tantalisingly warm and summery at the moment and it offsets the turning leaves on the trees on the surrounding hills magnificently - I feel sure it was turn wet and cold in time for half term!!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The next step.

This morning I went and 'tipped' the oven from school before going onto Accordions of Coventry with my machine, what a delightful couple who own the shop and so helpful. Unfortunately my machine is not worth a huge amount and would need around £100 to repair and bring it 'up to scratch' or as much up to scratch as the original Chinese workmanship could ever get to! The kindly agreed a part exchange value against a lovely German Hohner machine of £100 and even threw in a free set of luxury shoulder straps and a £200 case as well! I am now the proud owner of this little beauty..
Boy, I thought my old unit sounded OK but this is beautiful - rich, clear and unclutterred sounds and even my basic 'beginner' playing sounds vaguely acceptible! Unfortunately I don't have any excuses for duff notes now!
Returned home and after a quick 'play' went into school for the rest of the day. Managed to get 3 sets of books marked and brought home 35 detailed projects to mark tomorrow, (these were a 5 week task so you can imagine how much there is to trawl through). The irony of it is that they are canal projects which 'kick started' our Victorian study so of all the marking - I guess these are the most interesting! Once they're marked it will be onto the books and then I've begun to catch up with my tail!
John from the marina has booked a function room for our marina Christmas meal. A lovely pub with bags of character in the local village so I spent some time in between things sorting out marina bits and bobs!
The week ahead doesn't look too hectic in the diary - I've probably tempted fate now by saying this but there are actually a few gaps where I can focus on teaching without it taking second place to meetings this week which is good - perhaps I can have a week of not being in 3 places at the same time!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Weekend again

End of a busy week and an even busier weekend planned! Having loaded up 4 crates of work and marking to be done over this weekend, I stood there looking at it all covering my office floor and decided to leave it right where it was and go back into work over the weekend to do it rather than load it all into my truck, bring it all home, get disturbed, not get anything done, take it all back into work on Monday and get very stressed and cross with myself for not doing it!!

Taking my accordion in tomorrow to get looked at and a quote for getting it serviced/repaired. the practice is going well. I am now almost proficient in the pieces I was told to learn this week and ready for the next challenge, (I think!)

I also have a large oven and cooker in the back of my truck! It was being thrown out from our food tech. area and so I volunteered to take it to the tip without realising that the tip was now on winter times and shut at 4.30 - I now have to take that to the tip over the weekend as well!

In addition a CD arrived with one of the books in our series that I am asked to proof read and check through before submission to the printers and the next in the series that I am supposed to write is still waiting to be written with a first draft required by half term in 2 weeks time - I really MUST start it properly soon - another job shut away and hiding in my office in school perhaps!!

The forecast for the weekend is relatively good so the lure of the outdoors will also be hard to resist especially if Simba gets agitated and starts giving hints of wanting to run out and play!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Leçons françaises et Clarence

Mon Français avance très bien et j'ai vraiment apprécié la leçon d'aujourd'hui! J'écris ce blog dans le soir français en l'honneur de Derek et pour célébrer ma première leçon française !

I wish..... No my French hasn't come on that well after my first lesson. It's thanks to Babelfish that I can pretend to be clever!
Got home this evening at around 7.30 having had my first French lesson and being thoroughly confused by la, le and les and why on earth a chair is femenine and a carpet is masculine - not to mention the difference between madam and madamoiselle; I can see me offending many people in weeks to come!
NB Clarence is looking more and more boatlike almost daily. She looks beautiful and I can't wait to take a guided tour on the finished vessel with proud owners Derek and Sheila.

Rehearsals are well under way now at school for our annual Year 6 production. This year as we're performing it in November rather than the usual 'just before Christmas' date we are staging 'The Rocky Monster Show'! The kids seem to be amazing this year and it promises to be a fantastic show as their acting ability is outstanding - something very rare in 10 and 11 year olds usually!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Am I genuine yet?

Well, I entertained John in the marina last night with my one song on the accordion. He was so patient! Apparently, I can't consider myself a genuine accordionist when I only know one song. Well I now know a total of 3 - am I genuine now? OK, all the pieces use only naturals and chords of C, G and F on the base and the only notes I use on the treble is a single octave but hey - it's a start!

The accordion shop have confirmed that if I bring the machine into the shop on Saturday they will take a look and give a quote for repairing/servicing it.

New adventures lay ahead - French lessons tomorrow!

Monday, October 06, 2008


I now know exactly how my kids feel! I've been scared stiff all day about my first accordion lesson tonight. I needn't have been however - it was fantastic! My teacher is so supportive and lovely. It's amazing how much comes back and although still on very simple tunes - I can at least, play them; I think my neighbours are already sick of 'Skating'! The only problem being one of the bass buttons that decided to disappear inside the machine and leave a large gaping hole. I'm going to ring 'Accordions of Coventry' tomorrow and try and get it booked in for a full service.

Now I've just got to survive French lessons on Wednesday!

Friday, October 03, 2008

The value of shares!

I heard of this today and it really tickled me!

If you had purchased £1000 of Northern Rock shares one year ago it would now be worth £4.95, with HBOS, earlier this week your £1000 would have been worth £16.50, £1000 invested in XL Leisure would now be worth less than £5, but if you bought £1000 worth of Tennents Lager one year ago, drank it all, then took the empty cans to an aluminium re-cycling plant, you would get £214. So based on the above statistics the best current investment advice is to drink heavily and re-cycle!

There are some very clever people out there!

We held our school 'Jeans for Genes' day today. We had a lady in on Tuesday to talk to the children and she did an excellent job of explaining a very tricky concept to our children. For a minimum donation of £1, children and staff could wear their jeans to school for the day.

A good day for a worthy charity but hard work as discipline seems to go out the window for some children the minute they're out of school uniform!

Oh...and disaster! I have been forced to light the fire this evening after hanging on as long as possible. Autumn is most certainly here. A quick check confirms the outside temperature has dropped to a chilling 3 degrees! I still have to have the side hatch wide open as the boat has filled up with horrid smoke - the result of a summers worth of dust and dog hair building up under, behind, around and on the stove! Actually, I think most of it is the polish burning off!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Going French....

Keeping in the French theme! At the end of last year we took our Year 6 children to France and I loved it - so clean and such friendly people. I commentedupon my return how I could quite easily live out there! I guess taking up my accordion again follows the French theme and now I've gone one step further.... Next Wednesday at 4.30 I have my first French lesson! My entire Year 6 staff team have decided to learn French in readiness for our next trip later in the year.
Now more French - where's that wine to accompany my evenings work??

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

First lesson booked!

If you happen to be passing anywhere near Rugby in the next few weeks, don't be afraid of strange squeaking sounds coming from the direction of Binklow Marina! My accordion has arrived and the first lesson is booked.

Next Monday at 5.30pm, straight after the end of the senior management team meeting at school, I shall make my way to a local village and meet my new accordion teacher at a top secret location in readiness to take my first tentative steps towards musician-hood!

Right now, I need to wipe the tears off of my keyboard and continue watching the 'Pride of Britain' awards!