Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Are we drifting towards a dictatorship?

It's not often I get political - I hate politics; in fact, I hate anything even vaguely political but I have an observation.

In what appears to be an increasingly desperate bid to stay politically popular in preparation for any future elections, it appears as if Gordon Brown and his labour crooners are drifting towards a dictatorship. Two examples:

  1. I hear tonight that teachers are to be given an MOT style test every 5 years and kicked out if they fail. We already have procedures for incompetent teachers but only after layers and levels of support have been tried and failed. Surely that's better. Instant dismissal after a single failed 'test' is extremely draconian at best.
  2. Watching the BBC London programme this evening I discover that anyone protesting against the Olympics are be be arrested and prosecuted during the Olympic Games. Even displaying an 'anti Olympic' poster could land you a fine of up to £20,000. The police have been given extra powers of forceful entry in order to gain access to any building that displays or is involved with any form of Olympic based protestation. I seem to remember huge discussions on Human Rights being had over the Beijing Olympics - it seems we are none better. I'm not normally on the side of the Human Rights bods but this one seems a step too far!

I wonder what will be next in the steps towards dictatorship. Ridiculous laws on drinking and boating imposed by Europe perhaps, laughable health and safety regulations insisting on dangerous bollards at locks and lethal 'guard rails' - who knows where this increasingly downward spiral might lead us?

BTW the fridge is working fantastically at present! This evening I even had a glass of apple juice that waso cold it burnt my throat as it went down - now that hasn't happened for years! The thermostat is set on no 3 and it holds consistently in the blue 'fridge' section of my thermometer, even in the 38 degree heat that my classroom registered this afternoon.

I notice that Andrew Denny has blogged regarding licence renewal. Well it is my annual battle with BW again. I pay for my licence by Direct Debit so the system is automated and I need do nothing but read the form, check the details and sit back and wait. The problem is that my licence expires end of July. The new licence is due to be sent out automatically around 15th July. I break up on 17th July and vanish immediately for the summer. Very close and quite likely that my licence won't get to me in time given that it is sent to my London address and then needs to be forwarded to my school by my father. A whole summer of cruising with an expired licence on display and many waterways officials at sites such as Harecastle and Standedge to explain to - quite apart from the scouring looks and audible 'tut tuts' at locks. I phone BW and explain. "Sorry", comes the reply, "the system is automated and there is nothign we can do". POPPYCOCK - press a button somewhere and help this law abiding licencee to remain within the law and BW rules please.

If my licence doesn't arrive on time, I would urge everyone to phone BW and report me - if they can't be bothered to help, then let's waste their time and force them to be more co-operative in the future or I will have the same battle next year and all future years!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Fridge - part 2!

What great people in this marina! I got home from work tonight to discover that Norman next door had Simba running up and down his pontoon with his dog to keep him cool in the shade of his boat and used my dog gate to keep the 2 of them under control and John and Eric had not only collected my new fridge but installed it for me as well - all I had to do was change the food over and lift the old one outside the boat!

I am now the proud owner of an LEC fridge as seen above and on this page!

It is now cooling down, (or trying to in this stifling heat and humidity). My only worry now, (as pointed out by John,) is that I am running both my fridge and my small freezer from the same cable. I am a little concerned that this may have been the cause of some of my previous failures and the fact that the compressors failed to switch off. I am sure many people more wise than I will confirm, (or hopefully otherwise,) that this could be a problem. The fridge seems to be cooling down at the moment and the freezer spends most of its life shut with only occasional door opening and so the compressor rarely runs on the freezer; this makes me suspicious that it could cause a problem but the large note on the instructions saying "over 90% of service call outs are due to incorrect cabling sizes" makes me worry that I might be trying to get too much magic fairy dust through one small wire!

Anyone know anything about this and can advise?

I slept last night with the air conditioning running. Having shut all the doors and windows and shoved the exhaust pipe through into the engine room, the back cabin quickly cooled from a sultry 26 degrees to a more respectable 18 degrees and I slept wonderfully, only stirring to pull the covers over me at around 2.00am when I got chilly! This evening it is still struggling to get my saloon down much below 22 degrees even though it's running flat out!

A text from my father in London ths morning simply read "41.2 in the sun here! Dad" You should try 36 energy obsessed 11 year olds in one small classroom after an hour of playing football at lunchtime - I would guess that I quite regularly reach that! (Why is it that they still have to be forced to take jumpers off?!)

According to my accordion teacher this evening, I am 'back on track' after almost a month of no lessons due to meetings, courses and French trips. Ah, French - on Thursday we have our French reunion evening involving cheese and wine for the parents; funny how that't the best attended event in the school calendar!

