Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Four candles? No, 'andles for forks....

We have had a couple of 'Two Ronnies' moments during the last couple of weeks.

(Visitors from abroad who have no idea what or who a 'Two Ronnies' moment is, please apply yourselves to Google, thus saving me a digression of such enormity that one of Oliver Sacks's footnotes would seem the very soul of brevity in comparison...)


'Two Ronnies Moment' v.1.0

John and Mark are returning from re-roofing Jane's airship shed in a nearby Cambridgeshire village. John is driving The Hairdresser's Car. Both are tired, somewhat dehydrated and thinking chiefly of food and beer...... The conversation turns to mutual friends........

Mark: "Rhoda works in Cottenham"

John: "Where??? I didn't see the signs....."

'Two Ronnies Moment' v.1.1

John, Mark and James are having a beer in their favourite Parish pub following a successful Bank Holiday Monday installment of the BMC 1.5 engine fitting saga.

John nips outside to phone someone who may need a favour doing. During the conversation, the following exchange takes place:

John: " Well, Mark, James and I are sitting having a beer in The Sun..."

Friend: "Really? Aren't you the lucky ones! It's absolutely pouring down here!"

Well, we laughed......


Perhaps you had to be there, really.......

The Magic Painting: Evening Light.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

The pathetic fallacy.

I remember this from my days of studying 'A' level English Literature. It's when an author uses the weather to underscore the character's mood and circumstance.

(E.G. In Jane Austen's 'Emma', the weather is very nasty at the end of the book, when a woebegone Emma looks like she's lost her best friend, and more importantly, Mr Knightley. But it all comes right and the sun comes out......)

Well, art imitates life, and sometimes life imitates art.

I had a proper storm in a teacup at the Hole Making Shop on Thursday, and stropped off to the pub afterwards with my friend Jane.

Yesterday's rain gives you a good idea of what it felt like.......

There was thunder, lightning, rain, hail, sturm und drang......

And the weather was pretty crap too........

But all is now well.

We bask once more in 'the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind'.

For now.........

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Oops. I did it again......

Apparently, this is a song title by a young lady called Britney something-or-other.....

(Modern Popular Beat Combos are rather lost on me, I'm afraid.....)

Anyway, that's not what this post is about at all.

It is, instead, about bikes.

A couple of years ago, I found an old Raleigh Superbe frame down at Milton tip and bought it for a tenner. I am still (ahem) in the process of rebuilding it for Jackie.

You may scoff, but genius will not be rushed........

I think I blogged at the time something about probably owning most of the rod-braked bikes in East Anglia, if I carried on like that....

Well, such as I prophesied has indeed come to pass.

The bike count now stands at eight.....

Jackie said this was quite enough, and no, I couldn't have a third shed......

It didn't stop me buying this from the tip last Saturday when I dropped off the dead roofing felt from our weekend of Roof Fiddling....

Mark's reaction was somewhat wanting in appreciation of the flawless merits of my latest restoration project, I felt....

(Don't worry, Auntie Mary, I'm not going to say exactly what he said, so you can read on.....)

I will, however, go as far as to say that he came over very satirical indeed.

Now, I was going to break the bike for parts, but Mark got me going to the point that I've decided to restore it just to show him!

Two days and £45 later, and front and rear Westrick stainless steel rims are winging their way to the Parish having been purchased on ebay. And I'm presently the high bidder on a decent set of handlebars, too.

And don't ask what it's all costing, there are principles at stake here!

However, I have to say Mark was right about one thing.

The week before, I pulled an old wooden box out of a skip on my friend Julia's drive. (I had actually gone round there to re-home a lovely moden art sculpture fo her own making, but that is a digression too far, even for my parenthetical mind...)

Another friend, who has a narrowboat, was after just such a box for storage. Texts were exchanged, measurements obtained, a trip to Mackays in Cambridge secured brass screws and ironmongery, and I set about making the box fit the boat while also giving it a bit more in the way of structural integrity than it's original design permitted.

This meant taking it apart, turning it inside out, then reassembling it round a bespoke half-inch by half-inch frame.

And Mark's comment?

"John, you'd be better off burning it and using the carbon to draw her a picture of a better box......"

He was right.

Three days later, I found this at Emmaus:

Solid Mahogany.....

Brass fittings

Interesting history.....

