Saturday, 29 January 2011

Loos women talk

This is a reply to Sue's question re: the new Vacuflush 5000.

We previously had an old macerator toilet that piped straight into a large waste tank. It was ok except it used a lot of water and we were trekking to the pump-out far too often for my liking - for us a 6 hour round trip. So, after lots of scraping together of pennies, we saved up for the much coveted Vacuflush 5048 from Leesan. As John's already mentioned, it uses a lot less water and electricity.

Our previous toilet looked much like a normal domestic toilet and the new toilet looks pretty much the same. So no change in space taken up there. The only major thing to think about with the Vacuflush is the vacuum generator itself. It's much bigger than I imagined c. 21" long x 10" wide x 14" high plus space for pipes to go in and out. So you need to find somewhere large enough to fit it between the loo and the waste tank. Luckily (and after lots of swearing and scraped knuckles) I managed to fit it into the only space available - in the bathroom cupboard. I was a bit concerned we would lose our only storage space but luckily my guardian angel was watching and squeezed the generator in with only mm to spare and we can still use the cupboard.

As Leesan will tell you, the Vacuflush is straightforward to put in but... like everything on a boat it's never that straighforward is it?

So far, it seems to be working well and, fingers crossed, the time between pump-outs will lengthen considerably. Now I just need to persuade John to drink less beer and explain to him that though the Vacuflush is very clever - it still needs cleaning every now and then...

Hope this is useful.

Jackie (the wife and ship's engineer)

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Excerpts and Editing.

First a quick hello to Sue who left a comment re: the new loo (see previous post).

Sue, I have no idea!

I'll ask Jackie to post something about the loo replacement soon. She's down in London doing some telly editing at the moment, so it may be a couple of days....However, I do know she replaced pretty well all the existing loo and plumbing:basically everything from waste tank inlet outwards......

Other than that, I thought you might all enjoy the following excerpt from my new sit-com, "Boathusband"......

Jackie enters left, John looks up from computer screen:

I say, darling, that nice lady Jaqueline Almdale says "I dance to the sound of a different drum!!"

Jackie: Yes dear, but does she realise it's played by Animal from The Muppets?...........

Monday, 24 January 2011

New Loos and Happiness......

Well, I suppose it beats "New Bog Blog" as a title, but if Alexander McCall-Smith doesn't sue over it, I'll consider myself very lucky indeed......

Yes, I am proud to announce that the fabled Vacu-Flush 5000 is now not only in situ, but slurping away like a, well, like a slurping thing!

I wish I could claim some responsibility for this happy state of affairs, but all honours are entirely due to Jackie.

The Ship's Engineer has triumphed again.

It went in over the weekend, while I was up at Emmaus helping out. (She'd have had it done in a day too, but was thwarted by an insufficiency of Jubilee Clips. This necessitated a quick jaunt to Mackays in Cambridge on Sunday.)

I think it's great: press the lever for three seconds, and WHOOOOOOOSH! Gone!!!

My sole contribution to the proceedings was taking the knackered old macerator to the tip......

I left it in a corner, quite a long way from everything else, with all the other redundant bits of sanitary ware.

This wonderful new bit of kit will reduce our diesel bill by increasing the interval between pump-outs. It will also reduce wear on the fresh-water pump, give the batteries less of a kicking, and mean we don't have to fill up with water so often.

I feel a "Hurrah!!" coming on....

Sunday, 23 January 2011

The Hums of Pooh......

or the wibblings of John.....

'tis all the same I suppose.

I've been thinking about what this blog is supposed to be.

Very Serious Boaters must consider this blog of no importance: there's not nearly enough boating on it, for a start.

I remember, a couple of years ago, one particularly arrogant blogger and self-styled arbiter of good blogs dismissing on-line diaries which didn't meet his exacting standards as mere 'letters home'..

"What's wrong with that", I thought, as I deleted his blog from the list of blogs I follow......

And yet there's more to it than that. If I wanted to simply to communicate on-line with friends and family, then I could easily do so through any of the available media, such as Facebook.

So why blog?

Well, I suppose it boils down to this: If Facebook is a letter home, then a blog is a message in a bottle; you cast it adrift in the datastream and know not where it will be picked up, or by whom.

I like that.

A few posts back (titled 'Apologies...'), I got a couple of comments from two very different people.

The first was pleasant and harmlessly bonkers, from someone who had had a dream in which they fought a deadly battle with a giant caterpillar called The Mighty Pippin. The comment had nothing whatsoever to do with the post, but who cares, it made me smile.