The weekend needs to see me pollishing the boat, topping up and checking the batteries and tidying the engine room, cratch and just about every cupboard on board in readiness for the trip north in a little over 2 weeks, (that sounds better than just under 3 weeks!)

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Well, I got home this afternoon to discover that my fridge was around 15 degrees and all the food had gone off! I knew it was playing up. My old fridge gave up the ghost and this one was given to me by Eric when he upgraded. I don't think I should have scraped the ice off with a kitchen knife! My suspicions are that the gas has escaped and I've punctured it somwehere. John is going to get me a new one tomorrow and hopefully this will be one expensive mistake that I won't repeat.

My PDA software is popping up error message everywhere as I discover more and more software that doesn't register and is operating in demo mode. Tomorrow I have several phone calls to attempt and unlock various bits of software before my upgrade is fully complete. Why does nothing ever go simply!!??

3 more weeks before I break up and in that 3 weeks, I have to cram in more than I care to think about: leavers discos, sports days, induction days, first aid days, transition days, annual hike, open evenings, reports out, meeting my new class, saying goodbye to this one, teacher assessment levels to be entered and submitted, QCA results to be analysed, Sats results to be analysed and normal teaching and parent pacifying in between!

My summer route is now decided upon. Up through Harecastle, pick up my father north of the tunnel, head up through Standedge tunnel, over the Rochdale, (breaches permitting,) and back down again. Unfortunately right up and over the L&L looks just a little too optimistic for this year so the Bingley 5 rise will remain unconquered!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A very mixed day!

Well this post comes from London - piggy backing courtesy of my father's lodger's internet connection! Woke up this morning with the anticipation of driving down to London for a 'show'! It was a surprise planned for Fleur so I couldn't say too much about it before but now I can confess publicly to the world - we went to see Britains Got Talent - the 2009 live tour! Very sad I know but great fun and something very different. Here is a grainy mobile picture, (yes mobile and camera pictures/videos were allowed!) showing Stavros Flatley bringing the house down!

The disaster of the day was discovering as I pulled out of the gate from the marina to embark on my daily adventure that my CoPilot Live software has yet again let me down and refused to migrate over correctly to my new handset. The programme works but all street level mapping data stubbornly refuses to be found. The technical helpline is closed for the weekend and emails appear not to be unanswered out of office hours. Thanks ALK technologies. The software is great but if considering it - don't expect an easy ride in any technical support or issues of upgrade. I have spent the day 'fumbling around' trying to find my way about and now have to attempt navigating through all the Warwickshire back roads tomorrow to find my little shortcuts that get me home again.

A very frustrating day tempered only by the enjoyment of the show this evening. I shall leave you now, (before my laptop batteries die completely!) with a little grainy movie of Diversity giving their final performance.

Good night!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Not an everyday sight!

Leaving for school this morning and I spotted a police car sitting outside the car park at All Oaks Wood. I slowed down and glanced as I passed and found that during the night someone had 'placed' a red van in the North Oxford Canal!
I did get some good pictures from Keith of the crane lifting it out but unfortunately I've lost them due to the next paragraph!!
I decided to upgrade my old HTC TyTn11 to a new HTC touch 3G.
Was it worth it? I'll reserve judgement on that one for a few days! It's certainly smaller and sleeker looking but comes with almost no accessories, the mini USB plug is different so I have to buy completely new chargers and leads and it has taken me hours and hours to set it all up again!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rare sense!

OK, so our school gets broken into - we phone the police and several hours later a solitary PCSO wanders up the drive to 'take a look'.

My car gets vandalised and the police tell me 'it will be a waste of time to persue it'.

My father's camper van gets stolen and the police tell him it will be 'long gone and probably in another country by now'.

Yet this poor guy simply gives out leaflets inviting people to an Easter church service and gets this reaction!

Never mind your particular religious views, in a so called 'Christan' country, is it just me or has everyone else had their brains radiated out and I'm the last one left with any common sense? Why is it that common sense is becoming less and less common these days! I think it should be renamed 'rare sense' as of now!

BTW. Thanks Tony for pointing out that my lower lock gates are the wrong way round at Foxwood Lock - I shall change them this weekend sometime; just checking!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Foxwood Lock.