It makes my rough-hewn and hand-made pine and plywood effort look very shabby in comparison indeed.

Ah well, I shall finish it off then quietly take it to Emmaus for rehoming......


Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Fiddling on the Roof........

This weekend saw me and Mark do some Epic Feats of Engineering.... and all in the searing heat.....

So, were we hanging James upside down over nb Irene's engineroom from our improvised engine hoist?


Were we getting low-down and dirty in the bilges, re-routing fuel lines, engine electrics and the raw-water cooling system?


Were we carefully shimming the fab new Vetus engine mounts to the correct height?

Were we buffalo......

We were going to do all the above, but got.......... waylaid......

I went for a drink with my colleague Jane from The Hole Making Shop on Friday night. (It had been a bit of a week, and we sorely needed it.....)

Anyway, the conversation turned to what our plans were for Saturday....

"I've got to do me shed," said Jane, more woebegone than her impressive consumption of Aspall's finest should have allowed.

"Oh," says I, "what needs doing?"

(Now at this point, I can see I rose like a trout to the fly.... but there you go. 'Never leaving a damsel in distress' is part of The Code of the Wittses......)

"Well," says Jane....... and embarks on a description of fascia boards held in by 4" screws set ten years ago and well-nye impossible for a Lady of Quality to shift.....she didn't mind doing the rest, you understand, just needed some bloke-heft to get her started.

A quick call to Dodge ensued....

('Dodge', by the way, is Mark's army nickname. It was given him for his uncanny ability to dodge bullets and nasty loud bangs while putting himself in harm's way in the likes of Northern Ireland, Bosnia, and Iraq........)

He was very much up for having a quick bash at the shed then scooting round to Alan's for a day's engine fettling.

So I picked him up at 0800hrs and of we went. I dropped him at Jane's then made an abortive attempt to get the exhaust fixed on The Hairdresser's Car.... (An attempt that ended in frustration and failure as the garage had ordered a part for a 3-door and our's has five..... Yes, I know, it wouldn't have been too hard to actually count them, rather than rely on what the DVLA's computer says, but such is progress........)

On returning to The Castle (Jane's house is rather large: there is a moat at the back. She says it's a field drain, but who's she trying to kid? It's a moat, okay?), Mark informed me that all engine fettling was cancelled forthwith, as there was no way he was going to leave Jane working alone, at height, humping great 45 kilo rolls of roofing felt about.....

I know Mark well enough by now to tell by the set of his jaw that there was no contradicting him. I wouldn't have anyway, as I was quite happy to do some roofing.... make a nice change from BMC 1.5 fitting, and would probably be a bit of a lark...... Jane tried the 'oh you can't possibly' routine, but it didn't work.

So we set to. In the heat...... Blimey, was it hot on that roof. Mark got the job of being up on the roof itself, while I passed tools, fetched, carried and transported the aforementioned rolls of roofing felt up ladders.

What idiot called this stuff 'felt'?

There is absolutely nothing, even remotely, felty about it!

It is forking heavy!

Indeed, I surprised then both with some choice epithets in my native demotic Latvian when hauling the last roll onto the roof......

(Sorry, Auntie Mary......)

Anyway, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here it is as a work in progress:

Yes, I know, less 'shed', more 'aircraft hangar', isn't it?

The bit we did on Saturday is on the right.......

It eventually got too hot to handle the felt, so we knocked off, repaired aboard Pippin, and sailed to The Bridge pub at Clayhithe where Jane treated us both to supper. Jackie had spent the day on Holkham beach with Rhoda and we all met up back at the mooring. (You will note from that last bit who is the brains of this outfit.....)

We popped round again early Sunday morning to do the otherside and finish off. This didn't go quite according to plan as we still needed to take frequent breaks to rehydrate. So I went back on Monday to get the job to a point that Jane, who is supremely capable and no-one's idea of a feeble girlie, could finish it off herself.

Fiddling on the Roof? 'If I Were A Rich Man', I think I would have paid a roofer to do it and taken us all to the beach........


Another of 'Life's Imponderables...........'

Can anyone tell me why it is, that in the same way dropped toast always seems to land butter-side down, that when ones cats bring in a rabbit, they choose not only to eat it on the duvet, but on the freshly laundered and newly changed duvet?

Removes sad remnants of chewed bunny, deposits over side, sighs, strips bed..... again.......

