Tuesday, 23 April 2013

World Book Night

Tonight is World Book Night.

Jackie has got involved in the distribution of free books to mark the event.

As of yesterday evening, we had twenty copies of Jasper Fforde's 'The Eyre Affair' to give away. (Our friend Rhoda picked them up from Cottenham library for us yesterday.)

I gave away a couple of copies to the crew of 'Pyewacket', (Cambridge's famous ex-lifeboat known locally as 'the wonky boat' due to her delightfully asymmetrical cabin) as she traversed Bottisham Lock last night.

James and Amy were taking a break from Severner 'Willow's refit to help. As I'd introduced them to Jasper's work some time ago, (they have both since become Ffirm Fforde aFficianados), I added a book about Nelson for James and a copy of 'Lyra's Oxford' by Phillip Pullman for Amy for good measure. Both books were found at Emmaus, so a double benefit.

As 'Pyewacket' shot out of the lock and into the gathering dusk, (her engine is a Petter PH2 and it likes revs. Lots of revs .......), everyone seemed rather pleased.

This morning dawned bright and beautiful. Jackie leapt out of bed and was off book-distributing round the local village at 06:20hrs.

The recipients varied from bemused early-morning dog walkers to a rather sad-looking 'first cigarette of the day' smoker whose face brightened considerably on receipt of his gift book.

Jackie even left a copy in a doorstep milk holder next to the household's morning pint. (What a lovely idea that would be: morning book deliveries from electric 'book floats'......).

She finished off by handing out the remaining copies to fellow commuters at our local train station.

As the blurb on the back of the book says:

"This book is a gift. It has been given as part of World Book Night 2013 on April 23rd to celebrate books and spread the joy and love of reading.

You can keep it or pass it on as a gift to someone else. There are no strings, but please do try it; it's an amazing book and we think you are going to love it."

What a brilliant idea it is!

There are twenty different titles being given away, from authors as diverse as the likes of Ian Fleming, Jeanette Winterson, Andy Macnab,Alexander Macall Smith, and, of course, Jasper Fforde.

So today, if you are approached by a random stranger proffering a work of fiction, do take it!

There's a good chance it isn't the next Conservative, Lib-Dem or Labour Party election manifesto, nor, indeed, an attempt to sell you a time-share or double glazing!


Monday, 22 April 2013

'Marooned'; An update...

A friend of mine has warned me I may have been having too much fun.

It is quite possible they are right.

Yes, "Toeing the Cam" has been more funs than than is usually allowed.

(Indeed, had it been any more fun, then no doubt the Government would either try to ban it, on the grounds that it is fattening, bad for your health or immoral, or impose a swingeing tax upon it.)

But I am not the only one.

Mark had another look at the engine again on Saturday (I was hors de combat, as I was busy making Holes In Things in one of my firm's Alternate Saturday Workhop Open Days.)

Once the engine had been warmed up properly, it turned out the head gasket had indeed gone.

The 'steam' that had been described as coming out of the header tank was, in fact, exhaust gas......

This would explain why the water that appeared to be 'boiling' wasn't that hot..........

Mark did a diesel compression test which confirmed the Head gasket was truly Kaputt, then helped the owner and her partner limp the boat back to it's Cambridge mooring on three cylinders.

Apparently, this involved a lengthy stop for refreshments at a certain riverside hostelry in Fen Ditton 'to let the engine cool down.......................'


Anyway, 'Marooned' is now back at it's home mooring in Cambridge.

As neither Mark nor myself have the slightest inclination to embroil ourselves in a situation similar to that which we found ourselves in with Captain Freddie Farquitt (aka The Dreaded Gentleman) and his hopelessly knackered crap-barge, there we thought to leave it.

 'Marooned's owner is, is however, much more proactive than surly old Captain F-F.

She has already set about the task of finding all the required bits and pieces.

She also is much more forthcoming with thanks, praise for efforts expended, and, most importantly, with the beer.

(Quite unlike some people I could mention, who have raised ligging to an art-form not expressed with such purity since the days of that old Roman sage, Julian Short-Arms-Long-Pockets-Drink-Cadge XXXV, from whom they, presumably, can claim direct descendance..........)

But I digress.

Mark is going to further burnish the lustre of his halo (if such were possible; Ray-Bans are required PPE around him as it is.........) by fitting the parts and getting the engine running properly again.

As our chinless-wonder friend, Rupert Courte-Bendynge (Grenadier Guards) is wont to say:

"Jolly good show!" 

Thursday, 18 April 2013

A Big Toe......

So, what's been happenin' down in Groovetown........?

A trip to the podiatrist, perhaps?

Minor surgery on an in-growing nail?

Or perhaps the application of anti-fungal remedies?........


Nothing so prosaic.

Or, indeed, unpleasant............


The 'toe' of the title is just an attempt to out-do James and Amy in the 'Awful Titular Pun' Department.

(Though the gritting lorries will be out in Hell before I come up with something to better 'The Bollards of Reading Gaol'.....).

I have, of course, in fact, been towing.......

And towing A Big Thing, to boot........

But perhaps I should let the true protagonist of this epic take up the story......

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome back, after some absence, (easily explained, Your Honour....)....


The lad 'imself, (cue drum roll........)


Gotham City, (aka Cambridge):  Evening.

We find The Boat-Man alone aboard wb Pippin. He is wringing out socks and sorting boxer shorts into piles.

