Friday, 31 December 2010

Continued Growlings........


Cam effing Conservancy.....worthless bunch of snot-gobbling pl**kers......


Okay, that's 'The Daily Rant' out of the way.


Some clarification might be needed for those reading this blog who aren't familiar with the geography of The Cam or indeed East Anglia.

(According to stats, I do have readers in such far-flung spots as Russia and Slovenia don'tcha know.....okay go ahead and spoil it: they're just the origin sites of spammers, spam-bots, phishing scammers and other internet ne'er do wells: but a man can dream.....)

The Parish where we and our fellows moor up is above the lock that marks the boundary between E.A. and Cam-Con waters. We are about 200 metres inside the Cam-Con controlled zone.

None of us, out of choice, would willingly take our boats into Cambridge.

These are the reasons:

The journey is fraught with tension. Idiot rowing crews vie to exceed each other in manouvres of such suicidal stupidity that one can only conclude that they are either tired of life or have a large amount of Lemming in their genetic make-up.

Joking aside, we have had some truly awful experiences/ close shaves/ near misses/ lost chimneys etc. (see blogs and rants past)

So now we don't go into Cambridge unless it's absolutely unavoidable.

We normally head through the lock, into E.A. controlled water, and off to Ely.

It's further, takes a lot longer and is expensive in terms of both time and diesel, BUT, (I can't make the BUT any bigger with this font....), it is actually pleasant, which is what boating is supposed to be about.

Further, having hacked your way through the congested waters of the upper Cam, (above Baits Bite lock), what awaits you?

Visitor moorings horrendously abused by 'continuous moorers', so no room at the inn if you want to stay overnight, (not that the Cam-con seem to give a second-hand tinker's bugger) and a pump-out facility that costs £3.00 a go, so £6.00 for the most basic pump and rinse.

If it's working.

Which it often isn't, due to the fact that neither Cambridge Council or Cam-Con have had the wit to protect it from vandalism by installing Abloy locks on the doors.

So, to sum up, if you are in East Anglian waters, file Cambridge under "AVOID".

Which is what we have been doing, except in the case of direst non-term-time emergency.

But Cam-con's new proposals, (to charge us the E.A. fee again just for being unlucky enough to moor up 200 metres inside their zone of control), mean that if I wish to avoid the university's and the city boat clubs' membership, Cambridge's rubbishly maintained, weak and unreliable pump-out, and no available mooring space for GENUINE visiting boats because all the space is taken up by feckless scroungers deliberately over-staying, then I must, perforce, pay AGAIN for an E.A. licence that will permit me to navigate the lower Cam and Great Ouse and get me once again to the Blessed Isle that is Ely.

In short, The Conservators of the River Cam can get stuffed.

In the immortal words of Dario Fo "Can't pay, Won't Pay!!"

Having re-read this, I rather hope Maffi will come to visit us........

Having just re-read this again, I should like to wish all Pippin blog readers a happy, healthy and prosperous 2011.

Unless you are a member of The Cam Conservancy of course, in which case may 2011 prove, in every possible respect, to be the most interesting of times for you.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

The Conservators of the River Cam

.....are broke, it seems.

What better way to remedy their parlous financial state than to levy a surcharge (amounting to several hundred pounds a year) on powered craft already paying the official E.A. licence fee, for the dubious privilege of mooring up in Conservancy controlled water?

For this is what is proposed in a "consultation" (HAH!!) document we have recently been given.


Our chums James and Amy, of nb Lucky Duck, have already been appraised of this, and I don't doubt are already rallying the Camboaters to fight this iniquitous and wholly unjust tax on only one of the many groups who use the river.

I have only this to say: if savings must be made and more money found to ensure the future of the River Cam as a community resource, then surely it is high time the quaint relic that is the Cam Conservancy was abolished in it's entirety and responsibility for the river passed on to the Enviroment Agency.

This will, of course, require an Act of Parliament, but I am certain that a coalition government desperate to make savings in these straitened times will have no problem with the removal of the inefficient, wasteful and wholly unnecessary tier of bureaucracy that is The Cam Conservancy.

Further, savings can be made through the redundancy of staff and cash raised through the liquidation of Conservancy assets, such as the pathetically under-used weed-cutting and dredging equipment which is moored at Clayhithe for 51 weeks of the year.

A further, larger, cash injection into the river's continuing welfare would be the eviction of the now redundant conservancy workers from their current 'Grace and Favour' apartments in the prime piece of real estate which is the Conservancy house at Clayhithe and its immediate sale on the open market.

It alone must be worth in the region of £750,000 at least.....

I think The Camboaters first action should be to meet with the local Cambridge M.P.s and have a Private Members Bill calling for the immediate abolition of the Conservancy drafted at once.

