Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Thoughts from the tiller.

Today we took Pippin into Cambridge to pump out.

Those who have been reading this rubbish for a while will know that such a journey can be fraught, to say the least......

But not today.


It all went off without a hitch.

No idiot rowers kamikaze-ed us.

No bankside maggot-danglers were even present, never mind rude or stupid.

It was cold, in the way that ice-cream on the tongue is cold.

Sharp, refreshing......

The boat went beautifully, the water was calm, and in Cambridge we were joined aboard by Amy Duck for a bite to eat after pump-out was completed.

(Don't worry, we washed our hands - rather obsessively, I felt......)

In the calm of the trip there and back, I found I had much to occupy my mind.

One topic was The Cam Conservancy: an organisation seemingly more effective at preserving itself than the river to which it purports to minister.....

Their supplementary charges to boaters who are already paying through the nose for an E.A. licence will put off most visitors to the Cam while providing an additional burden on the already hard-pressed finances of those who moor here.

I have been very angry about this, but am no longer.

Someone's got to keep them in shiny new 4x4s and also pay for the nice granite worktops in the River Foreman's wife's new kitchen.

It might as well be us........

Never mind that the river is so desperately in need of a good clean-up that one of the Conservators emailed all the Camboaters recently asking us to join a voluntary litter-pick on the banks and the Commons.

Never was an email less well judged, both in timing and content.

I refrained from a reply suggesting exactly where the gentleman concerned could shove his litter-picking apparatus, choosing instead to deposit the email in 'trash', which at least allowed me a degree of satisfaction laced with a rather sweet irony.

In short, idle, useless and inefficient though they may be, we are stuck with them.

The resident boats will have to pay whatever charges The Conservancy seek to levy, and as for all you visitors, well, you can all just go to hell. They never wanted you on their river in the first place.

But at least you have the choice not to visit.

We, however, will just have to grit our teeth and pay up.

It doesn't mean I have to like it, or pretend to like them.

Or volunteer to do a job that the over-paid and under-worked are shirking.

Isn't it amazing how a peaceful chug on the river can imbue the soul.......?


Imagine what I was like before the soothing effect of an event-free passage...........

A water-borne Victor Meldrew.

On crystal-meth............

More 'thoughts from the tiller' tomorrow.

Monday, 30 January 2012

It's all going flat.......

Well, all the money certainly is......

Jackie owns a studio flat in London's leafy Highgate. It was too small for the two of us to move into when we got married, which is why we got Pippin.

The flat has been rented for the last few years, and Johnathan, our most recent incumbent, has just moved out.

This gave us the opportunity to do a major re-wire. A good local electrician called Tony was hired. His dad is a plasterer, so he was hired to do the making good.

It's all gone very well.

However, as with all these things, once you scratch the surface, it's very difficult to stop.

The "making good" has turned into the whole place being completely gutted...

New, special, 30mm-thick insulated plasterboards have been boarded and set to all exterior walls and the ceiling, the kitchen has been stripped right out, all the appliances are being replaced, the bath's a goner and a new one is to be fitted, along with a re-tile, and the flooring throughout is being replaced........

The important thing to remember, as my Dad is fond of saying with hardly any irony at all, is, 'It's only money'.............

Of course, this outlay has stuffed any chance of the planned doubling of Pippin's solar bank becoming a reality this year.

But hey-ho.

In other news, I popped up to Emmaus today to clean up some tools, narrowly missed buying a nice piece of furniture for the flat, so bought another wheelbarrow to add to my collection instead.

Look, a man's got to have a hobby, okay?

Thursday, 12 January 2012

A day of bargains and much cheapness......

Today began with a visit from our chum Jeremy.

He is the Electrickery Wizard of choice round these parts.

A while ago, we had to have a new hot water tank fitted (see previous nonsense). The spiffy new stainless steel job not only has a heating element from our Alde gas boiler and a calorifier off the engine, it also has an electrical immersion element.

No provision for supplying power to the latter existed aboard, hence Jeremy's visit.

He's wired the immersion element directly into our 5.9kva generator's live feed to the inverter. This way, whenever we run the genny to do a wash or charge up the batteries, we are getting bonus hot water. There's also no risk of draining the battery bank by inadvertant mis-switching, as the power to the immersion element runs straight from the generator.

Bargain result!!!!!!!!

Also, we do love a triple-redundant system aboard Pippin.

And the bargains didn't stop there.

I went up to Emmaus and bought a John Lewis 'Stowaway' coffee table/storage trunk for the Highgate flat for £40. Okay, it's not brand spanking new, but is perfectly serviceable. Jackie went to JL later today and found out they cost £400......


While there, The Sainted Wife went a bit mad with the JL vouchers we got for Christmas from the lovely Bernard and Hazel (Many thanks again!!XXX).

She repaired aboard with six placemats that match the ones we got from Laura Ashley in a sale three years ago (which on closer inspection sported the legend 'Keep Away from Heat'.....needless to say they are now mostly knackered....)

