Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Prep for the summer

With an improvement in the weather, I spent a few hours on the boat today. The weekend looks like it will be even better.

Preparing for the summer, I have been concerned the front doors don't close very neatly. There's a bit of grinding and graunching as the two metal doors come together. The new high security padlock has added a bit of tightness too so I looked at ways of easing things. It was a small task for the new JCB angle grinder. Job done!

I also created a small wooden door (more like a flap) to hide the battery isolation switches. Is there no limit to this man's skills?

Anyway, I know you'd like to see a shot of it  - open...

And shut...
Lastly, a few days ago I came across a rechargeable Black and Decker Dusterbuster thingy in B&Q. It's not very powerful but is great for hoovering up the dust and fluff that gathers around the edges of the floor and in the corners of each room. It beats a traditional broom or the old Hoover Dustette hands down! And it looks a bit like a kettle so it sits on a worktop when its being topped up. Just thought you would like to share in my delight - oh the joys of spring!

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Crick and Julia Bradbury

Following a surprise birthday party yesterday for my eldest son, Matt, we went up to Crick for the 2013 Boat Show. The weather was fantastic so the show was packed.

If you went there yesterday hoping to see Julia Bradbury, you will have been disappointed. You'll have to watch Countryfile.

Today, the show lived up to its billing. Lots of stands selling everything you might need for a narrowboat, in the marina there were lots of boats for sale, the beer tent was doing a good trade and there were lots of smiling faces. Can't be bad!

After a very nice one to one chat with Julia for about 20 minutes, I couldn't leave without spending some cash so I came away with a few 'consumables' for Skylark. All in all it was a very pleasant weekend.

Edit: I made up that bit about chatting to Julia.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Crick Boat Show

Are you waiting to see what the weather does this weekend before you decide to go? At the moment it looks like it will be cold, wet and windy - no change there then!

We're planning to go despite the weather. I've told Lady Saga, the fact Julia Bradbury will be there has nothing to do with it.

Edit: the latest weekend weather forecast for the UK is brighter, warmer and dryer. That sounds good so it's off with the oilskins, wellies and sou'wester and on with the shorts, tee shirts and sun hats! Good luck everyone!!!

Anyway, on to something much more interesting. I recently contacted the IWA to ask why they have started to promote 'upcoming' events in their magazine? Whatever happened to simple terms like 'future' or 'next', I asked? There seems to be a growing trend, even in narrowboating circles, to use more letters or words than is necessary. Do they think this makes the message sound more important? It's like the 'strictly private' sign - is this more private than private?

It reminds me of a simple example one of my teachers once told me. He described a sign outside a fish shop that read:

Fresh fish for sale today

He then went on to explain, you would assume the fish were fresh so the word 'fresh' is not needed. The shop is obviously a fish shop so the word 'fish' is not needed. It's also obvious that the fish are for sale so the words 'for sale' are not needed and obviously they are for sale today so 'today' is not needed either. An advertising guru might take a different view but it makes you realise how pointless many words are. It's odd what you remember from your school days!

At the risk of using too many words in this post, have a look at the health and safety poster below. Wouldn't the words 'no entry' do?

I wonder if IWA will respond to my email and, if so, how many words they will use!

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Well done Rosie

On a very personal note, I am extremely pleased to let the world know that Rosie, my youngest daughter, has been offered places at four Universities across the country and has chosen to go to the beautiful city of Lincoln.

Well done Rosie!!! You'll love it.

And good luck with your new life outside sunny Suffolk.

Again, very personal, I have to say how pleased I am that all the kids are now well established pursuing their own lives - Matt and Ben are doing great things in the RAF and Army, Emily has just landing a new fab job in Ipswich and Jess is about to Graduate and is considering a PhD.

I am a very proud husband, father and grandfather. I will shut up now as I'm starting to dribble into my Horlicks.

Narrowboat security

I have been reading about what other boaters are doing to increase their security, especially as theft from boats is a problem in some areas.

Having spent a few years involved with security, and health and safety, amongst other things, I was particularly keen to introduce security measures in the design of Skylark. It was partly for this reason I chose portholes and solid steel doors.

I am also very aware of the need to berth in a safe marina, find safe mooring areas, never leave valuables or keys on  board, security mark everything, etc, etc. Btw, I won't mention all the other on-board security measures I've devised as I will leave Bill Burglar or the opportunistic tealeaf to find them out for themselves!