Mind you, if we owned a rescued Lurcher, we might be dealing with anything from Muntjac deer, through sheep to small ponies.....

I suppose I should count my blessings, really........

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

and on into the night......

'Straight on 'til morning.......!'

Through The Magic Painting and into the dawn...

I wake up early sometimes.....

Can't sleep. Won't sleep.

Poor Jackie gets fed up with it.

Sometimes, though, it's worth it.......

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Julian and Sandy again......

Emailling using gmail causes some interesting adverts to come up in the side-bar. They are vaguely related to the message content.....

Imagine how delighted I was to see that the boys from 'Round the Horne' are still trolling about when an email about sanding down boat paintwork brought up the following link:

Floor Sander Rental
Based in Chessington, Surrey Top Quality Bona Sanding Machines

Chessington, prepare to have your lallies vardered as never before!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012


On the last two days of our holiday, we set to putting Pippin to rights.

We drove back from North Norfolk the country way to skirt around Hell's Roundabout (Outside King's Lynn. File it under "Avoid". Really.....).

We had a lovely trip to Brandon Creek using Mk1 map and Eyeball V.1.0..... There were a couple of moments of uncertainty which is always going to happen when employing what I call 'inductive navigation' (Exactly where you are in the space/time continuum can veer towards the 'vague idea' level, but you must never, EVER stop and ask someone......) but we got there in the end. Jackie stayed aboard as she was tired but I went to the nearby pub to meet up with James and Amy and some fellow bloggers I had not met before: Lesley and Joe from Yarwood and Graham and Jill from Matilda Rose. A lovely evening ensued.......

The next morning, the Ducks motored down to our mooring spot, and having settled up with the yard for the blacking and bought some diesel for the genny, we set off in convoy in the general direction of Ely.

Make no mistake, James and Amy's Lucky Duck is a quick boat. (They have done a lot of very good work to it during their tenure as Duck custodians: the engine is as sweet as a nut and sports skin tank cooling which replaced the raw water effort which caused them a lot of trouble in the early days.... I understand the Duck is up for sale as they want a classic narrowboat along the lines of a Big Woolwich. Whoever buys The Duck will be getting a good-'un.....)

Quick indeed. On the way to Brandon Creek, Pippin was cruising at 'top o' the green' (2000 rpm) and still struggled to keep pace. (Well, she is a widebeam, and has to shove a lot of water out of the way, unlike these snake-hipped and skinny narrowboats....) We caught them up as they slowed down for moored boats, only to see them pull away again as we backed our throttle for the same reason.

The return journey, was however, very different. Liberated from the drag factor that three years-worth of weed had added to her 26 tonne burden, Pippin simply flew!

At 2000 rpm we were actually gaining! I backed the throttle to a gentle 1800 and let The Duck lead on..... :-)

(By the way, if any spoilsports reading this think we were racing or breaking the speed limit, I can assure you we were not. We are always mindful of our wash and of moored boats too. This was on The Queen Adelaide stretch: a wide long straight of unrelieved boredom. There are markers at one point where you can check your speed to make sure you aren't breaking the limit. We weren't: not by a Dutch mile.....)

Anyway, our purpose in travelling in convoy was to find a quiet spot on the Adelaide to moor up and do some paint prep/painting. James wanted to be near our generator for 'Power to the People's' grinder, so we selected a likely looking stretch of piling and pulled in.

This is Pippin's roof at the end of the day:

When rubbing down a 61' x 10' blue widebeam, there are some Health & Safety issues: even wearing all the PPE recommended for the job will not prevent you developing an unpleasant condition known as Incipient Smurf Syndrome:

We also decided our chimney was getting a bit past it.........:

The Ducks parted company in the late afternoon as they had places to go and people to see and trains to catch in Ely. We stayed on overnight and personfully munched our way through the mountain of sausages I had de-frosted thinking James and Amy were going to stay supper with us...... It was a challenge, but we did it..... Though I don't think we've had sausages since......... :-)

The next day, we were up with the larks and made the most of some fine weather by rubbing down Pippin's sides, foredeck well and cruiser deck. We finished at about half past three in the afternoon, then motored home, reaching The Parish at about six in the evening.

As we moored up, this boat came up to the lock to turn:

nb Pyxis used to be a by-word for trouble on the River Cam.