So Foxwood lock is now well under way to becoming the next completed cameo in Little Foxwood village. Spend the afternoon working on it. The boat under the tunnel has his tunnel light lit as he exits, (more work on the water required still.)The lock keepers cottage is in place and illuminated as well as a canalside lamp so that the fly boaters can keep working!
The over view of the scene. A boat exits the lock lower chamber.
....and heads into the shorter tunnel that leads uner the railway and on to the mainline.
The concrete steps to aid pushing open the beams still needs work on it but the scene is coming on.
A close up of the boat exiting the tunnel. As you can see, more work is still needed and the tunnel needs a date on the keystone at the front. The crack above the portal is not serious and so the tunnel can remain in operation.
Another general view of the scene.

Friday, June 19, 2009

France 2009!

A whole bunch of random pictures this evening!

Returned home from France at around 1.30 in the morning this morning. Quite a record: within 15 minutes, 73 children, 10 members of staff and 2 luxury coaches had arrived, unloaded and vanished!

France itself was amazing again. The kids were great - it was just the staff that caused the problems! (I have to say that as I discovered that some of the staff have found my blog and now read it!)

The weather was stunning for much of the time and the experiences and places visited again caused great memories and it was a privilege to be part of the memories that these kids will have probably for the rest of their lives.
Mussel tasting seemed a bit of a hit - at least for most but certainly not for me!
OK, so there is a soft side to me! We visited a goat farm and I asked one of the children to hold my camera while I held the goat, they took a picture and unfortunately it came out quite well!!
The visit to Honfleur so the children could all sit along the harbour wall and sketch was a lovely experience. One of the staff overheard an elderly gentleman and his wife sitting outside a cafe enjoying their beer and wine and commenting on the children saying, "It makes you proud to be British - those children are such a credit to their school." A great moment for any teacher!
A traditional French street market provided the children with a chance to buy gifts as well as see the sights and sounds. The colours always amaze me.
The more serious moments included a visit to the Bayeux cemetery. Looking beautiful, (if that's possible in a cemetery,) after the recent anniversary celebrations; graves and crosses were festooned with flowers and memories, including this one from Prince Charles.
This sign was spotted painted over an entire window of one of the shops.
A visit to Pegasus Bridge was a great experience for everyone....
....and a lucky chance to see the new Pegasus Bridge being raised fully to allow boats through.
Finally, a couple of water related pictures! First, the view off the top deck of the ferry on the way over.
...and passing the big boys as we sailed out of Portsmouth.
My father was busy back home looking after Simba but also managed to find time to install the lock and canal on Little Foxwood. I hope tomorrow to tidy some of the bits up around it and will post photos next time hopefully.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sailing into the sunset.

Passport - check
Euros - check
Toothbrush - check
Sick buckets - check!

Well here I am only a matter of 10 hours away from having to meet the kids and leave for France. An overnight journey down to Portsmouth for an 08:00 hours sailing to Caen. I have managed to pack everything into Eric's car and now only have my personal ruc-sacks and the paperwork folder to put in.

The picture above was taken on the beach where we stay last year and I am hoping for more lovely sunsets this year. The forecast is good for both the UK and Northern France so things are looking good. The alarm is set for 01:00.

A scorching day today so my new found best friend - my air conditioning unit has been working overtime and doing an amzing job.

My next posts will be on my return with news of France and hopefully news of a newly installed lock and canal in Little Foxwood!

Monday, June 08, 2009

The great Napster Con!

Totally unrelated ramblings but I am very cross! Don't get caught in the Great Napster Con! I am trying to find a simple website for purchasing and downloading music. I don't want to sign up for £50/month for the next 300 years, I don't want to install 500MB of fancy software onto my computer that will organise, categorise and even mood arrange all my music, I don't want to have to download music as outdated WMA files that are no use to me and then spend hours conveerting them to intelligent MP3 files - I SIMPLY WANT TO PAY TO DOWNLOAD MP3 SONGS THAT I WANT!! Is that too much to ask in these days - apparently so.

I have used Napster light before and it seemed to work, (except that you have to convert songs from WMA to MP3 and that it is a nightmare to get the songs off from your fancy bit of software to a simple file format on the desktop), so I thought I would sign up to a free 7 day trial for Napster unlimited where you can download as many songs as you like for free. After the 7 day trial it will cost £9.99 per month. The very first song I downloaded I had to pay 79p for! Apparently some you do have to pay - so says the little man in India who I couldn't understand a word of; in fact, it sounded more like 'some song do have pay' ... but I got the gist after 3 times of asking.

Needless to say, my 'free' trial has been cancelled and I have removed Napster and all traces of it from my laptop. Now if anyone can tell me where I can buy the songs I want at a reasonable price and download them as simple MP3 files - I'd be very grateful to hear from you.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Leaks and kayaks.