With the E.A. in control, then things might actually get done around these waters!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010


Having just returned from a wonderful Christmas in the ample bosom of The Witts/ Baker/Bee families at my mum and dad's and my sister and bro'-in-law's place, I have little to say other than it was all magnificent, I shan't need to eat for at least a fortnight, and booze ban Jan. starts on the 5th.......

On a much less happy note, Andreas tells us that some low-down-no-good-son-of-a-second-hand-dog's-cock-sucker has cut the business-end off the pump-out hose at Ely.

Yes, the pump hose nozzle, handle and window have been stolen!!

Apparently, all Ely based boats are now chugging towards Cambridge to empty their poo tanks.


Good Grief.

The world's most rubbish, least well maintained, and certainly, most-jealously-guarded-by-the-locals pump-out.....

I am torn between two lyrics:

"I Predict a Riot" by The Kaiser Chiefs.

"I See a Bad Moon Rising" by Creedance Clearwater Revival.

It ain't goin' to end well........

Friday, 17 December 2010

A Christmas Tale....

....from The Hole Making Shop.

Yesterday at The Hole Making Shop, I had a wonderful moment.

An apprentice who had just completed her FY2 level came in to The Hole Making Shop.

She wanted to have her material punctured and the juice within extracted.

While the process was in train, she told me she had just been for a job interview at the Big Repair Works opposite The Hole Making Shop.

Her speciality was the engineering of heads.

Towards the end of the hole making process, her phone bleeped. (It was a Blackberry.) She had just got an email from the Big Repair Works saying she'd got the job!!!

Hurrah hurrah hurrah!

Well done Lesley!

It was such a pleasure, a priviledge and a blessing to be with someone at the start of a career!!

She will no doubt do well and become a serious player in the re-engineering of heads.

Good luck, go well, and Merry Christmas from The Pippins!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010


Or what passes for it aboard The Mighty Pippin.

Our list has disappeared and we and all our neighbours are afloat again and back on an even keel.

Thank goodness for that!

Thomas Cat has been very cuddly and kept Jackie company through a couple of days in bed with a streaming cold.

He is a good son, and we love him lots.

If any non-pet owner/animal lovers read this blog, then see the pictures of himself, and be converted!

This is why we were so upset when the Ginger Menace went AWOL......

I have no further news on the fate of the poor 'Jester', but do wonder how much toxic effluvium made its way into the waters of The Cam in the process of bailing out her diesel soaked and filthy bilge.

That Funny Silly Little Man from the Cam Consevancy who is entirely responsible for 'Jester''s sorry plight would seem to be operating under the time-honoured maxim of 'don't do as I do, do as I say....'

If we see a big diesel bloom in the water thanks to his negligence, then you can bet your life the E.A. will be informed pronto, (before that is, the FSLM attempts to blame it on the Cambridge Motor Boat Club, the Yacht club or The Parish......)

We will be watching this space and the surrounding waters closely.

For some time to come........

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

A heavy list

Christmas presents?



Definitely not.

To Port?

Oh yes......

This morning the Pippins awoke to a "roll out of bed" style list to port.

The E.A. have been at it again.

In order to protect Cambridge from flooding ( a worthy objective with which I have no quarrel), they have opened the sluices at the lock near The Parish and lowered the river level by about a foot.

Severe weather is forecast.

As a result, this morning , all The Parish boats were ahoo, wind turbine masts at drunken angles, hulls fast aground, and mooring lines twangingly taught.

It is the latter that bothers me more than anything. It strains the lines to a very severe degree. If they were to snap ( Pippin tips the scales at a portly 26 tons laden), then we would all be in a bit of a pickle.

The Parish boats are very good at looking after each other. Jackie went round this morning slackening lines on Caboodle, Hullabaloo and Innocenti (the other boats were well served by their own crews), and we have, in the past, all mucked in to retrieve boats that have pulled pins in high wind etc.

If only the E.A. ran a text service warning of immenant low water in the way they offer Strong Stream advice, we could avoid any problems.

At the moment, the only 'warning' we get is a lot of gurgling as water rushes out from under the hull followed by a disconcertingly drunken angle to the deck.

I kid you not, it is that dramatic: literally like someone pulling the plug!

River life, for you, as opposed to life on the canals, I suppose.....

In other news, I drove over the bridge at Horningsea on the way to work today to see that poor Jester, a venerable and very rotten sea-going wooden fishing boat, had sunk at her moorings at Clayhithe.

This is where The Cam Conservancy moor the boats seized through non-payment of licence or those deemed so unsafe as to warrant a hazard to navigation.

Poor Jester was listing heavily to starboard, probably bilged on the bottom as a result of the E.A.'s mucking about with the water level.

Someone had got on board and hooked up a high capacity pump as water was streaming over her side, but I don't hold out too much hope.

Once a boat falls into the ignorant and uncaring clutches of That Funny Silly Little Man from the Conservancy, then it is most surely doomed.