The second was from a lovely lady called Jaqueline Almdale, whose blog, "So this is love" I have been quietly following for some time. If you haven't had a look at it yet, do so. It's wonderful.

This is where blogging, as opposed to Facebook, comes into its own. It brings you in touch with some brilliant people.

It also proves that strangers don't always have to be strange.....

So while my bloggings may be as meaningless in The Great Scheme of Things as "The Hums Of Pooh", they allow this sort of gentle and positive contact.

That is good.

That's what matters.

And if you enjoy reading this nonsense too, then also good. If you don't, then there's loads of other blogs out there, but thanks for tuning in anyway.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

First aid, wellness, illness, and a return to The Hole-making Shop

I have just finished a three day first aid course run by The Red Cross. I was sent on it by work. They need designated trained first-aiders on duty in The Hole Making Shop. It's the law, as we are an industrial process governed by the HSE.

I passed!!

Hurrah Hurrah!

I can now bandage the bleeding, treat the unconscious and put them into the recovery position, and perform CPR on people who have stopped breathing.

All very exciting.......

And what's more, it's another bit of paper in my hand to wave at Tories who want to make me redundant, or take with me if they succeed.

So a good result there, then.

While this was going on, Dad was briefly hospitalised, but is now out and fighting fit.


More hurrahs!!!

However, I see from Maffi's blog that Mortimer Bones isn't very well at all, so definitely no hurrahs there.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery, Bones, and lots of 'here heres' to all similar messages posted as comments on your blog.

Tomorrow, I return to The Hole Making Shop.

I can't quite bring myself to Hurrah that one either, but we'll see how it goes....

Day off Friday, though.

Now that's a hurrah for certain sure!!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

War is Declared!

The Conservators rue the day they took on the "powered craft" of the River Cam......

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The quiet heroism of ordinary life...

I have been having a really bad week at work. I can't exactly say why by pinning it down to just one or two things: it's obviously more complex and therefore less easy to fix.

The truth is that while there are aspects of my job which I revel in and truly enjoy, there are others which I defy anyone to find even remotely pleasant.

On top of it all, I have been feeling put-upon and ill-used.

All, in all, then, thoroughly fed-up.

Then it occured to me that my Dad spent my formative years, the last of his youth and all of his middle-age working away at a job he didn't particularly enjoy to provide for us all.

It can't have been easy, and neither, I'll bet, was it much fun.

Yet he carried on doing it, day in, day out, for years.

I feel humbled by that.

Here I am, moaning on about a job I've only been doing for eighteen months, and this, the first Proper Job I've ever had.

For those of you who don't know, I was a bit of a late-developer in the 'Responsible Adult' department, having swilled away my twenties and thirties arsing around on stage as an actor, singer and latterly, stage-manager. Having lived in The West End in Dean Street, served my apprenticeship in The French House pub and been admitted to the ranks of Soho's demi-monde, I packed it all in to marry Jackie and move up to Cambridge and wb Pippin.

To coin a rather over-worked phrase, I got a life.....

And life is good.

The lesson it seems to be teaching me this week is the importance of the quiet heroes like my Dad, who worked their whole lives for others and never really bothered to think about it, because that's what you did.

Heroes indeed.

Thanks, Dad.x

Wednesday, 12 January 2011


My (probably somewhat imperfect) understanding of what constitutes a Google-whack is that it is the entry of one's own name into Google and it only coming up with one link......

This may have just happened to us.....

If you have a look at the first comment on the previous post, 'JustDroppinBy' would seem to have Googled 'The Mighty Pippin' having got the name through a none-too-pleasant dream......

This led them, presumably via a Google-whack, to us.


I have no problem with dreams or dreamers.

In fact, those who interrupt, discourage or scoff at dreams rather annoy me, much in the way Samuel Taylor Coleridge must have been really quite pissed off with the man from Porlock....(though I don't and never will have any truck with the misuse of should have just said no, Sam....)

That aside, I feel it incumbent on me to clear up a couple of misconceptions:

Pippin is our boat, not a giant man-eating caterpillar, and according to The Pocket Other Place Dictionary, 'pippin' means...."(sl)an excellent person or thing".

So, a lovely name for our boat. (Even if we didn't christen her ourselves; thanks there to her original owners, Jenny and Rich.)

Possibly not so apt an appellation for the giant pupae of our blog visitor's nightmare, though...

