Sunday, 26 September 2010

Don't shoot the piano player, or even The Player Piano.....

We have just had a rather bizarre but nonetheless wonderful weekend.

Our chum Tom, who owns The Last Alvis, asked us over to a party at his place last night.

Tom is blind. He lives in a beautiful 18th century rectory. He runs the Cambridge Pianola Company.

He also has a superb collection of fine Alvis cars, which is, er, where we came in....

We went along last night to listen to some great renditions of late ragtime and early jazz music.

Nothing particularly unusual there, I suppose, provided you have a talented pianist and the relevant sheet music.

Unusual, then, in the sense that neither were present, yet the evening was a great success.

Yes, we were treated to an evening of music by the likes of Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, and many of their less famous but equally talented colleagues, brought to us, kind of ghostly, via the magic of the player piano and pianola rolls which were originally cut between ninety and one hundred years ago.

Actually, the device in use wasn't a player piano, but a much rarer 'piano player'. It works on the same principle of vacuum actuated keys, but is bolted up to an ordinary (in this case, Bechstein, so perhaps 'ordinary' isn't right...) piano, which it then 'plays'.


Today, we returned to The Old Rectory for the Last Barbecue of 2010.

Fitting, then, that I should have the honour of bringing The Last Alvis out of its armoured bunker and on to The Queen's Highway and over to Tom's place for an Alvis Owner Club/ Alvis Register/ Pianola Enthusiast/ Quaker meeting House/ Everyone Else Jamboree in honour of Tom's birthday.

What a lovely Day!

Only wish The Ducks, and Mike P-J, who we know well, and Mortimer Bones, Maffi, Jim and Sarah, and Halfie, who we've yet to meet, could have made it along, as it was lots of fun and I think they'd have enjoyed the truly eclectic mix of people and interests!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Good Friends.

Yesterday we were going to go into Ely to pump out.

It was a beautiful morning for it, which was nice, as when you've got to go, you've got to go......

However, Bottisham lock, just downsteam from The Parish, was stuck. As a boat was in the lock and there was no clear indication of what was wrong or how long it would take to fix, we decided to turn about for Cambridge.

We haven't taken Pippin above Bait's Bight lock for a year or so, the density (and I use that term advisedly) of rowing crews being the main problem; the attitude to visitors of certain "Camboaters" being another.

The day however, could not have been better.

The sun shone in bright crisp autumn light. We shared the lock with a very nice couple on a cruiser, (actually the boat that had been stuck in Bottisham Lock, but had managed to free themselves after some opening and closing of paddles and re-setting of the system), and enjoyed the view, so much less wild and woolly than the run through the fens to Ely.

The Cam Conservancy have yet to prune back some of the waterside foliage, though. This is going to cause a bad accident one day. No doubt The Funny Silly Little Man won't be on hand to pull the bodies out of the water. He will most probably be elsewhere, pestering law-abiding boaters, when it all goes horribly wrong.

Of rowers, only one or two city crews were out, and they seemed to know more or less what they were doing, which was a nice change.

We also managed to pass that hulking great brute of a Trip Boat 'Georgina' without incident, or, indeed, any exhibited unpleasantness from her fabulously rude helmsman.

So all in all, an incident free trip in to Jesus Green.

Which is all you can ask for really........

When we arrived, we were met by James and Amy from Lucky Duck. They'd hailed us as we passed and came down for coffee and a natter while we did the necessary.

It was then decided that they should join us for a cruise back to The Parish. A quick pasta was cooked, to which James and Amy kindly contributed some ingredients, and we took it in turns to scoff and helm Pippin back home. Amy took advantage of the opportunity to do some serious carb-loading in preparation for a huge rowing event they are doing today (Sunday). They finally got to have some of our crumble too!!

Jackie then gave them a lift back to Cambridge as she wanted to do a bit of shopping, while I prepped some roast lamb for dinner with Jackie and Neil, our friends from nb Olive.

They arrived about 7.00 and a lovely time was had by all.

It's so good to have such friends.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Cafe Caveat!

Thanks Mike.

I was getting my Carpe and my Caveat muddled.

The only Latin offered at my Secondary Modern would probably have been found in the Dance and Drama Department.........

Tuesday, 14 September 2010


Finished work at 5.30 and drove through the rainstorm murk and rush hour traffic of Cambridge to the supermarket (there to purchase the three B's: Beer, Bread, and Butter....Well, Jackie is in London tonight......)

Arrived back at the Parish in the rain. First torrential, then pouring, then, miraculously, clearing...

When I got back on board, the sun came out, and, westering as it was in pre-sunset-sideways-gold, it lit up the willows in a way that would have even Richard Dawkins doubting his atheism.

The wind combed them.

The sun lit them.

Never were trees more beautiful.

I was put in mind of the following by W.B Yeats:

Had I the Heavens embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with Gold and Silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

of night and light and the half light

I would spread these cloths before your feet.

But I, being poor, have only dreams.

My dreams I spread before your feet.

Tread softly, then,

For you tread upon my dreams.

(W.B. Yeats: He wishes for the cloths of Heaven.)

So very lovely........

Severe Coffee Warning

Today I drove to work as usual at 6.30 am.

On the way I saw a van, clearly equipped as an early morning mobile refreshment stall, emblazoned with the logo "Cafe Diem".

Now, I'm no classicist, but "Beware Coffee"?

Shome Mishtake Shurely?.......

Sunday, 12 September 2010

The Parish is Crumbling!!

Today, I went for a long sleep while Jackie went foraging.

