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!