Saturday, 31 December 2011

A question posed........

This question came to me in the long dark watches of last night. (I woke up at three and had the very Dickens of a job getting back to sleep...)

What is the correct anatomical term for the funny-bone?

You know, the one in the elbow that tingles like billy-oh if inadvertantly bashed, leaving you uncertain whether to laugh or wince.....?

I only ask because, if the sense of smell resides in the nose, sight in the eyes, hearing in the ears and touch in the tips of your fingers, then the funny-bone is, obviously, where the sense of humour resides.

I also ask because James told me another Higgs Boson joke. (He and Amy dropped by for some supper the other night on the way back to Lucky Duck from Christmas visiting).

' " Two pints of lager and a packet of pork scratchings, please."

A Higgs boson particle walks into a bar.'

Hmmmmmm.............Perhaps you had to be there, really....

But then again, always handy to know in case you bump into any particle physicists at tonight's celebrations.

I'll bet they'll nearly have an accident.......

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Christmas Crackers.....

Don't worry, this is not a post concerning any problems I may have had obtaining my medication over the holidays, and the likely up-shot thereof......

No, it's just a feeble excuse to pass on a couple of Christmas-cracker style jokes, to whit:

'The Archbishop sees a Higgs boson particle zooming down the nave of Canterbury Cathedral.

"Oi!!", says the Archbish, "You can't come in here!"

"But Rowan", says the particle, "Without me, you can't have Mass......."


Following the recent announcement of the bankruptcy and forthcoming closure of Blacks, camping, hiking and outdoor pursuits specialists, the following slogan appeared in the window of one of their branches:

"Now is the winter of our discount tents........."

While I cannot make any claim of authorship, (or, indeed, exhibit any willingness to share the blame......),I thought my readers might enjoy them.

And on that note, may I wish all three of you a Very Happy New Year!!!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011


'To wibble' is a verb aboard the good ship Pippin.

It's a regular verb, so (apart from the now rarely used 'thou wibble-eth'), it has common currency both in this blog and aboard the boat and in the life which it purports to be about.

To wibble is to talk nonsense, either as a result of over-tiredness, over-indulgence in [fill in alcoholic beverage of choice here], or just for the joy of trying to catch hold of the smoke of passing whimsy and share it with others.

I wibble a lot.

You may have noticed this..........

Wibbling is soft. It should never offend, for it is playful.

It's heart is good.

So of what should I wibble this night?

Of a kitten-cat called China who flows from my hands like an upturned pail of water?

Of the wind turbine and it's song of many keys this breezy night?

Or the gurgle and slap of the wind-wrought white-caps against Pippin's flanks?

The white fragments of the waning moon on the river's face?

The ticking of the woodburner as the embers glow......

It is a most beautiful evening here.

I hope the verbal scribble has helped me share it with you......

A glimpse of The Snark!!!

A quick post, this, just before I dash off for a late shift at The Hole Making Shop.

I've just heard on the wireless that scientists at The Large Hadron Collider may have had a glimpse of Mr Higg's Remarkably Elusive Boson! (See previous posts).

Now, I don't like doing biblical quotes: you can so easily come across as having your head stuck so far up your own fundamentalism as to not see Christmas coming with all the fairy lights on.......

But the report did bring to mind the bit about 'that which we see through a glass darkly.....'

Such are glimpses of God.

And so, it would seem, are those of The God Particle.......

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Strike action leads to a dodgy haircut.......

Not an obvious link, I'll admit, but bear with me on this one.......

(And no, I haven't been tarred and feathered by angry colleagues for being a scab....)

Yesterday, I had my weekday day-off from The Hole-Making Shop. I had lots of jobs to do, including a somewhat overdue visit to the barber's....

Which is where the otherwise seamless robe of the day began to unravel...........


I'd got the firewood in, taken the recycling to the tip, (scored a valve lapping tool and a pot of fine and a pot of coarse valve-grinding paste for 50p), taken a load of stuff to Emmaus for our landlord, and got some milk, bread and stuff for lunch from The Scilly Isles Supermarket.

Then I visited the barbers in Milton.

It all began convivially enough.

"Mornin' Sir, how are you, what can I do for you today?"

"Well, thank you, bit of a trim, please, nothing too drastic, just get rid of the fluff."

"Certainly sir".....snip snip snip....

All seemed to be going quietly and well for the first few minutes.

Then Mr Todd (not his real name....) seeks to engage me in conversation.....

"So what are you up to today?"

"Well, I'm on a day off, as I do 37 and 1/2 hours over four days at The Hole Making Shop next to The Big Repair Works."

"Oh yeah", (a degree of frost was noted....), "You on strike tomorrow then?"

"Er, no.... If we strike, we'll interrupt the supply of that which we extract....This could have fatal consequences....."

Mr Todd (not his real name) then goes off on one 'about public sector pensions, mollycoddled public sector employees, lazy bastards not knowing they're born' &c &c.

All the while, the scissors snipped and snapped about my barnet with a renewed vigour and alacrity which bordered on the scary.

I, (rather wisely, I felt, given the proximity of vulnerable lug-holes to flying scissor blades), exercised great restraint.

I did my very best, in the face of extreme provocation, to smile, nod and not attempt to interrupt the seemingly unending stream of utterly puerile Thatcherite drivel with any real-world common-sense-style comments.

I thus escaped the chair, unscathed and with ears intact.

I paid the man and left, vowing (privately) never to darken the nasty little fascist's door again.

As for my haircut?

Well, I think the expression "Close to the wood" rather sums it up.

Yes, Mr Todd, (not his real name), would seem, in his ire, to have got somewhat carried away.......

Oh well, I suppose it will grow back.........

Thursday, 17 November 2011


I've always thought that the acronym of Buy One Get One Free sounded deliciously rude.

How often have I wanted to wish such a bargain on sundry maggot-danglers, dozy rowers or speeding plastic cruisers with two-foot high wakes.......?

However, this post does not in any way concern the likes of them.

Rather, it is about shoes.

Yes, shoes.......

My job at The Hole-Making Shop entails a good ten-hour stand every working day.

A good, comfortable pair of shoes are, therefore, a necessity.

I bought a pair at Marx and Engels in Cambridge about nine months ago.

Jolly good they were too (especially The Left one......), right up until the point when the soles cracked right through from side to side, failing so profoundly there was no hope of repair.

'Hmmmmm', thought I, 'they've gone west, I'll get a new pair'.

Some bloke-style shopping ensued.

(Establish need for goods. Travel to shops where goods are sold. Examine some in one shop. Reject on grounds of being just like the last lot and as likely to fail in service. Visit another shop. Try on good comfy shoes. Purchase same. Return home.)

Elapsed turnaround time c. 25 minutes.....

I wore these to a luncheon on Sunday and despite being new, it still felt like I had slippers on at the end of the day.

This prompted a return to Mr Clarke's High-Class Footwear Emporium on Monday, where a further pair were purchased. Despite being in the sale, and none being in stock at that branch, I was able to buy a pair in my size which were delivered to Pippin, post free, today.

Nice one Mr Clarke!

Messrs Marx and Engels had, however, not exactly covered themselves in glory, their Empire Made efforts having exhibited a marked lack of longevity.

It was left to my redoubtable mother to allow them the oppurtunity to redeem themselves.

Having given the expired pair a good shine-up, she returned them to the premises of M & S in order to seek a refund on my behalf.

No receipt.

No proof of purchase.

No chance?

Actually, yes......

Messrs Marx and Engels divied-up the full purchase price without demur!

As this was 45p less than the cost of the second pair of shoes from Mr Clarke's, I feel I can justly claim to have been on the receiving end of a BOGOF deal by proxy.

Nice one, St Michael!

Even nicer one, Sainted Mother!!


Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Remembrance Sunday II

I have been thinking hard about this post: the relative wisdom of publishing it, the likehood of annoying or upsetting someone by doing so.....

All these things I have thought, and yet, well, here goes......

I have a faith. It is, broadly speaking, Christian.

If you've just tuned out, please tune back in again.

This blog is not an Evangelical Happy Clappy Holy Roller Forum.

Never was.

Never will be.

As I've said before, though it bears saying again, I respect all faith and faith in no faith.

Caveats aside, Christianity is what I believe in.

So what?

So, well, er.....

Okay. The thieving bastards who broke into my Mum and Dad's church......

If they choose to believe that Christ died for their sins and repent, ( Good grief, Christian nomenclature leaves almost everyone sounding like some loony TV evangelist.....) then they're forgiven.

I am glad that is true, for I too have a lot of stuff I regret doing.

Yet still, a small part of me relishes the memory of the fact that in Shakespeare's "Henry V", Poins and Bardolph were hanged for stealing from a church.......

It would seem I still have a long way to go..........

Monday, 14 November 2011

Remembrance Sunday

I went to church with Mum and Dad yesterday to Holy Epiphany, Castle Lane, Bournemouth.

It was an excellent service with a very good turn-out from the congregation.

However, I was stricken to hear that the previous week, the church had been broken into.

The charity box containing all the Poppy Appeal money was stolen.

Where are the words to describe the perpetrators of such an act?

In that, I am completely at a stand.

It is quite possible, in these moments, to despair of the state of this nation.