She came back with a goodly few punnets of blackberries and some cooking apples from near the chicken house, kindly donated by our landlord.

Blackberry and Apple Crumble then!

I was despatched to the supermarket to purchase superior vanilla ice-cream to accompany it.

We asked our neighbours if they'd like to come round for some.....

"No thanks" said Rhoda on wb Hullabaloo, "I'm all crumbled out, having just made a massive one for some friends who were visiting."

"Ah, more, tah, we're full" was the response from another boat.

Where are The Lucky Ducks when you need them?!!!!!!

Or Mike P-J for that matter?

It's no good lads, we'll have to eat our way out.........

Saturday, 11 September 2010


Hi Debbie and Amy,

Thanks for your kind comments on our previous post.

It is all treebly good to be alive and kicking without the threat of the Big C.

My heart goes out to those less fortunate......

At least my job in Hole Making does some good for them.

In other news, today has been a slow day of not doing a lot.

We began with a proper-job cooked breakfast of sausage, bacon, eggs, tomato and mushrooms.


Because we could!!

So big thanks Jackie for getting up to make it for us.

I then went to Emmaus for their 50%-off sale and bought a stainless steel funnel for 50p. (Its not going to be converted into a new bit of the Suzuki, I just thought it would be handy for topping up our gearbox. Fortunately, 'Jackie Agrees.....').

The afternoon has been spent cleaning, tidying, doing washing etc.

I have started the job of putting away the tools required for the aborted "Caboodle" repaint.

Jackie and our neighbour Rhoda have been baking Lemon and Ginger Cake and Portuguese Custards. Other members of the Parish have been round for tea and cake and pronounced their efforts as excellent!

Thanks for the tea and cake girls!

And thank you, for reading.

Friday, 10 September 2010

The Mole Clinic

Today I had my appointment at The Addenbrookes.

It's all cool.

I'm not going to die.

Well, not yet, anyway.

The Mole is a totally benign, but completely unpronounceable, wigety-wotsit, and has been attacked by the brilliant Dr Burrows (Mole? Burrows? You couldn't make it up, really, could you?) with liquid nitrogen.

Very cool indeed, then......

This is my kind of medicine: no sodding about, straight in there and freeze it off!

I cannot tell you what a relief this is.

To me anyway.

You lot are all going to have to put up with this nonsense for a while longer, it seems!

Other news:

Thanks very much indeed to Andrew from WB Cinnamon Girl for leaving such a lovely comment on the "Interesting Boat" post. We will say 'hello' next time we are in Ely, for sure!

(I'm very glad someone other than my Mum and Dad enjoys my ramblings......)

Actually, now the plastics are all being put away for winter, there is a very real risk of mooring overnight near The Cutter. I'll post a likely arrival day so Andrew can keep an eye out for us and perhaps join us for a drink.

I had a feeling the Interesting Boat was a Continuous Moorer, sorry, Cruiser, but kind of felt forgiving because it was old and quirky.

Like calleth unto like, even across the fastness of the deep..........

Further news:

Our painting of nb Caboodle has been stopped.

I was down at the 48s at Clayhithe to do a bit of rubbing down when a funny little man appeared and told me I couldn't do it as I was polluting the river. He said he was from the Cam Conservancy. He was scruffily dressed and had no visible ID. I asked him for some and he accused me of being "Awkward".

Despite the lack of any verification, I, of course, stopped at once.

I wish for no trouble with The Conservators.

It was only later that I realised that the aforesaid Funny Little Man had boarded Pippin without my knowledge or permission and turned off the generator (I didn't notice at the time because Pippin's battery bank is so big I could probably have carried on sanding until the following Tuesday).

Clearly, Funny Little Man knows very little about boats.

If his actions had damaged our inverter, he would be liable for the full value of any repairs required.

So, a very silly Funny Little Man.

Also, it occurs to me that many Camboaters have used power tools to repair and rejuvenate their boats and the ensuing detritus has gone over the side in the same way.

Perhaps Funny/Silly Little Man is too scared to go up against them, and only orders around polite boaters...

I know not.

And neither do I care.

The world is full of fools, the arrogant, the stupid, the pettifogging and the lame.

The best we can do is neither join them nor sink to their level.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Interesting looking boat

It's not one for us, but we were both taken by the elegant lines of this boat seen on the 48s in Ely a month or so back.

Needs paint and varnish, (and probably a fair bit more too....) but what a lovely shape!

Some "Caboodle" pictures.......

Tuesday, 7 September 2010


We have been commissioned to paint our friend Becky's 38' narrowboat "Caboodle".

This has involved a truly vast amount of rubbing back to bare metal (should have followed The Duck's lead and used the fabled Perago device) with lots of 24 grit sanding discs on our (one each!) angle grinders.

The Pippins are knackered!

Jackie is working in London editing another food programme, and I am still working 40 odd hours a week at The Hole Making Shop.

"Caboodle" painting is fitted in where and when we can, weather permitting.....

However, good progress has been made: we have prepped the roof and superstructure sides as far as the gunwhales and primed same with a good brush coat of International Grey Yacht Primer.

(Good stuff! Thinned 80-20 primer to thinners first coat, it went on a treat and dried very quickly to an almost gloss finish. It will be rubbed down by hand with 180 grit then re-coated 50/50 before another rub down and a 33/33/33 primer/topcoat/thinners before the first true topcoat goes on, after, needless to say, yet more hand rubbing.

Anyone out there of a religious persuasion, please pray for dry weather during the first week of October when I have annual leave booked to finish(?) the job!!!!

Pictures to follow when Jackie gets back from London and shows me how to upload them (Again.....)