Both suits of Boat-Man spandex have been carefully hand-washed and are drip-drying into a bowl. 

The Boat-Man himself is attired in a fetchingly scruffy towelling robe, long woollen socks, and wellies.

(Though that's probably too much information.....)

The Boat-Mobile is jacked up with the rear axle removed.

Chickens peck and cluck around pieces of dismantled differential......

The Mighty Pippin eschews her super-hero title in these circumstances, and is just plain old work-a-day wb Pippin.

(Well, you can't be a Super-Hero Boat when someone's hung the week's washing on a line from your wind turbine mast to the fore deck tee-stud, now can you?.......)

No-one would ever know...........

In short, both The Boat-Man and wb Pippin are having what is known as "A Day Off"............

The Buoy Wonder is, likewise, on leave of absence.

 He and "Girl Who Must be Obeyed"  have recently bought nearly seventy-two feet of vintage narrowboat,.......... which needs .......'a little fettling'........

The Boat-man is bored.


He puts down the washing, picks up his pint of Guinness (which, like Popeye's spinach, is the source of his Super-Hero strength), and slurps deeply.

A long, gratifying belch, (which only boys can really understand and can relate to), ensues........

He is contemplating "The Cambridge News" Junior Coffee-Time Easy-Clues crossword, when all domestic peace is shattered.

Shattered by the siren wail of......... The Boat-Phone. 

(Look, I can't do sound-effects on Blogger.

Some say it's possible on Wordpress,......... but never mind.)

For now, you'll just have to imagine the sound that, for you, makes the short hairs stand up on the back of your neck, okay?

You're with me on this one?

Suitably excited?


The Boat-man picks up.........

Through the high pitched stammer of morse code that is the female voice in distress, he gleans from her owner that wb Marooned has cooked her engine just outside Ely.

A local numpty has been consulted and is quoting £1000+ to fix 'yer knackered 'ed gaskit, luv.....'


Both sets of spandex at the cleaners........

Well, what to do?

Wisely, The Boat-Man rings The Engineer.

'Ah, Mark..... John here.....  Remember how I got you involved in "The Dreaded Gentleman's" boat last year?

Well, if that interminable fiasco hasn't completely curdled the milk of human kindness in you, then there's another boat out there with a knackered engine that needs your help.....'

Surprisingly, the line didn't go dead.........

Indeed, The Saintly Engineer was more than prepared to assist.

"John, just get the boat to The Clayhithe 48's by tomorrow, 18:00 hrs, and I'll have a look." 

Game on!

The Boat-Man has a mission!

So it was that the (by now) Mighty Pippin  traversed Bottisham Lock at silly o'clock on Wednesday to do a spot of maiden rescuing.......

Almost dry spandex flapped in the breeze.........

 'Pippin' on the right , 'Marooned' on the left.......


That 'Marooned' is a big bugger!

Bigger than Pippin by six inches of beam and a foot or so of length.......

Still, the Mighty Pippin had the advantage over her larger consort by dint of the fact that she had an engine that actually worked................

But goodness me, was a 62' x 20' 6" 'boat' one heck of a handful in the wind that was blowing for England on the day of a politician's funeral..........

I will cut a long story short: By hook, crook, low cheating, and wb Pippin's superb Beta 50 engine, we made it to Clayhithe for our rendezvous with The Engineer.

Got to be worth another shot, as by this time, I was KNACKERED............

(Listen, pulling that blooming great aubergine boat through Bottisham Lock was an epic feat of super-hero-type behaviour, okay?)

Anyway, wb Marooned is safe at the 48's at Clayhithe.

Her owner, Sarah (of the frantic Morse messages), is a very happy bunny: The Engineer has pronounced the engine as sound, if a bit neglected..............

The 'knackered 'ed gaskit, luv' looks like a ruptured calorifier................

One up to The Sainted Engineer!

I am going for a lie down.................


Thursday, 11 April 2013

mb Willow

There is a new boat on The River Cam.

Not quite 'a new kid on the block', as this one was built in 1935........

James and Amy, late of nb Lucky Duck, and now of Tree Class Severner, mb Willow, have, after a somewhat epic voyage, arrived safe in home waters.

I have been tracking their progress and nightly blogposts carefully.

(Indeed, when what turned out to be a much needed pub session in the company of fellow boaters delayed a post a couple of days ago, I was on the cusp of scrambling the Sea Kings, thinking perhaps they'd been torpedoed.....)

But all is well.

I caught up with James and Amy at The Bridge Hotel at Clayhithe this evening after work. My friend Jane from The Hole Making Shop came too.

What an absolutely beautiful boat Willow is!

And I'll tell you what, it don't half take a while to walk past it!

(She's circa 72 feet long.......)

And the interior!

Goodness me!

Such woodwork!

Such quality!

While she's very much a work in progress at the moment, you can just see the sheer love that the previous owner has shovelled into that boat in spades.

I can think of no better people than James and Amy to continue that work and bring it to completion (if, indeed, a boat can ever truly be called 'finished'....).

It is a privilege to witness the beginning of something as significant as James and Amy's ownership of 'Willow'.

For a start, you just know they aren't going to muck it up!


This is home.

Family home.

For many, many years.

James showed me the kitchen he and Amy had installed with a certain pride:

"You could bathe a baby in that sink, John...' he said........

Well, give them time, ................but watch this space, people!