One could easily then focus on such as the feral behaviour of the August rioters, the selfish greed of a financial community that has led us to economic defeat, and above all, the daily, seemingly random, nastiness of life in this country.

And yet, even in all this, there is light.

The Mothers and Toddlers Group at Holy Epiphany had got together and not only made a beautiful Poppy collage for the alter, but had also raised enough money to entirely replace the sum so wickedly stolen.

It was for such as these our good men died.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

China Boat Cat

Some pictures of our new boat cat. She's called China and is c.14 weeks old. At first Tom was terrified of her (despite being 10 times her size) but slowly they're getting used to each other. Tom though is still doing a fine impression of Clint Eastwood in 'Gran Torino'...

Friday, 28 October 2011

Gordon Bennett!

What a week!!!!!!!!

Thrills, spills, a gearbox, a generator, (nearly.....), and a funeral.

I am absolutely cream-crackered.


Best start at the beginning.

The gearbox saga came to a most happy conclusion on Tuesday.

For those of you who have not been following this (somewhat less than riveting) story, a precis:

Our gearbox broke.

Some bloke who does Dutch barges suggested someone.

We engaged this person to repair the box.

He agrees a price with us.

He arrives, removes the gearbox and takes it away for repair.

We ask him (again) for an overall price. He gives us a price which is expensive but short of the cost of a new 'box.

We agree.

The 'box is repaired.

We get a bill for a lot of money PLUS £850 + VAT for labour and transport (Cost:£1.50 per mile.....)

At NO point during our negotiations had this been mentioned.

Gearbox Repair Man is emailed an annotated sketch of where he can shove his bill AND our repaired gearbox.

I hope it made the bastard's eyes water............

So Pippin is gearboxless for some months.

Enter The Good Guys, stage left........

Jackie phoned a Norwich based company, A R Peachment, who specialise in PRM gearboxes and are brilliant.

To cut a sorry tale short, this company have sailed up the creek and given us back our paddle.

It's brand spanking new, and has a warranty!

I cannot recommend them highly enough: if you are on the Norfolk Broads, the Cam, or Great Ouse and it's tributaries and you want honest, decent service, from men who not only know what they are doing, but take pride in a job well done, then look no further.

As for the Coventry-based numpty, may God rot his socks...........

Let us move, then to the topic of generators.

Or the lack of them.

The gremlins had well and truly possessed our Pramac P6000S diesel generator.

It was pumping out the volts, but with such irregularity that our Inverter wouldn't accept the charge.

We tried replacing the capacitors, to no avail.

I considered asking Pam, our local vicar, (she really is now, as the actual vicar, Lucy, has moved elsewhere, leaving the parish in interregnum and Pam in charge..) to pop by and lay hands on it with a view to ridding it of the gremlins.

Who yer gonna call?

Well, neither the local vicar nor Ghostbusters, actually....

Instead, I called The Royal Engineers......

As you do....

Yes, my chum Mark turned up and had a jolly good go. Sadly, it wasn't fixable at the time. (A large chunk of circuit board needs re-wiring.........), but he did lend us a portable Honda genny until the gearbox was fixed.

HUZZAH! for the Royal Engineers!!!!!!!

So to the funeral.

I am sad to say that my most wonderful God-mother, Joan, recently passed away. I will not here dwell on how remarkable a person she was.

There is a world enough, and time.

But not here.

And not now.

Sleep well, my dear, for you were loved.

Thursday, 20 October 2011


Thanks so much to Mike Prior-Jones who saw yesterday's blog and visited us last night with help, advice and a test meter. Hope the proffered sherry, sausage and mash and lift home was adequate recompense for your trouble, Mike!!

Our landlord Martin had already helped me narrow down the potential problem range by lending a 1kw Honda generator which we plugged in to Pippin.

The inverter worked fine! It was taking a charge and the mains worked too.

So Jeremy's original diagnosis of a generator fault was sound: He'd popped out to have a look for us on Wednesday and found nothing wrong with the inverter but the generator giving something like 270 volts:

I'd persisted in thinking it was the inverter as I couldn't see why the generator was faulty if it could still power a washing machine and not blow any fuses.

Logical enough, I suppose, if, like me, you are electrically illiterate........

Of course, there's much much more to it than that.

Mike drew me lots of diagrams and led me by the hand through the mysterious garden of delight that is RMS, sine wave forms, phasing, and quite a lot of other stuff to which I confess I could do little but smile and nod at as it sailed way over my head.

Now, I speak under correction, but if I understood correctly , it seems to boil down to this:

You CAN have too much of a good thing.

The 270 odd volts that the genny was kicking out was far too much for the inverter.

It had refused to recognise or synchronise with that voltage to protect itself and the boats circuitry. This resulted in the big drain on the batteries while the washing machine was being run through the inverter. (The washer isn't sensitive enough to be badly affected by that variation in voltage, so ran fine when plugged directly into the generator.)

Jackie, meanwhile, had been on the phone to Pramac (makers of the generator) who suggested some possible solutions, one of which was a new pair of capacitors.

These are being delivered today and will hopefully restore the correct voltage to the inverter.

Watch this space!

Thanks again to Jeremy, Martin amd Mike for all their help.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011


Thank goodness for solar panels and wind turbines!

Now we have sorted out the hot water tank problem, another little issue has arisen: to whit, the inverter is not charging the batteries.

Hmmmm. Is Pippin having a serious tantrum with us? Is it jealousy? I mean, we did spend a heck of a lot of time working on nb Caboodle for our friend Becky.(It's looking really nice. I'll try to post some pictures at some point....).

Pippin, however, is looking a bit faded, though not, I feel, to the point of scruffy.

Whatever the reason for the latest problem, solving it is proving tricky.

The problem manifested itself while we were doing a wash.

We have a domestic washing machine that runs off the 240v mains. The Pramac P6000s generator provides ample electricity for this. Any spare tops up the batteries, so it's normally quite efficient and works well.

However, half way through a wash on Sunday, Jackie noticed that the monitor was showing the batteries were being drained at an alarming rate. She switched off the washer mid-cycle, preventing any permanent damage to the battery bank.

This left us in a bit of a quandary. We can't run the engine due to the absence of gearbox. The generator isn't charging the batteries at all, so with two out of three of the triple redundant power systems knocked out, we are solely reliant on the solar panels and the wind turbine.

So far, so good, though we have turned off the Shoreline 12v fridge freezer as it's the biggest single draw on the boat. We'd rather lose the food than have to replace half a dozen batteries......

I got the washing finished by plugging the washer direct to the generator via our long extension cable. This worked fine, so not only is the generator seemingly not the problem, but also, we don't have a drumful of soggy washing going mouldy to worry about.

The new gearbox is hopefully going to be installed on Friday, so all being well, we will be able to charge batteries via the engine.

But what ails the inverter?

It's almost as big a puzzle as trying to guess which expensive bit of boat related kit is going to break next......!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Holes continue to appear.....

But not, thankfully in the hull.


Yes, it has been sometime since I last blogged at any length. Much has been happening and not all of it good.

So, to the holes.

The first hole is one about which regular readers of this rubbish will have already been appraised: i.e the gearbox-shaped lump of fresh air that has sat 'twixt engine and propshaft for what is now an unconscionable length of time.

We hope that soon, the long promised new 'box will be fitted. When that will be is, as yet, unknown......

However, another, larger, and potentially very expensive hole has also appeared aboard 'Pippin'.

This hole is shaped like a hot water tank........

Jackie was just about to leave the boat for work last Friday when a loud slooshing and gushing noise from Tom's room (Tom is our cat: he sleeps in the spare room next to the central heating boiler....) suggested to her that perhaps all was not quite as it should be and could possibly warrant further investigation.

Water was pouring out of the boiler's overflow, all over the floor.

(Tom fans relax, he was nowhere near, having been out on the mooch since 0630.

So, no risk of finding out what a scalded cat really does take off like.

Thank goodness.)

Anyway, exhibiting the resource, sagacity and presence of mind that feature around reason 12,234,009 for why I married her, Jackie didn't panic, but went straight to the main switches aft and threw the breaker. This stopped both the water pump and the leak. She then swabbed the decks dry, turned off the boiler, the water pump and the gas, then cycled off to the station and caught her intended train for London.

I can only marvel at this, as images of decapitated chickens running around are all that I see had this happened to me...

So, Friday night, we had no water at all.

Fortunately a plenitude of chilled Chablis dealt with any thirst issues whilst a box of alcohol wipes dealt with the more mundane business of personal hygiene.

On Saturday morning, our wonderful Aldi boiler engineer, Graham, arrived, pronounced the calorifier as 'probably ruptured', removed the entire hot water tank and took it back to the east midlands for a post mortem.

This reinstated an, (albeit cold), water supply.

Tomorrow, Graham returns, hopefully with a spiffy new tank equipped with stainless steel calorifier.

And, no doubt, a large bill.....

Ah well, it's only money.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011


Boat Safety, that is.....

I am happy to report Pippin has been duly examined and passed with a clean bill of health.

This is handy as our marine insurance is due.......

Of course, what we really need is a gearbox.

All comes to he who waits......

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Work in progress............

There have been no posts for ages.

Much has been happening, but much of it mundane.