The previous owner was a deeply troubled individual who not only thought he owned the water point in Cambridge, but was singularly and deeply unpleasant in thought, word and deed to anyone unfortunate enough to cross his path.

The end came for him when he set about a rowing coach with a broom handle. He should have got six months for that, but, sadly, was let off with a fine.

We need that sort of behaviour on the river like a hole in the head.

All the work James and Amy had done to try and improve relations between rowers and boaters, this poltroon undid in seconds.....


Anyway, this thoroughly nasty piece of work is off the river and gone, we all fervently hope, for good and all time.

I think the new owners look jolly nice:...............!

It still might be an idea to paint their boat differently and change it's name though........... thus severing all links with the past...... :-)

Jackie relaxed after a hard day's grinding, painting and boating.....

Thomas arrived home, having been staying with his friend Oscar on nb Malus, and took up temporary residence in our Magic Painting before scoffing down a wet food treat and going for a long sleep....

And I went shopping and decided on eggy soldiers for breakfast the following morning:

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Animal Fair

Monday at The Hole Making Shop saw a visit from Alan, one of the top men in the firm we lease our hole-making machinery from. Ask him anything you like about the hardware, software, kind of bendy-in-the-middle-hard-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside ware, and he'll have an answer for you.

It was a surprise to me, then, to learn that his four year old son had stumped him with a question......

The scenario was this: bedtime story had turned into bedtime singsong. The nursery rhyme of choice was 'The Animal Fair'. (Lyrics below...)

We went to the animal fair,

The birds and the beasts were there,

The big baboon by the light of the moon

Was combing his golden hair.

The monkey fell out of his bunk,

And slid down the elephant's trunk,

The elephant sneezed - Achoo!

And fell on her knees,

And what became of the monkey,

Monkey, monkey, monkey, monkey?

We went to the animal fair,

The birds and the beasts were there,

The big baboon by the light of the moon

Was combing his golden hair.

The monkey fell out of his bunk,

And slid down the elephant's trunk,

The elephant sneezed - Achoo!

And fell on her knees,

And what became of the monkey,

Monkey, monkey, monkey, monkey?

Now I don't wish to labour the point, but I do feel Alan's son has happened upon one of The Great Philosophical Questions of our time.......

What did become of the monkey???????

Thursday, 9 August 2012

More holiday snaps

Families crabbing and fishing for tiddlers at Burnham Overy Staithe.

As seen on the walk from Burnham Overy to Holkham Beach.

Nearly there!

Burnham Overy from afar......

Can you see the little yacht?

Okay, better with a spot of telephoto lens........

Views from Holkham beach........

It was a lovely holiday!

We stayed at our favourite B & B in The Glebe Farmhouse in North Creake.

The weather was unbelievable!

There was sunshine!!!!!!

We ate and drank, most notably at the Hoste Arms in Burnham Market, (lovely staff, especially Inga and Ralph, great seafood platter, Brancaster Oysters, a side of local samphire, and perfectly chilled dry white.....).

We also trotted over to Holt to meet our friends, The Brave Kapitan Benjafield and his partner Annie, for lunch at Balthazar, another North Norfolk eaterie of note. We then went on the troll round the antique shops.. This was huge fun, as Ben and I met in the days when I used to haunt the Portobello Road of a Saturday morning in search of magic lantern slide treasure-trove and booty. I found some spare glasses and a wick for James and Amy's oil lamp(some over-zealous lighting without pre-warming the glass had had the inevitable result.....) and bought another present which was so pin-point perfect it could have been made especially for it's recipient.

What a lovely afternoon!

We popped into Larners in Holt at Ben's insistence. It was fantastic! We puchased the following:

It's Grim Up North Norfolk....... :-)

We then went back to the spa at The Hoste Arms for our second hour long massage of the week, before supper in the bar, then home to Glebe Farmhouse..... Unbridled luxury bordering on the sybaritic!

But, golly, did we need it!

I haven't slept so long or well in months......

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

What we did on our holidays.....

This is the Magic Painting we acquired when we bought Pippin. The view is pastoral, yet it's always changing. Sometimes, people even walk through it and wave!

Eat your heart out, Harry Potter!

Angels! One-five!!

Chasing the Ducks all the way to Ely and beyond.....

Jackie at the helm...

and pressing on a bit, too......

Believe this at your peril!

The floating dry-dock at Brandon Creek.

More soon!