Also, Pippin is just plain old ordinary work-a-day 'Pippin' most of the time.

She only turns into The Mighty Pippin when people are in trouble or danger, need feeding, rescuing, towing, taking in (to a hostelry) or putting out (if on fire) &c &c....

It's a sort of Super-Hero thing shared with the likes of Bob Parr, who only turns into Mr Incredible in similar circumstances.

Just thought I ought to clear that one up.....

Tuesday, 11 January 2011


In the light of the tragic events which have recently unfolded in Tucson, Sunday's blog about tea and cake seems smug and unpleasant.

That was never my intention.

Tea parties take many shapes and forms in these difficult and dangerous days.

If I were a Democrat in America, I think I'd want to hold a National Tea Party where everyone invites friends and neighbours round the hearth for tea, toast, jam, crumpets, scones, cream, and cucumber sandwiches.

It might teach the other 'Tea Party' much..........

Sunday, 9 January 2011

And Sunday was even better!

Another glorious day up here in Fenland....

The sun shone down and it was actually faintly warm.

Far too early to costitute a Harbinger of Spring, but very pleasant all the same.

It's now really cold, as the clear skies mean a rapid temperature drop at sunset, but the wood-burner is glowing, Jackie has made frangipane tarts which we are eating while drinking tea.

Not much to blog about, I know, but if it's still possible to be safe, warm, and full of tea and cake, then all must be well.

Hope it's every bit as nice wherever you are!

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Worst weekend of the year...allegedly

Yes, this weekend is supposed to be the flattest, least pleasant, most anti-climactic weekend of the year.

I suppose with the festivities over and nothing to look forward to but tax hikes, we could all be forgiven for getting the blues somewhat.

However, I have been feeling unusually resistant to this fashionable ennui.(As you may have noticed, normally any excuse for a good grump is seized with both hands....).

This morning, we slept in 'til the unconscionably late hour of 12.30!

Well, it was raining......

I eventually rallied sufficiently to venture into the galley to make tea and toast, to see the sun had come out, producing the first proper shadows of 2011! (It has been either overcast or foggy or both since New Year)

This always gives me a lift.

Further, the colours of the land, so muted of late, now leapt out with a freshness and vibrance that reminded me that Spring is only a little while away.

I have no doubt we shall freeze again before it comes, but come it most surely will!!!

Having got up, I went to fetch firewood, then fetched the saw, workmate and hatchet and spent a useful hour reducing a very large scaffold board (which we found in the river on our way back form Ely) into wood-burner sized chunks.

Our Pramac P6000s generator has been getting a bit sickly of late, and was obviously overdue for fuel, air & oil filter and oil change.

Fortunately for me, Jackie loves doing this sort of thing, so once I'd finished sawing and had tidied away, I was allowed to toddle up to Emmaus.

For those of you who don't already know, Emmaus is my favourite charity shop. It is an organisation which works for homeless men. Google them for the details as they have a good website.

They are currently looking for volunteers to help out, so I'm going to pop along on my day off next week to see how I might be of use.

It's one of my New year's resolutions, to do a bit of volunteering.

I've also decided to have a go at learning French properly.

And have a go at pastry making and baking too.

Taking things on is so much more positive than giving things up, although that said, it is Day Two of Booze Ban Jan....

Wish me luck!!

Saturday, 1 January 2011

New Year's Day...

Well, I don't know what kind of New Year you had, but I have given up going out for New Year since returning to my Soho flat in 2007, to see a scene of such wretchedness as would put even the keenest drinker off their sherbert:

Tattooed chavs with their bellys hanging over their belts chundering for England on hands and knees in the gutter.....

Their boyfriends looking on, aghast......

Mini-cab drivers eyeing up potential 'customers' for serious sexual assault....

But the broken Ship's Biscuit went to the couple making a grimly determined and very public attempt at a sex act.

In a telephone box......

Oh World, World........

So New Year and I do not mix. On any level.

This year, I surpassed myself.

I got back from The Hole Making Shop at 16.00. I started drinking at 16.02.

Jackie cooked a lovely steak supper, lots of friends came round, we drank. Lots.

I then decided that Thomas Cat was in need of a fuss. I went through to the bedroom, fussed him and fell asleep.

Time? 21.30.....

Our chums celebrated Istanbul New Year at 22.00. (Midnight in the Turkish capital...) to the accompaniment of some earth-shatteringly sonorous snores from me..

Happy New Year, one and all!!!!! x