I did feel moved to rant about a certain national chain of car tyre suppliers, but went off the idea. There is quite enough ranting going on in the world, and my adding to it will only serve to further dampen the spirits of those who choose to read this nonsense.

(But I must beware, lest this turn into a rant against ranting.........)

A precis will suffice: The first place we tried in order to get a puncture fixed were rubbish: uncouth, loutish, and didn't fix the problem despite charging £20.00.

The next purveyor of car tyres for Suzuki Vitaras was recommended by our mechanic, Amato.

They were brilliant.

Kingsway Tyres 1 - The Other Lot 0

So you CAN get better than a Kwik Fit Fitter...........

Other news, and a possible source of the sort of rant that can end up in court: Pippin has been gearbox-less and thus immobilised.

This is rather more serious, and to avoid potential problems with the bunch of twisters to whom we entrusted the gearbox repairs, I am going to say little.

However, an important lesson learned: get EVERYTHING in writing BEFORE accepting a quote.

We were informed of overall costs by phone. The repairs were pricey, but still made sense as a new 'box would still be more. So we went ahead. Repairs complete, our man emails Jackie with a final price some £850.00 + VAT over and above his quote, the surcharge to cover fetching the box, it's removal, replacement and transport charges.

I do wonder what part of our repeated requests for "overall costs" he didn't understand.........

A series of increasingly formal (to the point of terse) emails followed.

The up-shot is Gearbox Man gets to keep our repaired 'box and we owe him nothing.

This is a much happier outcome than the one I had in mind, which would have involved an eye-watering insertion of the gearbox into an orifice that it's designers simply hadn't considered possible.........

But never fear, Pippin is not about to substitute her 'wb' status for that of 'pontoon'.....

We have been in touch with a very nice firm in Norwich who are agents for Newage PRM and will be delivering and installing a brand spanking NEW box very shortly. (For about £1100 less than the all-up cost of our repaired unit.....oh and it comes with a 12 month warranty.....)

So that's alright then.

Perhaps becuase of all this nonsense, plus the usual difficulties of work being a total pain in the arse &c &c, I have found myself Walking The Black Dog to The Long Dark Tea-Room of the Soul more than is healthy of late.

I found solace in a totally unexpected quarter: a book I found at Milton Tip.

(I was even going to pay for it, but the man in charge was having a big and expletive-driven row with the driver of a van who 'wasn't allowed in 'ere, mate'....)

So I (wisely, I felt), drifted back to the car, whistling nonchalently......

In short, I piked it.

And the volume in question? It is a 1927 edition of a work first published by Pitman as part of "The Artistic Crafts Series of Technical Handbooks" in 1906: 'Writing & Illuminating & Lettering' by Edward Johnston.

I will bore you all to distraction with why this interests me in another post, but to the point: between the editor's preface and the author's preface, I found the following quotation:

"We must set up the strong present tense against all the rumours of wrath, past or to come.

So many things are unsettled which it is of the first importance to settle,-and, pending their settlement, we will do as we do. . . .

Expediency of literature, reason of literature, lawfulness of writing down a thought, is questioned; much is to say on both sides, and, while the fight waxes hot, thou, dearest scholar, stick to thy foolish task, add a line every hour, and between whiles add a line.

Right to hold land, right of property is disputed, and the conventions convene, and before the vote is taken, dig away in your garden, and spend your earnings as a waif or godsend to all serene and beautiful purposes.

Life itself is a bubble and a scepticism, and a sleep within a sleep.

Grant it, and as much more as they will,-- but thou, God's darling! heed thy private dream: thou wilt not be missed in the scorning and scepticism: there are enough of them: stay there in thy closet, and toil, until the rest are agreed what to do about it.

Thy sickness, they say, and thy puny habit, require that though do this or avoid that, but know that thy life is a flitting state, a tent for a night, and do thou, sick or well, finish that stint.

Though art sick, but shalt not be worse, and the universe, which holds thee dear, shall be the better."


Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Music To Chop Wood By.......

The recent dearth of posts on this blog may have had some of you wondering:

Is he dead?

Health not improved?

Left the country due to tax issues?

Actually, none of the above.......

I have, instead, been chopping wood.

A lot of wood.

Yes, the 15-20 tons purchased through the good auspices of The Cambridge News has well and truly come home to roost.


I have spent the last five days moving said amount from Harston ( a good league hence, my liege, though thankfully nowhere near that tiresome trout St Agnes's fountain....)

I am absolutely completely and utterly banjaxed.

And I still have at least six Vitara-fulls of logs to go.

And that's before firing up the sodding chainsaw......

But that's tomorrows job.

Tonight, The Best Couple On The River favoured me with their presence.

"They came.

They bought beer (lots).

They cooked delicious pasta.

They washed up."

Yes, twas The Lucky Ducks, fresh from their summer sojourn on the canals.

What joy!

Amy has threatened to leave a blog post about the ridiculousness of Pippin's new 'Not-so-Stealth' woodpile.

If she has, read it and weep.

I'm the poor so-and-so who had to move each sodding-great tree-trunk by hand into the back of my poor protesting Suzuki Vitara and then off-load it all at the other end.

The Suzuki may need new shock absorbers for its next MOT.

I'm buggered if I know what I'll need for mine........

Anyway, to the music......

Endeavours such as this, must, perforce, have a sound track.

Now, if you are my age or perhaps a tad older, then the radio station of choice has to be Radio 2.

This is fine for the early morning chopping and sawing:

Chris Evans.

A fine DJ and all-round good bloke.

(And I'm not just saying this because when he and his entourage rocked up at The French House in Soho one evening he tipped me a fiver for serving him a bottle of champagne....I was so surprised I went out to him from behind the bar and uttered the immortal words "Chris, you've forgotten your change"......No-one EVER tipped at The French!!!!!!!)

Then it's Ken Bruce's turn.

I've never had the honour of serving him a drink, but that, apparently, only contributes to my exclusivity........


He plays a fine selection of music and does his best to foreshorten the interminably tiresome "just like to say a few hellos" that follow each contestant in his universally popular 'Popmaster Quiz'.

Which brings me to the execrable Jeremy Vine.

When this poltroon comes on, my radio goes off.

I cannot stand the man.

An irritating, right-wing simpering git with a very over-played line in entirely faux 'sympathy' when required or righteous indignation when that cap seems to fit.

Like Jeremy Clarkson, he should have been strangled at birth.

Anyway, another source of entertainment is required from 12:00 onwards.

The old Vitara is still able to play those old-fashioned CD thingies.

Yes, it doesn't have an i-pod dock (whatever one of those is), but can play tunes, which, even better, the driver gets to choose!!

First choice: Alabama Three, 'La Peste': as low-down no-good gritty as it gets: think broken Jack Daniels bottle ground into fresh tarmac with a Gauloise cigarette butt.

Depressing after a while... ( The accursed Vine's show is a whole two hours.....)

So how about something a little lighter?

You were expecting me to say 'The Mike Flowers Pops', weren't you?

Oh no no no.

Nothing so bleedin' obvious.

For music to do any task by ( much less fetch and carry, chop and otherwise muck about with unfeasably large quantities of timber), I have only the following recommendation:

Pink Martini: 'Splendour In The Grass'.

Buy it, download it, borrow it, steal it.......

Do whatever you have to do, but listen to it.

It's for your own good!!!!!!

Monday, 8 August 2011


I should have known better.

Really I should.......

But there you go...

Well, here's how it all happened.

As regular readers of this blog will know, we have an ample supply of cut and split logs for our woodburner. Current estimates put this supply at approximately three tons. It is all carefully hidden in what I refer to as The Stealth Woodpile (because it cannot be seen from the public footpath and therefore doesn't constitute an eyesore).

The other boats on the mooring have wood storage boxes made out of old pallets. Each probably holds about 1/2 to 3/4s of a ton.

Today we solved our (and very likely everyone else's) fuel needs for this winter and probably next winter too.

Here's how:

I am back at the Hole Making Shop after my time off sick. I was leafing through The Cambridge News small ads at lunch time when I saw this:

"Timber approx. 15-20 tons of sycamore cord wood, split and burns like ash. Includes 30" chainsaw, still boxed. Offers."

I texted the ad with the relevant phone numbers to Jackie.

I was expecting a textual version of 'That Look' in reply.

After all, we had just spent Saturday morning and £60-odd quid on two knackered rod-braked Raleigh bikes whilst visiting Mum and Dad in Bournemouth.... (Look, know how it goes.....)

But No.......

Oh dear me no.....

Oh no no no no no....

I checked my phone at second break (circa 4.00pm).

Reply from Jackie:

"Done! Pick-up this w/e....we need Rhoda's van."

So now we own 20 tons of sycamore wood and a large chainsaw.

That's another fine mess I got me into.........

Friday, 29 July 2011

A lovely surprise.

Yesterday evening, Pam, (associate priest at St. John's Waterbeach) and her husband Trevor popped round to visit the sick, ie me!

I've never been on the receiving end of such a visit before! Hee hee!

It's always lovely to see P & T.

Sadly we had no prosecco cold, but made do with a drop of chilled fino.

Sherry with the vicar, eh? (okay Pam, I know, I know, 'associate priest'....) All delightfully Anglican.