They should sack him and get in someone who knows something about boats.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

J'ai cherchez le chat.......

Ooh blimey what a scare.

I had thought that I would be blogging about Thomas's demise this evening.

He didn't turn up last night, though we both went out looking for him....

This morning, he was still absent without leave. Jackie went looking for him and returned cat-less and distraught.

I then got up and did a four mile walk around The Parish boundaries calling out for the Ginger Menace all the time.

No sign.


So a very sad Pippin crew went about their business, filling water tanks, fetching wood, coal and diesel and then stopped about 2.30pm. for cheese on toast.

We were trying to decide what to do next, (Tesco? Recycling? Pub....?) when through the cat flap he came, hungry, tired, and very dirty.

Having eaten a lot, drunk some water, he curled up on the bed and went to sleep.

Emotionally exhausted, we did the same.

Tom is home.

All is well.


Saturday, 11 December 2010

An Ely Trip the pump out.

This morning dawned crisp and bright, with a light frost that soon melted.

The ice in the basin we moor in seemed to have loosened its death grip on Pippin's hull, so a quick tap of the tank to show we were overdue for a pump out run had me lowering the wind turbine mast, fetching extra diesel and poling Pippin from the bank.

And all before Jackie had got up!!

Well, not quite. She stirred stumps to top-up the gearbox oil (still leaking....thanks CUBC...) while I got the post in.

(Our copy of "The Week" magazine was sadly absent...This mucks up the weekend good and proper. Never mind. We shall enjoy "Last Week" when it eventually arrives......)

Incidentally, Jackie stayed down in town on Thursday night at mum's as she was at a wrap party for one of her editing jobs. I went down yesterday to see the Eadweard Muybridge exhibition at Tate Britain with her.

It was fab!!

I used to work at "The Museum of the Moving Image" as an actor/guide. Muybridge's work is very close to my heart. To see it, in the original gorgeous silver prints, cyanotypes and the incredible panorama of San Franciso was a joy. To see the ground-breaking work he did on the photography of human and animal locomotion in the original was just amazing.

Jackie then went to get a spa treatment while I repaired to my favourite London watering hole, "The French House" on Dean Street.


No sooner was I through the door than I was assailed by lots of old chums who insisted on buying me halves of Guinness.

By the time Jackie arrived, I was three sheets to the wind and glad to to be gone...

Oh dear....

We then went for supper at Carluccio's in St. Pancras, of which I remember little, apart from the fact that our friend Louise was there.


Memo to self: When in The French, drink less, talk more.


This morning dawned crisp and bright, with a light frost that soon melted......

And I had a bastard of a hangover.

But the lock gate stood with us so we motored off to Ely, the throbbing at the temples assuaged by copious quantities of good coffee and a small amount of buttered toast.

It was a lovely trip.

The weather could not have been better, and we saw no rowers and but one or two other boats the whole trip.

In Ely, we pumped out, despite the official notice saying the pump-out was frozen (it wasn't) and no water was available (true, but we improvised with a watering can through the rinse-out hole....).

We then headed home into the setting sun and arrived back at The Parish at about 4.00pm.

Now, where is Thomas?

J'ai cherchez le chat.......

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Roast beef for les rosbifs, soup a l'oignon, and, best of all,Dripping Toast!!!

Anyone looking for a boat in this blog, look away now: it's all about what's been going on in the galley.....

Oh, and if you are a vegetarian, READ NO FURTHER!!!

You have been warned.

On Saturday, I got two small slow-roast beef joints from the reduced section in Tesco (£1.80 each: down from £6.00 each....)

I cooked them up on Sunday in a pint of OXO vegetable stock with added clove of garlic, a little olive oil, a teaspoonful of Chilli Sherry (weapons grade..) and a good glug of red wine.

Our oven is small but effective, though turning the pan regularly helps even out the cooking.

Three hours and a goodly few turns later, I lifted the lid to reveal two beautifully cooked pieces of beef thet melted under the blade of the carving knife.

Hurrah! (Or, 'Phew, that seemed to work...')

The meat was put in reserve for that evening's Parish supper -see previous post-.

(It was not needed: Andreas's lamb kleftiko would have fed another four if chairs could have been found......I couldn't finish all of mine..... it and the beef have made some delicious sandwiches that I have taken to The Hole Making Shop for lunch)

However, the incredibly rich gravy/stock that remained in the roasting dish could not, in all conscience, be ignored.....

French Onion Soup!

I have tried on several occasions to make as good a bowl of this as I have enjoyed in France.

My efforts seemed doomed to dismal failure:

The first attempt, following a recipe in 'The Week', resulted in a thin, anaemic, vaguely oniony tea that was consigned to The River Cam pronto. (There is a chance this admission will get me into more trouble with that Funny Silly Little Man who works for The Cam Conservancy....)