Firstly, the leak! Solved I hope. This afternoon I turned the boat round and ran a bead of sealant round all the windows on that side. I now need it to rain to check if I have done the job properly - I'm sure my wish will be granted before long. It's interesting to note that it seemed all the windows on that side were breaking their seals. This is the same side where the colour on the boat is more faded. The reason - simple, it's the prevailing wind direction as well as gets the highest point of sun full on it.

The sun eventually came out and so I went for a nice long kayak trip. Overtaking all the narrowboats that were out there queued along the North Oxford heading north or south - I lost count of the number of times someone shouted, "you want to get a proper boat" or "why don't you get an engine mate?"

It's funny to think that this time next week I'll be in France - only just but I'll be there! Eric in the marina has very kindly offered to take me to Sainsbury's at 1.45am next Sunday morning to meet the coaches. I insisted that he shouldn't but he was adamant and I must say, I'm extremely grateful for his kind offer as it saves me leaving the car around up there.

The week ahead looks to be a tough one! A dull course tomorrow all day and then the battle of keeping the children firmly on the ground and not too excited about the forthcoming trip.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Foxwood Lock.

Is there one - I don't know but there soon will be. In one weeks time I travel to France and my father comes up here to 'Simba sit'. Hopefully he's going to install Foxwood Lock into Little Foxwood Village. The infrastructure is ready and in place - it just needs bedding in and the layers getting right.
The boat needs customising but I have laid it out to get a feel...
The lock keepers cottage is ready to be put in place with a pretty canalside garden.
The detail is great - the lock even comes with ground paddles and steps to aid opening/closing gates although I have never seen them in such good condition - they need serious weathering!!
The lockside walls are greened with algae and the safety ladder is ready for use to aid single handed boaters.

The top gate is closed as the lock is empty.
A closer view of the boat leaving the lock. The boat needs customising and personalising but I have to use it as it has to be the right scale.
This morning I finished my reports - yeehay! Well, I say finished - I finished all the bits I have to write but I still have to import set 2 comments, French, music, art and games - all subjects I don't teach and being written by other members of staff!
To celebrate I spent the rest of the day getting frustrated in the railway shed! One section of track kept throwing the express off so I replaced it - the same thing happened. I narrowed it down to an adjacent point so I tweaked it and tweaked it and snapped it! A quick trip to get a replacement and I think I have solved it however now the point motor doesn't work so I have to keep ducking under the layout to change the point. At that point, (no pun intended,) I gave up and returned home - I shall try again tomorrow.
The summer has ended and today has not only been cold and windy but raining all day as well. Last night I discovered a leak. Water was dripping down under one of my side windows just above the sofa. As soon as the weather improves, I will re seal the windows on that side and see if it cures it. Khayamanzi is really beginning to get tired!
Enquiries made to the Standedge tunnel people have confirmed that you are now allowed to take dogs through which is great. Several pages of pdf document provide all the details I need for my planned summer trip - most informative and, unusually for BW, very helpful!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Summer heat!

Well the long term forecast is for a very hot summer; but then again, it was last year I seem to remember as well!

It certainly has been EXTREMELY hot lately with outside temperatures reading a maximum of 38 degrees in the sun on the roof of Khayamanzi and inside temperatures reaching 30+ The boat windows, hatches and cratches have been left open day and night with kind neighbours taking Simba out for exercise and fresh air regularly.

I'm afraid I hate the heat - I've never liked it. I'm more of a cold person and much prefer cool and cold. I did a lot of 'umming' and 'arring' last year when small portable air conditioning units started appearing in Homebase and the like. I have finally succumbed to this little beauty.

Actually it looks bigger in the picture than it is! It can cope with cooling up to 20m square area has 2 fan speeds and a temperature range of cooling that gets down to 18 degrees. It is also 'A' rated for power and consumes less than 700W in operation - pretty good! Oh, and it has a timer if you want it to shut down after a certain number of hours and a natty little remote control!
No more sleapless nights for me thank you!

With only one more full week after this before I take charge as party leader of 76 lively and excited 11 year olds on a weeks trip to France, the planning, meetings, paperwork and endless neceesary form filling is well under way. Th eheart stopped momentarilly when the office told me there was a call from the passport office with a query regarding my application as party leader for the group/collective passport. Another problematic jobsworth I thought, who can't cope with me registering my legal address some 200 miles from where I work but no, simply a child who had forgotten to sign their application form and another who has a different common name to their legal name. A sigh of relief all round!!