I, of course, eschewed the tipple in favour of fizzy water. Under doctor's orders don'tcha know..... Yes, I'm on the dry until the end of August when I have to get another blood test.

Proper double-drag bummer.

(You may have noticed from the tone of this that I'm feeling tons better: just resting up today and over the weekend ready for work on Monday.)

Once again, thanks to all who have emailled their good wishes.

I am happy to report I'm approaching the wellness continuum!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Lots of nice things.....

Today, fresh eggs from the mooring's hens, lightly scrambled, having slept for another fourteen hours (that's the fourth night in a row)......

The night before last, fresh veg with supper. ( A present from H. who looks after the sheep and has a couple of rows on our landlord's allotment.) I cooked venison burgers which I got at a substantial reduction on yellow stickers from Tesco. Lovely!

I bought a stainless steel bicycle wheel with rare 4-speed Sturmey Archer hub for a reasonable price on ebay. It's in excellent condition, so the restoration of Eric (my classic rod-braked Raleigh saved from the dump at Milton) is a step closer to completion.

I was up with the sparrows on Saturday, having had the requisite sick person's 14 hour kip, and saw the Lucky Ducks as they traversed the lock at the beginning of their summer cruise. They hadn't had any sleep at all, having partied all night at the City Bumps Party, and looked in remarkably good nick, all things considered.

I remember having that sort of energy........

It was lovely to see them! They are now proceeding along the Middle Level at goodly lick (see their blog for latest updates).

Makes me feel tired just thinking about it.

I've been up for over two hours!

Better have a lie-down.

Got to keep my strength up.........

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Signed off work.

I saw the doctor this morning having got an appointment. I'm signed off work for a week but will probably return earlier if I've improved enough so I can avoid dying of boredom.

It's a viral illness so will go away in its' own good time.

Right now I have the wood burner lit, am warming up some chicken soup on it and it is a cosy 84F with a light breeze from the Ecofan. Toast following......

Thanks to all for their kind thoughts and to Jaq and Amy for their blog comments. (I think the Pigeon Post has left several messages all over the hood of our car..... Probably not what you meant by compostable healing magic, Jaq, :) but all positive waves are welcome, so thanks again!!)

In short, I'll be fine, if a bit bored.

The one thing I'm not going to do is compound it by boring you all with the details!

More blog posts are be in the offing, and will hopefully serve to keep me and you amused.....

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Monthly update.

I am not very well.

It's dull, it's boring, and I would like to be well again soon, please.

I dropped in to my local Doctors surgery on the way home from the Hole-Making Shop where I work. (One cannot make small accurate holes in highly reactive material when pouring with sweat, so they sent me home.) Unfortunately, they can't give me an appointment for at least two weeks, although have gracefully deigned to allow me to ring them at 08.30 tomorrow morning to see if anyone has cancelled.........

I didn't feel at all good last week when I was on annual leave, but didn't bother with the doctors because I knew this would happen. I thought I'd just rest-up and get over it. I thought I had, but clearly have not.

Those of you who know me will realise that for John to take time off is serious.

I don't DO sitting around feeling poorly!

Sorry about this: I feel like nothing on earth and I'm off for a lie-down.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The Greek Goddess of Fixing Things........

is called Araldite........


This came to me at work today, quite why, I know not.......

(And given the badly broken state of the Greek economy, may Araldite smile most beneficently upon them and restore them to robust financial health.)

Okay, so you may well imagine from the rubbish I've just written that I may, of late, have been working too hard.....


Just finished another week of annual leave, returning to Hole-Making wizardry this very Solstice day......

Annual leave was fab, by the way, and of which, more another time.

It also explains the absence of any posts since June 7th......

Amonst other things, I mucked about a bit at Emmaus doing-up old bikes and neglected tools, prodded some old bikes of my own and visited my Mum and Dad in Bournemouth.

My Mum has not been very well and is recovering from some fairly major surgery. We await the outcome of histology......

Were I of such a mind, I suppose I could use this Midsummer Solstice to offer a libation to Araldite, in the hope that she might see her way clear to fixing Mum.

Now, I try to be respectful of all faiths and faith in no faith. (Like Bob Hope, I don't wish to be ruled out of Paradise on a technicality), but on further reflection, I think I'll stay firmly within the strict precepts of the Anglican Communion on this one.

This means forgetting about a libation and drinking it instead.

Cheers, Mum, and God Bless. xx

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

In The Gallery.......

Anyone remember 'Vision On' with the late great Tony Hart?

Cue South Bank Five (Dum de dum dum, dum de dum, dum de dum dum dum) on the xylophone.

Lets go and see whats in The Gallery this week......

Pippin's wind turbine has acquired a 3G antennae

Some shots of the nb we are repainting

The latest batch of cygnets have arrived. Our swans, Flanders and Swan, seem to have learned from past mistakes and haven't yet taken them too close to the weir........

There was some fantastic storm light the other evening

Jackie was given a couple of goose eggs as a present from H.

Occasionally on walkabout, Thomas returned from his latest leave of absence with a couple of new behaviours: namely jumping up on the counter top for milk as soon as the fridge door is opened, and exhibiting a whole new interest in the opening of tins.......


We managed to catch an image of this little Swifty Swallow perched on the rudder bar....

I'll try to post more pictures soon, but since Orange merged with T-mobile, the uploading of pictures via the Ship's computer proceeds at the speed of vegetable growth.

(Jackie uploaded these for me to edit from the superfast broadband hub at work).

Oh well, that's progress for you, I suppose......

More later, I hope..

Saturday, 4 June 2011

A most wonderful day......

Well, it all began very auspisciously with a visit from Bones and Boots and Amy Duck.

We all had coffee and a jolly good natter before B & B had to head off to luncheon. Amy stayed aboard while we unmoored and chugged down to The Bridge at Clayhithe.

Some time back, I had mentioned to the staff at the Hole Making Shop that we should all get together for a jolly aboard Pippin.

Today was the day!

Much food was eaten, beer and wine consumed, and all in all, I think a fine time was had.....

And on the way back from Baits Bite Lock, we managed to add to the excitement by rescuing our friends Trevor and Pam on nb Sunflower who had strategically run out of battery (Sunflower is an electric boat....) and then been blown aground.

wb Pippin found a handy telephone box and transmogrified into The Mighty Pippin for the purposes of effecting a rescue.....

We crept past at 2mph, passed a line onto the bows of Sunflower, saw it safely tied off, then accelerated away from the shoaling water with Sunflower in tow with all the assurance that a Beta 50 at full-chat can afford.

Oh Joy!

We rang ahead to Amy aboard The Lucky Duck on the 48's at Clayhithe to make sure she was there to take a line.

Thus, Sunflower was passed to the safety of the bank with every bit as much ease as she had been extracted from the putty.

Shame all my colleagues on board weren't boaters.

To them, it was all par for the course........

I mean, for heavens sake, a round of applause would have been nice.

But all in all, a most wonderful day spent in the very best of company!!!!

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

nb "Collingwood"........

Those of you who visit my wibblings via James and Amy's superlative "Lucky Duck" blog will already be cogniscent of their doings on the BCN Challenge.

Those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, please have a look at Lucky Duck's blog and then return.......

Ah, nb "Collingwood"............

This is the vessel upon which the fourteen year old John cut his narrowboating teeth.

Spirit yourselves back to 1978.......

Miss Harvey, (English dept), Miss Street (Geog.) and Mr Brooker (French) decided it would be a very good educational experience for an assortment of the Intermediate Year at Ferndown Upper School to go on a canal boat holiday.

I signed up immediately, along with my pals 'Dishy' David Freeman, and David "I'm from Rhodesia' Attrill.

So there you have it, (or not......).

Quite a few pubescent males aboard nb "Collingwood", all the lovelies, ( Jane, Sandra, Elisabeth, Nicola, Jane (another...) on the butty "Ash".

Well, what can I say?

We did the Warwickshire Ring, including Hatton Flight, in one week.

Dishy Dave got off with Sandra, me and David from Rhodesia got laughed at a lot and did a fair amount of sighing....

Happy days................

Thursday, 26 May 2011

The Wanderer Returns.........

Yes, Thomas Cat is back.

He's been away for four days.

This is quite enough.

He is confined to barracks for the foreseeable future, or at least until Jackie gets back from London and has fussed him lots.......

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Thomas is missing.

There's much to report since last I spoke, but our minds have been very much pre-occupied with the Absence Without Leave of the titular moggie.

He was last seen aboard Rhoda's boat on Sunday night at about six p.m. Neither hide nor hair nor evidence of food being eaten since.

This is most unusual for Tom.

It is normally possible, if not exactly to set one's watch, then at least glean a fairly accurate estimate of the time by his comings and goings.

So where is the little beggar?

If only I knew......

At least the weather is warm and the nights are short. (Last time he went missing there was snow and ice and seriously bad winter weather.)

Indeed, the clement weather and long hours of daylight may be all the explanation necessary for his absence.

I just wish he'd call home for a quick snack and to let us know he's okay..........

Thursday, 12 May 2011

An Accidental Elevation......

In my previous post, I said Pam was vicar of Waterbeach and Landbeach.

She's not!

Lucy is.