Jackie also bought us a v. stylish measuring jug, a belated Christmas present for Auntie Jan, a lovely collander for our kitchen and a birthday card and wrapping paper for my Mum's present......

Total? £20.00!

Mum's birthday present came from Emmaus. It was a bargain, though not quite in the realm of the Royal Worcester tea-plate I got her as one of her presents for Christmas. (For a solitary quid:- the cheapness was part of the present as Mum loves a bargain every bit as much as I do....)

However, I can't actually blog about the birthday present itself, as we are off to Bournemouth on Saturday morning to see my Mum and Dad and join a big party to celebrate Mum's mumble mumble birthday.

They both read this rubbish, so you'll have to forgive me for not giving the game away!

Suffice to say, it's fragile......

Oh, also, I flogged our lovely neighbour, Jude, a really good bike for £25!

Bargains all round!!!!

Monday, 9 January 2012

Reality Check at the Reality Check-out..........

Jackie was hard at work editing in London on Saturday, so I mustered the entire crew (me) and spent the day washing, sweeping, cleaning, getting in coal, wood and water, doing the re-cycling, the gash, the ash-can and the compost bin.

All in all, a day of such proper 21st Century Man right-on-ness that the smug-o-meter was right up in the red 'danger-do-not-exceed' level of the dial.

Then I went to Tresco.

Ah, the joys of The Scilly Isles Supermarket.

I even had a list:

Clumping cat litter.............. shelf empty

Sparkling water.................. ditto

China's favourite kitten biccies..likewise

red finger chillies...............sod all available in the Milton branch

I actually felt really annoyed.

For about three minutes.

Then a thought percolated through my brain... (like making good coffee, it takes some time, and can go very wrong if rushed....)

I had instead filled my trolley with all manner of good (and, need I add, substantially reduced) provender, including a whole free range chicken......

My Dad ate his first steak in Tokyo in the early 1950's when he was in the navy.

He was born in 1928.......

We so soon forget how lucky we are. We live in times of the most astonishing plenty.

My getting annoyed at the absence of a few comestibles actually rather shamed me, when I consider the privations my parents' generation endured before, during and after The Second World War.......

I popped back the following day and purchased all the missing items on my list.

And not a queue nor a spiv in sight.


Sunday, 8 January 2012

We are flushed. With success...

I have just succeeded in first blocking and then unblocking our loo.

It was hardly disgusting at all.

I just felt the world should know.....

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Birthday Treat.......

It was my birthday on January 4th.

January 4th is pretty poor, timing wise, if you wish to celebrate a birthday with a big party, lots of cake, presents and the joy of staying up late.

Everyone's just done all of that ad nauseam.......

Yes, January 4th seems, almost traditionally, the day when we turn our backs on celebration and look forward to the New Year's crop of Inland Revenue Income Tax Returns, credit card and Tax Bills, overdrafts and bank loans.

In short, it's a sod of a day to have a birthday.

I celebrated this year by pulling a ten and a half hour shift in the Hole Making Shop.


But they did let me off twenty minutes early, so I picked Jackie up from Cambridge station, we phoned-in an order at the Chinese Take-Away in the village, took it back to Pippin and consumed it by the fire with a cheeky red I'd bought, heavily discounted, at Tresco (The Scilly Isles supermarket........)

So far, so mellow.

(After all, now I'm in my 49th year, you can't expect too much in the way of the sort of heads-down-no-nonsense-mindless-boogie behaviour of my (not necessarily birthday) parties of yore that have now passed into legend.....)

I had just started to seriously nod-out in front of the wood-burner, when my sainted wife announced she was unhappy with the state of Pippin's mooring lines and was off to check them.

Did I mention the gale that was blowing outside?

To give you an idea of it's ferocity, our wind turbine charge-indicator normally shows around 3 amps in a stiff breeze. It topped out at 19 amps, switched itself off, then proceeded to make some 'ooh lawd, I've just buggered me bearings' growling-type noises.

All night long.......

But I digress......

I wasn't about to let Jackie prance about on the foredeck alone and unobserved in the teeth of such a gale. So I very sportingly agreed to join her.

We'd just got another line ashore to relieve the strain on our bow mooring post ( a lusty 4" job, but not concreted in, so it was wobbling like a loosening tooth with Pippin's 26 tonnes on the draw-string.........

Then I looked upstream.....

Rob and Julie's "Friendly Fox" had pulled her stern pin and was at right angles to the bank...........

I could go on about the frantic phone calls, frantic bashing on the roof of the boat, the neighbours who came to help, the sleeping tablets, the rain and the wind,( oh, the wind!), but suffice to say, The Fox was eventually safely moored-up with extra pins and double preventer backstays. We then trotted round our wind-blown mooring with torches, pins and sledgehammers in hand making sure everyone else was safe.

Time to bed?

Ten past midnight.

It's good to know I can still show myself a good time.......

Happy Birthday!!!!