However, I will just mention the doors. While they are extremely strong and have adequate hinges, bolts and internal locks, I have always been a little concerned about the external locks. They are the sort more suited to garages or garden sheds. Because of this, I have invested in a couple of shackleless high security steel locks, the sort used on commercial van doors and trucks. They are not the most attractive locks in the world but they are super strong - probably stronger than the door themselves, being made of 5mm s/steel.

I will continue to use the existing locks for short trips to the shops or the pub but for longer periods away, especially when I may be away for a few hours or days, the new locks will come into operation. It's all about managing the risk without going over the top.
Anyway, who said they are not the most attractive locks in the world? At least, you have to agree they are a bit 'meatier' than the existing ones!! And they send out a very strong message...

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Open Mic at the Limes

If you're free and could do with some home-grown entertainment and friendly chat, please join us at the Limes in Needham Market this Sunday, 12 May from 1.00-4.30pm.

Cleaning up the Ouse

I noticed the Ouse has been tidied up a bit. Apart from the recent news of some over-stayers being prosecuted, a couple old abandoned boats have been also been removed.

The first was a large cruiser on the Little Thetford 24hr mooring. From its condition (half submerged), I presumed it had been there for years. Anyway, while EA's contractors were recently improving the bankside piling, they broke it up and removed it using their on-board digger. Well done chaps..

The other boat was a small narrowboat that had been left near Popes Corner. While I was in Ely last weekend, I saw it moored opposite the Bridge Boat Yard. In the morning it chugged off down the river, presumably to another long-term mooring. With a few quid spent on paint and some work to get the trim sorted out, she could be a little head-turner.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Ely Eel Fair

Well, it all started fine; Skylark was in tip-top condition and raring to go, my cupboards were full of good grub, my cocktail cabinet was brimming over with good plonk, but then I bent over while untying my centre rope and - plop - my reading glasses fell out of my top pocket into the drink. No, not into my G&T, into the River Great Ouse. I wouldn't have minded if they had been one of those £1.99 pairs you get from Pounds R Us but these were the expensive ones I got from QD for £3.99. Oh well, I thought, mustn't cry over spilt milk, worse things happen at sea, mustn't let it spoil the whole trip but I do hate losing things.

Anyway, off I went, undeterred, and the river and that great Cambridgeshire sky did all they could to take my mind off it. They were both looking particularly lovely.

Being the day before the May Day Bank Holiday, Ely was already busy and I found only one mooring spot near the Bridge Boat Yard.

By the way, for the benefit of our American cousins, the May Day Bank Holiday is one of our eight (paid) public holidays designed to keep our cost of production higher than most of our international competitors. For the unemployed and retired (like me), they are a bit of a non-event because we would have had the day off anyway. In fact, they are a bit of a pain in the arse for us really because most people who work will decide to do something over the weekend rather than just sitting around worrying about deadlines or budgets. And, this weekend, most of them decided to go to Ely to do something. So...

My mooring was fairly close to the railway line and, therefore, a bit noisy at times but it did have a good view of the water meadows.

Ely Eel Fair celebrates the city's early trade in the humble eel. It started with a procession from the Cathedral led by the Ely Samba Band. Why such a historic event is led by a bunch of gaily dressed people banging drums to the beat of a Brazilian dance tune defeats me, but there you are, that's the multi-cultural society we live in today.

Anyway, behind the Samba Band, there were, perhaps more understandably, lots of little children dressed as a long colourful eel, the honourable Mayor with his gold chain of office around his neck and his good lady on his arm. There were assorted Town Cryers ringing their brass bells, a troupe of jolly Morris Men playing their accordions and banjos, lady Morris Dancers jigging, tapping and prancing about, various hangers-on and loads of procession-watchers...including me. 

After holding up the traffic for 20 minutes, they arrived at the Jubilee Gardens for a day of frivolous festivities and hilarious activities including folk music, dancing, archery, historic re-enactments, competitions, face painting, looking at real eels in a tank of water, drinking real ale, eating real burgers and much, much more, Such fun!

I particularly enjoyed listening to the choir of ladies (and a few men) singing a variety of well-known songs. They were a bit like the Military Wives - but without the BBC hype.

I spent Sunday pottering about on Skylark doing a bit more painting, maintenance and improvements and then headed back to Lazy Otter in the late afternoon to avoid being hit by the Ely Mooring Police.

I'm quite pleased with the photos I took this weekend, especially the next one, as I couldn't see anything on the little preview screen on my camera without my reading glasses.

That's a funny looking duck.