Pam is an Associate Priest.

I expect if I actually went to church a bit more often, I would have cottoned on to this.......

Apologies to Lucy, the actual vicar, and to Pam for her accidental elevation.....

(Though I have to say "taking tea with the associate priest' doesn't have quite the same ring.............)

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

New neighbours!

It's all been happening on the Parish for the last couple of weeks.

First, Rob and Julie on nb Friendly Fox arrived from Cambridge. They are a lovely couple and we look forward to getting to know them better over some drinks/suppers aboard Pippin.

(Actually, Rob and I have already made a pretty good start, at least as far as the drinks part is concerned....)

Yesterday, Jude arrived aboard a 70'ft narrowboat with a beautiful Celtic name that I was told but cannot remember or, if I could, hope to spell correctly.......(it isn't yet sign-written on the boat).

Jude was accompanied by some chums from Cambridge (to whom I was introduced, but sadly my sieve-like brain has not retained their names. I do know they live aboard nb Casper in Cambridge and have a beautifully well-behaved little boy called Joe......)

Jude is an apiarist, which was great news for Jackie, who is keen to learn all about bee-keeping. Jude's hive will arrive at The Parish soon.

I was delighted to hear that the hive will be transported by Morris Minor Traveller.

My first car was a 1955 two-door saloon.

I owned three others and rebuilt one more in the eighties.

I have a feeling we are all going to get on quite well........

Monday, 9 May 2011

The vicar of The Parish

I refer to our mooring as "The Parish". This is to preserve our privacy, security and generally to help smudge our exact location on the map of North Cambridge. (This may seem a tad paranoid to you, but there are some internet savvy thorough-going nutters out there.....).

Anyway, I must forestall further digression by returning to our titular priest.

We have a vicar.

Her name is Pam, and she is the vicar of Waterbeach and Landbeach.

Though she and her lovely husband Trevor live in a house, they also own a beautiful boat called "Sunflower", which moors a mile or so downstream of us.

Like her owners, "Sunflower" is a bit special. She's got an electric motor, some serious traction batteries, a massive solar array, and a back-up genny that kicks in on a long cruise if the amps in the traction bank drop too low.

(Yes, I have introduced them to The Ducks: James was with child to see the inside of the engine room.....)

Now, one normally takes tea with vicars.

However, normalcy aboard Pippin is somewhat different to the rest of the world.

We take Prosecco with the vicar, and I'm very happy to say she and Trevor take Prosecco with us!

We were quietly gettin stuck in to a bottle aboard "Sunflower" the Sunday before last, when Pam mentioned a letter Archbishop Rowan had written in reply to a six year old girl who had sent him a letter demanding 'God: the answers......'

I reproduce it here with some some trepidation: this is not, after all, a 'preachy' blog. I would also like to make it clear that I respect all faiths and no faith: but this letter is pretty much where I lay my spiritual hat.

Here it is:

"There’s a charming article in today’s Times by Alex Renton, a non-believer who sends his six-year-old daughter Lulu to a Scottish church primary school. Her teachers asked her to write the following letter: “To God, How did you get invented?” The Rentons were taken aback: “We had no idea that a state primary affiliated with a church would do quite so much God,” says her father. He could have told Lulu that, in his opinion, there was no God; or he could have pretended that he was a believer. He chose to do neither, instead emailing her letter to the Scottish Episcopal Church (no reply), the Presbyterians (ditto) and the Scottish Catholics (a nice but theologically complex answer). For good measure, he also sent it to “the head of theology of the Anglican Communion, based at Lambeth Palace” – and this was the response:

Dear Lulu,

Your dad has sent on your letter and asked if I have any answers.

It’s a difficult one!

But I think God might reply a bit like this –

‘Dear Lulu

Nobody invented me, but lots of people discovered me and were quite surprised.

They discovered me when they looked round at the world and thought it was really beautiful or really mysterious and wondered where it came from.

They discovered me when they were very very quiet on their own and felt a sort of peace and love they hadn’t expected.

Then they invented ideas about me – some of them sensible and some of them not very sensible.

From time to time I sent them some hints – specially in the life of Jesus – to help them get closer to what I’m really like.

But there was nothing and nobody around before me to invent me. Rather like somebody who writes a story in a book, I started making up the story of the world and eventually invented human beings like you who could ask me awkward questions!’

And then he’d send you lots of love and sign off.

I know he doesn’t usually write letters, so I have to do the best I can on his behalf.

Lots of love from me too.

Archbishop Rowan

Sunday, 8 May 2011

My Dad just emailled me this............

and it's so good it has to be shared!

(Archie, look away now, some of it's a bit rude and the stuff we wanted you to see is in the previous post)

Dear Mr. Cameron,

Please find below our suggestion for fixing England's economy.

Instead of giving billions of pounds to banks that will squander the money on lavish parties and unearned bonuses, use the following plan.

You can call it the Patriotic Retirement Plan:

There are about 10 million people over 50 in the work force.

Pay them £1 million each severance for early retirement with the following stipulations:

1) They MUST retire.

Ten million job openings - unemployment fixed

2) They MUST buy a new British car.

Ten million cars ordered - Car Industry fixed

3) They MUST either buy a house or pay off their mortgage -

Housing Crisis fixed

4) They MUST send their kids to school/college/university -

Crime rate fixed

5) They MUST buy £100 WORTH of alcohol/tobacco a week ......

and there's your money back in duty/tax etc

6) Instead of stuffing around with the carbon emissions trading scheme that makes us pay for the major polluters, tell the greedy bastards to reduce their pollution emissions by 75% within 5 years or we shut them down.

It can't get any easier than that!

P.S. If more money is needed, have all members of parliament pay back their falsely claimed expenses and second home allowances

If you think this would work, please forward to everyone you know.

If not, please disregard.


Grumpies of the World Unite Part 2.

Let's put the pensioners in jail and the criminals in a nursing home.

This way the pensioners would have access to showers, hobbies and walks.

They'd receive unlimited free prescriptions, dental and medical treatment, wheel chairs etc and they'd receive money instead of paying it out.

They would have constant video monitoring, so they could be helped instantly, if they fell, or needed assistance.

Bedding would be washed twice a week, and all clothing would be ironed and returned to them.

A guard would check on them every 20 minutes and bring their meals and snacks to their cell.

They would have family visits in a suite built for that purpose.

They would have access to a library, weight room, spiritual counselling, pool and education.

Simple clothing, shoes, slippers, PJ's and legal aid would be free, on request.

Private, secure rooms for all, with an exercise outdoor yard, with gardens.

Each senior could have a PC a TV radio and daily phone calls.

There would be a board of directors to hear complaints, and the guards would have a code of conduct that would be strictly adhered to.

The criminals would get cold food, be left all alone and unsupervised. Lights off at 8pm, and showers once a week. Live in a tiny room and pay £600.00 per week and have no hope of ever getting out.

Think about this (more points of contention):



Is it just me, or does anyone else find it amazing that during the mad cow epidemic our government could track a single cow, born in Appleby almost three years ago, right to the stall where she slept in the county of Cumbria?

And, they even tracked her calves to their stalls.. But they are unable to locate 125,000 illegal immigrants wandering around our country. Maybe we should give each of them a cow.


The real reason that we can't have the Ten Commandments posted in a courthouse or Parliament, is this -

You cannot post 'Thou Shalt Not Steal', 'Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery' and 'Thou Shall Not Lie' in a building full of lawyers, judges and politicians..... It creates a hostile work environment.


If you don't want to forward this for fear of offending someone -- YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM! It is time for us grumpy old folk of Britain to speak up!

Way to go Dad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May......

....and likewise Nobble Ye Two Tons of Seasoned Firewood while the going's good.....

Yep, we've been at it again in the ongoing quest for yet more winter fuel.

Jackie's lovely chums Ant and Tina have put their bijou des. res. on the Herts/Cambs border up for sale. ( It's advertised in Country Life, full page.....)

Did we want any of their firewood, as it was in the way......

Well, a short phone call to Rhoda from wb Hullabaloo organised a large Mercedes Sprinter van borrowed from Rhoda's work.

After a morning of cleaning tools (me at Emmaus) and boats, (Jackie at home aboard Pippin), we met with Rhoda and the van for the trip to Chateau Fraser.

What a lot of absolutely superb seasoned wood! Thanks Ant! Thanks Tina! Thanks also to Angus (no. two son) for the help with loading, and to Tina again for tea and cake and for not cringing too much when I went to kiss her goodbye. Sweatily......

The Stealth Woodpile is now replenished. Rhoda has about two and a half winter months of split logs, and I'm cream-crackered!

This didn't stop me doing more woodpile work, splitting and stacking, today, then fixing my wheelbarrow.

Again....... the original tube was the wrong type and Martin's gifted tyre too big: a couple of large logs was all it took to pop both.... Jackie sorted this at Mackays in Cambridge where they sold her a new correct tyre and tube.

My mission was then to fit it.

I hate tyre fitting. All I normally manage is to knick the tube with the tyre levers, thereby puncturing it.....

Today, however, it all came together.

Jackie reminded me that sometime in the early thirteenth century I had bought a compressor for car tyres from Tesco. ( It was very cheap and fits Pippin's 12 volt cigarette lighter style sockets).