Other efforts have included Tesco's (reduced) beef stock, which bought the brew to the level of nearly palatable, but still a million miles from the sublime concoction I first tasted in a little place in Monmartre in 1989.

oh God.

Re-reading that sentence has sent a chill down my spine....

Pretentious? Moi?

No, actually. I was working over there, for very little more than accomodation and a reasonable per diem, singing Beethoven's 9th and the Missa Solemnis at the Palais Omnisport in Bercy. (This was in my opera chorus days.)

But there I go again.....

Good grief!

Talk about handing out bricks to those who would stone you!

Ah well......

Where was I?

Oh yes, onion soup.

I think few will disagree that a properly made soupe a l'oignon, with melted cheese over rounds of toasted French bread afloat in it, is possibly one of the nicest dishes to have in this frost-bitten weather. (A properly large glass of Robust Red is an essential accompaniment).

Yesterday, I managed to make it properly! For the first time ever!

I had the potfull of stock left over from le bif rosting.

(It was gorgeous: A thick layer of dripping had formed on the top.)

I just bunged it on the stove to warm up, while prepping 400g of onions to the recipe in Jackie's copy of 'Silver Spoon'. The onions are cooked in 100-odd grams of butter until soft, unctious, and yellowy. Then you bung the stock over them and heat for a bit. This gives time to toast french bread and grate cheese. The recipe says Gruyere, but we used Parmesan as it was all we had, though I'm convinced a strong cheddar would be fine.

On serving it, I realised I should really have skimmed the dripping off before heating the stock: the soup lay under a clear layer of melted fat.

Nothing daunted, we spooned it off each serving into another bowl, then, ravenous, set to with gusto.

It was lovely!

Not as good as the real deal Monmartre soup, but not far off.

I shall polish this recipe up a bit before risking it on unsuspecting guests, but the lesson here is that it clearly stands or falls on the quality of the stock.

Now, this evening, I returned from a day's Hole-Making feeling more than usually cream-crackered. Pippin was in darkness and Tom Kitten was raising a rare complaint about the low levels of food in his bowl and the absence of drinking water in the bathroom sink. A text revealed Jackie had been summoned to London to rescue another TV programme from disaster. (She edits......rather well.....)

Having been left in a hurry, Pippin was quite cold.

Worse, no supper was in the offing.

After I saw to Thomas's immediate needs and mended the fire, my thoughts turned to an evening of self-catering.

What to scoff???

It was then my eye was drawn to the bowl of last night's rejected fat, now happily congealed into as perfect a plate of beef-dripping as a man could wish to see.

The remains of the French bread was soon toasted, spread with dripping, sprinkled with salt, and consumed, without guilt, with last night's left-over red.

An awful job, but someone had to do it.......

Monday, 6 December 2010

Drying out......

That got your attention, didn't it!

No, The Pippins aren't abjuring the delights of seasonal alchohol use/abuse.

We were, however, suffering from a bad case of The Dreaded Interior Condensation Problem.

Boats are not, contrary to received opinion, inherently damp.

However, this time of year, the windows can weep buckets of condensation, which, when the woodburner's going full tilt, makes the interior seethe rather unpleasantly.......

Yesterday was bright, dry, and milder than of late. Jackie went off to the shops in the morning, so I availed myself of the oppurtunity of opening every available window, door and hatch, and chugged the twenty-odd minutes to The Bridge pub at Clayhithe, there to wind, moor up for a pint of Guinness, then sail back.

This highly civilised manouvre worked a treat.

All traces of condensation were entirely gone by the time I had moored up back at The Parish. The boat was cold, but in a pleasantly dry way. So I fired up the woodburner and soon had the ambient temperature raised to a very comfortable level.

Three other parish boats joined us for supper, for which we supplied the entrees, Andreas the main, Rhoda the dessert and a group effort ensured a plenitude of beer and wine.

"Drying out" properly?

Sod that for a game of soldiers!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Apologies for Absence......

Yes, it's been a while since last I blogged.

(No doubt a relief to those who find these ramblings tiresome, but then again, without me, however will they manage to assert their, no doubt entirely deserved, sense of superiority......?)

I have been extremely busy.

Not only has The Hole Making Shop been breaking all records for Holes Made in the last four weeks, (we exceeded our target by such a ridiculously large margin that the Area Chief herself arrived with cakes on Monday....), but I have returned to Birmingham for Round Two of the Manual Handling "Training the Trainer" Course.

I passed!!

Hurrah hurrah! It makes me that bit less sackable, which in this day and age has to be a plus.......

Incidentally, Amy, I have repented of any notion of blogging about this.(See previous post). There are legal issues which preclude it.

I'll either email you some stuff, or you can allow me to practise my first full training presentation in your company....!!

I'll go easy on the powerpoint....