Time to deploy it! And it worked superbly, taking much of the sweat out of the business of tyre inflation and fitting.

And I managed not to mullah the tube in the process!


I then turned my attention to fixing the 3G antennae to the wind turbine mast. It was more involved than it had a right to be, but so much to do with any fettling of boats fits this exact criteria that I submitted to the need for further tweakage with good grace.

The fact that this post has emerged on an unsuspecting Blog-World suggests I have managed to get it right....

Jackie has returned from our Godson Archie's 11th birthday tea. My non-attendance was due to being up to my waist in logs that had to be cut and stored away before bedtime.

However, Archie missed me.

I cannot tell you how,

a) flattered

b) rubbish

this makes me feel!

Archie, I am so sorry I missed your birthday but hope you had a fun-packed weekend!

Please will you come and stay with us on Pippin soon? We can cook and do a big roast lunch for everyone.

Does that sound like a plan?

John xxx

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Duck confusion: an elegant solution....

James from Lucky Duck has left a comment on the previous post wondering how I know where we are with which coat on what part of the narrowboat we are re-painting.

The answer is very simple, (and hopefully won't incur spiteful sarcasm from another blogger as when I offered paint advice before......).

All you do is add a drop of topcoat to the primer after the first primer coat. This makes it very easy to see which bit of the boat has had what. You add more colour as you put on more coats.

It's that easy.

If anyone now feels moved to leave a long line of 'here heres' or somesuch similar codswallop, please either grow up or sod off.

Or preferably both.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Work/Life Balance.......

This explains the absence of much in the way of a blog post for over a week: quite a lot of life and some work, with the balance this last weekend very much more favourably inclined toward life.

Having worked on Good Friday and Easter Monday at The Hole-Making Shop, (and every other available moment painting nb Caboodle), I was ready for some R & R when the Friday Bank holiday arrived. We listened to the wedding service on the wireless, (I like the Anglican marriage service) and after the 'I Do's' and 'Forever Afters' were exchanged, James and Amy Duck rocked up in company with friends Simon, Ann and their daughter Jessica from nb Melaleuca. (They had both moored up overnight at the GOBA moorings adjacent to The Parish).

We lost no time in getting all aboard Pippin and under way, destination The Bridge at Clayhithe, where we all enjoyed a very convivial luncheon before chugging back.

There was much boat visiting and comparing of notes once back at the mooring. This was of particular interest to our neighbour Rhoda who had also joined us for lunch. She is looking to sell her widebeam and get a narrowboat. Her tour of Melaleuca provided her with not only lots of ideas, but a very good benchmark in terms of what constitutes a really nice one. While all this was going on, I popped to Tesco for more beer and wine and to get the makings for supper. After a decent interval, we all re-convened aboard Pippin for cottage pie and peas.

It was lovely to meet Simon, Ann and Jessica, grand to see The Ducks again, and all in all, I have to say I can't think of a nicer way of not painting anything!!

Saturday was fine and bright, if very windy. We decided to brave the breeze and the crowds and took Pippin to Ely to pump out. This was not entirely without incident, as when we got there, we found the pump-out complete and working noisily, but refusing to produce much in the way of suction.


Some headscratching ensued.

Our Vacuflush loo wasn't working either......


We let a narrowboat pump-out while we worked out what was going on.

The problem with the Vacuflush was fixed by The Ship's Engineer donning the big gloves and removing an obstruction. I will spare you the details, but suffice to say, a powerful vacuum was restored with an immediacy that nearly removed the gloves!

Meanwhile, on the roof, I contemplated the pump-out hose......

The narrowboat had managed to pump-out to some extent, though thought it very weak. I picked up the hose head to find it moved around the hose itself.

Bingo! That's yer vacuum issue mate, right there.

Only one jubilee clip was holding the hose head to the hose and it had worked loose. I donated another clip to the general good of the waterways and tightened up both as hard as I could. Result? Instant restoration of powerful suction.

Odd that two entirely seperate yet seemingly related problems should manifest themselves at the same time........

Anyway, pumpout repairs effected and holding tank emptied, we had a glorious trip back to The Parish. I was enjoying it so much that we carried on to The Bridge where we met another couple of chums from the mooring for a beer or two before giving them a lift back.

Cunningly, this also denied us the late afternoon light, so no narrowboat-painting on Saturday either!


On Sunday, we drove over to Norwich to see my old chums John Benjafield and his partner Annie. Delightful meal, excellent company, lovely day!

And STILL no narrowboat painting!!!!

Hurrah Hurrah!!!!

However, Monday saw us return to the (quite literal) grind...

Yes, enough fun had been had to enable us to recommence the job with a good heart, renewed vigour, a sense of balance, and, indeed, a sense of humour......

Jackie rubbed down while I put the second primer coat on the bow foredeck and round the stern. I then painted the roof with its third primer coat and the port side with its first top-coat.

Though I say so myself, Caboodle is beginning to look really quite good!

Monday, 25 April 2011

The Paintathon continues...........

The unseasonably fine weather over the Easter weekend has seen much more rubbing down, priming and undercoating of nb Caboodle.

Am I allowed to say that I am heartily sick of it and would dearly like to stop for a bit?



Actually, the weekend proved a bummer in more than simply the 'painting-sodding-narrowboats-while-the-sun-shines' department.

We were supposed to have the weekend off!

My parents' best friends (who are also my sister's in-laws....yes, she really did marry the boy next door....) Hazel and Bernard were celebrating Bernard's 80th birthday with a slap-up luncheon at an hotel near Emsworth. The Pippins, along with the rest of the extended clan, were invited.

Unfortunately, Jackie pranged a muscle in her back while working on the aforementioned sodding narrowboat on Friday. Saturday dawned. Strong painkillers were having little noticeable effect. The idea of Jackie having to endure a three hour-plus car journey was just not going to make it to reality. With a heavy heart, I called Bernard with our abject apologies for having to cancel at such short notice as to be no real notice at all.

So Jackie spent Saturday trying out a long list of sitting in the sun positions (none of which were that comfortable for her, poor thing), while I tinkered with stuff. (The sodding narrowboat was off limits due to the noise and dust factor, it being a holiday weekend, and the all important fact that I couldn't actually be arsed to go near the damn thing....)

The stuff tinkering actually yielded some positive results:.....(A great surprise to me, as I'd already written the entire weekend off as a total loss)...... I mended a puncture and replaced the knackered tyre on our wheelbarrow, thanks to our landlord's generous provision of a puncture repair kit and a good used high quality trailer tyre.

Incidentally, non-boaters may be puzzled by the relative importance of this.

Fact is, if you live aboard, then a wheelbarrow, sack truck, trolley, or some other means of manually propelled wheeled conveyance is a well nigh indispensable bit of kit.

So that at least was a result.

I spent the rest of the day working on the Raleigh Superbe bike I am rebuilding for Jackie.

Didn't get as far as I would have liked with this due to the bits of scavenged Pashley looking like they could be persuaded to fit, then resolutely changing their mind....

On Sunday, Jackie was still feeling sore, but her range of movement was much less limited and less punctuated with the sort of expletives I will, perhaps rather coyly, refer to as 'Workshop Esperanto'...

So we pressed on with painting the snb.

Don't ask me for any details: it's all a blur of interminable rubbing down, painting, rubbing down, more painting, repeat ad nauseam, (which, in case you were in any doubt, I am...)

Today, I went to work for the usual 07:00 start. I got home to more nauseam. We have just finished. Jackie's back still hurts, we are both tired and grumpy, and I never, ever want to paint a boat again.

Not even if I am asked ever so nicely.......

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Painting parties and refridgerated Ducks.......

So much great stuff has been happening , it's difficult to know where to start.

The beginning is always a favoured jumping-off point, but, being me, (ie middle-aged and awkward), I'm going to start with the most recent and work backwards.......

The weather here has been absolutely glorious over the last week or so: Not so much Spring, as Summer bursting in on the tail-end of winter and catching us all unawares.....

We have nearly finished the undercoating of nb Caboodle, our chum Becky's boat!

(This job was begun during the last knockings of good weather last autumn. After interminable amounts of sanding with angle grinders and a row with the Silly Ignorant Little Twerp (SILT) from the Conservancy, the bulk of the job was in it's second primer coat. It hadn't faired too badly during some really extreme winter weather, and Jackie's week off last week was devoted to rubbing down the grotty bits and re-coating. I then undercoated one of the superstructure sides with half-and-half primer/top coat mix.

This left the roof.......

Yesterday was a day off for me. I was up at the crack of sparrow-cough to commence a day of solo hard labour. Then came a call from my chum Mark, the gist of which was:

"On leave: bored."

'Want to come and do some angle grinding?'

"Oooh yes!!!!"

We were just getting ourselves organised and supping the first of many cups of tea, when James Duck appeared over the flood bank. He was instantly tea-ed, and needed no prompting to join the work detail.

We got stuck in, and many hands lightening the work, soon had the roof and stern bulkhead/hatchway ground back where needed, while the other side of the superstructure was hand-sanded ready for it's first half and half coat.

By now it was around 12.30. It was so hot, trying to apply paint would have been pointless: it would have just baked on, only to flake off again with depressing rapidity.

So we all jumped in the old Suzuki Vitara and headed off to Jones's Boatyard and chandlery in St. Ives.

I bought 60 litres of generator fuel and 3 x 750ml of International yacht primer.

James bought a beautiful Shoreline 12 volt fridge and an accumulator for The Lucky Duck's water pump.

Neither of us whimpered hardly at all when paying and Mark marvelled at how much money boats can cost.......

We then motored back to The Parish, loaded the fridge aboard the Duck (no, we didn't plug it in: that's a job for Thursday when all the gases have settled down....), and while James tinkered with the necessary kitchen unit adjustments, Mark and I set to painting the other side of Caboodle's superstructure with it's first half and half coat.

Mark then went off to fetch his wife Sheena from the park and ride, James headed off to the 48's at Clayhithe to moor-up for the night, and I started priming the roof. (It was now early evening and quite cool enough).

I was very nearly done in time for Mark and Sheena's return, so after a brief bank-side, beer-drinking hiatus while I slapped on the primer, they joined me aboard Pippin fro a chug down to The Bridge at Clayhithe for more beer and some excellent steaks..

And I was up and at 'em at 05:45 this ack emma!


Tuesday, 12 April 2011

On Faith.......

We take much on faith, when you come to think about it....

Faith in medicine, faith in political ideology, faith in each in ourselves.

My last post was a cheeky little reminder to those who have, by dint of extreme intellectual rigour, cast aside faith in the non-rational, non-scientific and put all their eggs firmly in Mr Dawkins' "No Faith" basket......

Now, Jaqueline, you are a friend, and you flattered me extremely with your lovely comment, (and please don't let me dissuade you in any way from continuing so to do.....), but I ain't that clever...

Not even half as clever as the lovely scientist who wandered in to The Hole-Making Shop to have a hole made.

Martin, I could tell you all about Hole-Making, its theory, (pure and applied, general and specific.....), but my employers would probably sack me for breaching The Hole Maker's Code.

We deal with very private information from those who wish to have a hole made: Breaching this privacy is a very, very serious offence in Hole-Making.

Suffice to say, holes are transient: They are here, then they are gone.

Hole made, hole patched.

End Of.

If this is now any clearer, then I've got this post badly wrong........

I too have absolutely no problem testing a theory.

It's when a vast, multi-million pound construct is called into being to prove a theory that I start to get worried.

They are looking for evidence of what they expect to see. Or even what the current credo in theoretical physics says should be there.

If they don't find it, what then?

Build another, even bigger, (more expensive!!!!) Collider to seek out the elusive particle?

Europe is littered with such constructs.

They are called Cathedrals.

To the faithful who built them, they were not only an expression and celebration of the Divine, but an approach to it: an attempt to understand it.......

Sound familiar?

You may not think much of their theory now, but it was the best one going in the 12th century.

(It still has a lot going for it now: See Bones's blog about Holy Wells.......)

Thing is, not even the most rampant Dawkinsite has managed to replace Faith, they have just put it in something other ( 'No Faith' in dear Richard's case).

So the beautiful sciencific faithful will continue to spend the GDP of Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain.

May they find what they are looking for..............

Thursday, 7 April 2011

"The Hunting of the Snark", or "Mr Higgs and His Remarkably Elusive Boson....."

One of the truly great things about my job at The Hole Making Shop is that one encounters all sorts of people from a huge variety of walks of life.

A week or so ago, a theoretical physicist came in to have to have a hole made....

We started to chat, as you do.... It soon came out that she was working on the same project as Brian Cox, the new darling of telly science programmes: namely, The Large Hadron Collider at Cern.

'So, how's it going then?' I asked. "Found it yet?"

"What?", she replied, nonplussed....

'Well, Higgs boson of course! I mean, here we are, millions of quid down the gurgler and still not a sign! Are you sure it's there?'

"Of course we are" she said, in a way which, while not actually being pigeon's-bum-hole-faced, was certainly on the continuum......"It fits the theoretical model...."


"And lots of other particles which we have found do too! So we're sure it's there...

"You just haven't actually found it yet, then..."

"Er, no."

I decided to leave it there. I didn't want to annoy my (truly) brilliant scientist guest.

I am a failed actor who now makes holes in things for a living, so I must be humble.

But, hang on.

Surely, looking for empirical evidence to support a theory is not just bad science, it's truly dodgy science at it's dodgiest on a particularly dodgy day!

Viz: The Flat Earth Society, supporters of The Phlogiston Theory, and those who reckon The Book of Genesis is a factual account of the formation of the universe! They're all looking for evidence to support their theory too!

Obviously, in theoretical physics, one is dealing with particles so small, and concepts so mind-bogglingly large, that the act of observing the former will affect them (our cat, Thomas, was very nearly called Schroedinger.......) and attempting to grapple with the latter will leave mortals like me with the kind of week-long head-ache that I endured, having, halt and lame, struggled across the vastness of Stephen Hawking's vision in 'A Brief History of Time'. (String Theory? Dark Matter? Sheesh!!!!)

And yet........

And yet I wonder.......

Will, in five hundred years time, pilgrims visit the huge complex at Cern in the way that they now flock to Santiago de Compostella, Canterbury, and Rome........?

Theoretical Physics?......


Whichever you choose, you are going to have to have Faith...............

Tuesday, 5 April 2011


Some lovely comments on the previous post entitled "Lamping" have really bought home to me the positive power of the interweb: People who feel the same way I do about cruelty and violence voicing their agreement and their anger.

It's good to know we are not alone.

It is empowering to have people from half a world away who I've never met share their feelings about those who indiscriminately harm wildlife to satisfy some deeply twisted notion of 'sport'.

Perhaps they are indeed the diaspora of an ancient and rational civilisation, one in which one only killed what one would eat, took only what was needed, and left the rest for the future....

This world is in sore need of such a leavening.

Thursday, 31 March 2011


A nasty business, this.....

Know what 'lamping' is?

It's when a group of people armed with rifles or shot-guns go out at night with powerful torches to reduce the wild creature numbers in their locale by as much as time and ammunition will allow.....

Of course, most of these "marksmen" couldn't wing a barn-door on a good day, so most of the creatures concerned only get badly hurt, and not killed outright: they crawl off into the undergrowth to die a slow and agonising death.

They do so to supply men with tiny brains and even smaller manhoods with what passes for "sport".

And these morons no doubt occasionally, either by accident or design, kill cats and stray dogs too.

It sickens me to the pit of my stomach.

Last night, I got in from a hard day at The Hole Making Shop at about 21:10.

I was walking across the field toward Pippin when I heard the unmistakeable sharp whiplash-crack of a high powered air-rifle.

And again.

And once more.....

I climbed to the top of the flood bank and could see in the distance the lights of a vehicle crawling down the lane toward the turn for the Drove that heads toward Ely.

A red-filtered searchlight was being deployed.

It was a still night, and I knew my actor's voice would carry across the fen for some distance. What to shout, to a car full of an unknown number of armed men in an unknown state of sobriety?

I called out the name of our cat, loudly enough to be heard, but without aggression. The haunting repetition of his name seemed to have an effect: The vehicle stopped. The searchlight went out. I heard no more shots.

Good job too: I saw a bike light coming down the lane. It could only be Jackie, on her way back from the station. I watched the bike pass the stationary car in safety.

I rang Jackie as soon as I was sure she was in our compound and she soon joined me on the flood bank. The car hadn't moved. There had been no more shots fired since the last of the three I had first heard......

We boarded Pippin, to be met by a healthy and un-shot cat.

Thank God.

I considered calling the police, but decided not to.

I regret this, but I had no idea of the make or registration number of the vehicle and certainly wasn't prepared to wander off in it's general direction to find out. Approaching motor vehicles full of armed men is not on my immediate 'to do' list.......

However, if it happens again, then I most surely will.

There are children here.......

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Happy Birthday Dad!!

My Dad is 83 today!

Well done, you old..... ......old...... er..... old person, you!

Hee hee!

Nice one, Dad!

Please continue to give the company pension fund some stick for many years to come!

God only knows, you've earned it.


Sunday, 27 March 2011

In which The Pippins do a lot.......

Friday night was party night in Fenland!

Normally, we are both so banjaxed from the preceding week that Friday evening involves a quick supper and an early night.

Not so on Friday!

Our lovely chum Tom Poole had organised a charity event at his place. He had hired the Rod Mason Hot Five jazz band to play at The Old Rectory. Could we turn up and help with the serving of the sausages, wine, beer, and do a spot of washing up?

No problem!!

We enjoyed the music from the kitchen, while helping to see to the domestic side of things. The band were excellent and the assembled company very appreciative.

A cracking night!

Saturday a.m. saw us heading towards Cambridge with our chum Rhoda for the Great Cam Clean-Up.
We rode our bikes in. The girls said I should go first as Albert, my ebay-purchase police-bike from the 1950's was clearly going to be no match for their modern light-weight jobs.


They didn't even get close to Albert's dust cloud as I bowled him along the towpath in fine style.

28" wheels!

Sturmey Archer 4-speed hub!

A truly excellent bike!

Shame he had no brakes by the time I got there, but a small amount of fettling is to be expected......

Anyway, we joined the group of volunteers who were going to litter pick the Cam and its environs in good time. The Lucky Ducks were there: James was overalled and impressive as Team Leader of the grapplers, Amy looked demure and stylish as ever, while quietly making sure that James had remembered to tie the ropes onto the grappling hooks properly.......

We and Rhoda were assigned a stretch of the river bank from opposite The Plough pub downstream towards the A14 road bridge. We got cracking without delay, and soon had amassed a huge pile of rubbish bags and other much larger detritus that must have taken so much effort to deposit on the river bank that one can only wonder if taking it to the tip at Milton would not actually have been the far easier option....

We worked from 10.00 till 12:15, when we were recalled by the marshalls to head back to The Fort St George pub by the river in Cambridge for a free barbecue. I drank two pints while in the queue for food, which was a bit embarassing, but hey, this Wombling lark is thirsty work!

My barbecue sausage in a bun was very nice, but sadly only served to whet an already sharp appetite.

Suffice to say, I demolished a rump steak, chips and onion rings and a further pint and a half of ale before wobbling back to Waterbeach with no brakes......

We then slept for a couple of hours, (the sort of disco nap that kept us both going during our time living in Soho), then I was driven back to Cambridge by my beloved so I could meet up with my chums from The Hole Making Shop for a meal at Bella Italia.

A thoroughly good time was had by all. I drank a bottle of wine and floated back to Pippin on a cloud. Actually, Jackie came and picked me up, but I was definitely floating by then, for sure.....

This morning we slept in, emerging in the last half hour of the morning, the clocks having gone forward last night.

Just for a change, I thought I'd head over to the woodpile to split some logs.

Jackie, meanwhile, dried the bilge in the engine room, did the washing, filled up the generator with diesel, and serviced Pippin's Beta 50 main engine.

Look, some of those logs were really big, okay?

And I've always been crap at multi-tasking.........

But I did cook supper. (John's special-recipe garlic mushrooms fried in butter and olive oil served on slices of toast liberally slathered with Brussels Pate, and accompanied by a good bottle of Rioja).

I hear snoring from somewhere on board, and for once, it isn't me!

'Night, all....!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011


Sorry, sorry, sorry, couldn't resist.....

Yes, today's day-off from hole making began in the famous woodpile.

Much wielding of huge hammers striking big wedges has reduced a lot of unfeasably large logs into stove-size portions.

This behaviour started at 09:30 and finished at 14:00. (With a quick break for a cheese and tomato sandwich and a cup of tea).

I then loaded up the Suzuki with the re-cycling and headed towards Tesco.

There are recycling facilities there, but the reason for the visit to the eponymous supermarket was to get some cash out to pay our landlord the rent for my shed. I took out a bit extra as Jackie got up at sparrow-cough today to take our little VW for it's MOT. £50 so I wanted to give her some dosh too.

(Tesco are also Purveyors of Fine Ale to the Gentry.......Tanglefoot may have been purchased..)

So then I swung by the tip at Milton, there to drop off the re-cycling and check out the 'bikes for restoration' situation....



Rien de bicyclette ici, mush...

Oh well, never mind.

I climbed back into the car and made to drive home.

I got as far as the gates. Coming the other way was an estate car with a very old rod-braked bike in it.

Ever seen a Suzuki Vitara execute a perfect Immelmann turn?


Well you would have done today!

I parked up at the dump again, watched the bike being deposited by the front bucket of The JCB of Death, then I was off, out and grabbed it.

Rat up a drain pipe? Greased weasel-poo off a chromium-plated shovel?

Hopelessly slow in comparison!

And so I have landed another bike project. He's called Eric, is hugely original, has all the bits for Jackie's Superbe that the Thoroughly Undeserving Git did me out of a couple of weeks ago, and is sadly far, far too good to break...........

Eventually, I will finish Jackie's Superbe. The only problem is, the way things are going,
I may own most of the rod-braked bikes in East Anglia by then.....

But a man's got to have a hobby.

Speaking of which, on the way back from the dump, I dropped by my pal Roger's place to see what he was up to:

"Fettling the number-plates of a thirties Riley" was the answer.

I shared a couple of bottles of Tanglefoot with Roger, and while he was on the back foot, managed to persuade him him to weld up the holes in the Alvis's inner wing.


Jackie has just wafted in on a fluffy pink cloud of massage oil and beauty products having spent the afternoon at The Sanctuary Spa in Cambridge, cashing the three hour 'gift of time' voucher I got her for Christmas.

So the score presently is:

Husband 1, Everyone Else nil.

Better get off the interweb so she can watch a film, thereby quitting while I'm ahead.........

Monday, 21 March 2011

A new (to me) bike!

Sorry Kev, no pictures of woodpiles or voiture ancien in this post. (See comments to last post 'Tweakage').

No photos of the titular bike, for that matter, but then I haven't picked it up yet, having won it in an Ebay auction yesterday. It's a 1950's gents roadster with 28" wheels and a 24" frame. It's the sort of thing that Dixon of Dock Green would have ridden when the Wolseley 6/80 was being serviced.

I'm very excited about it as I've wanted a 'proper' bike for ages, mainly to replace the modern thing I mistakenly bought when we moved up to Cambridge. This excuse for two wheeled transport has, so far, had the rear wheel rebuilt three times. I am convinced that modern spokes are made of the same stuff as the cheaper variety of wire coat-hanger......

Or perhaps I'm just getting a bit too lardy......

Anyway, another day has passed since I started this post. Jackie has picked up the bike. I have seen it. (In the dark.)

It looks FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If in need of a good paint-job, but hey, if it isn't a project, then why the heck did I get involved?

Pictures soon, promise..........

(But not of bits of knackered Alvis, or the wood pile.

Unless you ask very, very nicely, in which case, I'll consider it, as I then have someone else to blame.)

Saturday, 19 March 2011


Dawn broke over Bournemouth frosty and cold.

I know this because Thomas Cat came into our room as the sun rose and launched a very serious ginger-ninja toe-assassin assault on me.


By the time breakfast was over, the sun was beaming down in a very spring-like way. Time, then, to don once more The Old Clothes of Tinkerage and head out into the garage to fettle the Alvis.

But I was against the clock.....

Jackie wanted to be back aboard Pippin this evening, so I had a scant few hours to remove the other wing, the inner wing , and the pylon strut that supports the wing from underneath.

(If you are new to this nonsense and are getting confused, the Alvis is a car, not an aircraft. But then you tuned in to read about boats, didn't you......?



Anyway, back to the Alvis: I could give you a blow by blow account of the removal of various bits of time-expired motor car by the judicious application of blow-lamps, breaker-bars, Plus-Gas, Whitworth sockets, help from my friend Andrew and quite a bit of heaving and straining.

But I'm not going to, so relax.

Suffice to say, after a good few hours work, one wing resided in the Alvis and the inner-wing and pylon strut sat in the back of our car ready to be taken to Cambridge for further attention.

Jackie then drove me and Thomas from Bournemouth to Cambridge in what I would consider record time. Indeed, herself was thinking of the chances of getting The Blue Riband for the fastest crossing. I was more concerned that she should instead acquire three points on her licence, but felt that dwelling on this would be at once uncharitable and probably rather unwise......

So, we're home, back on The Parish.

My friend Jane from work has just been in touch re: more wood available at hers from 10.00 tomorrow, so I'll bet you can't guess what we have planned for The Last Day of the

I hope beer may feature too.........

Friday, 18 March 2011


Jackie and I have been down in Bournemouth for the last few days. It has been absolutely lovely.

Thomas came with us and was very well behaved on the trip down and is loving the carpet in his Grandparent's place. (Note to new readers: Tom is a cat....)

I have been tinkering with the Alvis while Jackie has been visiting tutors from her old school near Blandford Forum.

The first day of tinkering resulted in the removal of two, (count them...) bolts.

Now, this may not sound like a lot to you, but actually, it did take all day......

They were exceptionally difficult seized up awkward to get at and otherwise troublesome wing mounting bolts, okay?

Eventually, after resorting to plan 'C', (a pad saw with a broken hacksaw blade on one and a combination of AF and Whitworth spanners on the other) victory was mine!!

The off-side front wing then fell off the car nicely.

The second day saw more of the same slow-but-sure action on the nearside front wing.

So what caused all this wing removal? Well, in order to get a TA14 onto a transporter, you must first to remove the front wings: they are so big, the car won't fit otherwise.

And why do I need a transporter? All I can say at the moment is "watch this space".....

The first rule of car restoration is "Patience".......

Other tinkerings have involved a couple of mods to the blog.

We've updated the blog list with Les Biggs "nb Valerie" blog, Jaqueline Almdale's "So this is Love" blog, and Chris and Simone's blog. Have a look: they're all really good.

Also, with help from Amy Duck, Jackie has added a (hopefully) spambot-proof link to my email address in case any of you want to send a private email. So, Kev and Andrew, if you want to get the latest on mooring-up at the Parish, drop me a line.......

Finally, I have, at the last moment, repented of blogging further about the woodpile, so you are all spared the photos of large piles of cut and split wood and titles such as "Reservoir Logs: 'Lets go to work'" or, possibly worse, "The Axe Factor".......

Lucky old you!