Tuesday, November 30, 2010

That Truck

Almost two weeks ago I was going to work and a truck was in the way, it reversed out of they way so I could get my bike out, and then while I was waiting it reversed over me. Fortunately Maffi was around to shout to make him stop (he wrote about it here)

It was an accident.

I limped around for a few days and Maffi kindly went to get a new brake lever which I fitted last Wednesday. I took the bike for a spin on the Thursday but it didn’t seem right so I had it checked out by the bike shop on Friday. It turns out the not seeming quite right was actually the ABS kicking in as it was a little slippy under-wheel.  Reassured everything was O.K. I telephoned the offending truck driver and he dropped the money for the new lever over this morning.

I could have sued him perhaps, but I didn’t see the point and I don’t think he will do it again.  It should never have happened, but I have made enough mistakes in my life to ‘let it go’.  Besides, there is enough bad in this world and spreading a bit of good doesn’t hurt anyone.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Cambridge: Cruising the Backs With Lucky Duck

Some time ago I mentioned a trip to Cambridge where I met with James and Amy  and went along the backs in.on their narrow boat Lucky Duck. I didn’t write very much about it at the time because Amy was writing it up in Canal Boat Magazine.  Amy’s article (and some of the pictures I took) were published this month (December edition) and is a jolly good read if you can get hold of it.  The article really is very good and gives you a good idea about the history and fun of the Backs.

It is ages since I travelled the backs of Cambridge, and I had never done it in a craft with a motor  - which is unsurprising as you need special permission to do so and then only at certain times of year. To be asked along on the trip was a real privilege and I had a great time – I hope they do it again!!!

It is quite a long time since I went to Cambridge City at all, and as I walked through the town I was reminded of just how beautiful it is.  I will return to the city and the backs as soon as is viable and re-live those memories of tranquil afternoons punting along the backs, of picnics, of swimming, of fun and laughter of times past.  For now, here are some pictures:


DSC07860 DSC07884 duck1 math1

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A long time

It has been a long long time but finally I am sitting here by the fire listening to the sweet silence of an early Sunday evening watching the thermometer gently rise from 10degrees to something far more sensible.  I am very grateful for the thermal socks my  dear Ma gave me a few years ago; Boots has been eyeing them up ever since the icicles started forming on the end of his nose.

So much has happened my feet have barely touched the floor. I have been working hard and playing harder. After a busy weekend celebrating various birthdays I returned home to an evening with a gaggle of bloggers, Wren’s Nest earlier in the evening and Epiphany, Hanser and then Maffi at the Highwayman folk session night.

This weekend I have just been up to Audlem to celebrate my friends 50th birthday.  I haven’t been there before, but I have been eyeing up the Shroppie for quite some time and thoroughly enjoyed my walk along it to Casper’s boat for a cup of tea with Boots.

Stupidly I didn’t take my camera!!!  I have managed to pinch this picture of Casper in the distance from the canal world forum (linky to Casper’s blog).  It is a handsome boat and the sound of the engine was beautiful as it puttered down the cut to greet me.


The ice at the edge was a good inch thick – heaven knows what it was in the middle.

The evening banter was delightful and I enjoyed catching up with friends old and new.

Today is my birthday too and I have had a lovely day and lots of cards and presents. Thank you everyone.

Friday, November 26, 2010

This just about sums me up!

I was given a fantastic book (xkcd) which has this cartoon on the second page. I think it just about sums me up and I love it!


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

ISIS LOCK: BW Response

Following complaints to BW concerning the new works at Isis lock, they have issued a statement. The main points raised by several boaters and local business’ were:

1) The pontoon is in the way

2) The pontoon is dangerous

3) The posts in the stream are in the way

4) The posts in the stream are dangerous

5) Although there may be minimal issues when there is no flow on the river, there will be issues when there IS a flow, and we were NOT TALKING RED BOARDS but long before that.

6) The works carried out are an accident waiting to happen.

Once the complaints were at the second stage health and Safety visited the site promptly, and the engineers are due to look at the site imminently.  Hopefully a solution will be found that is satisfactory to all boat users in the near future so that winter boaters will not be put to any unnecessary risk if winding below ISIS LOCK.


British Waterways issues statement about Isis Lock

16th Nov 2010

The recent installation of a lock landing stage at Isis Lock has been carried out by British Waterways to protect the waterway wall from damage by boat impact and improve safety. The landing stage was constructed and installed with Environment Agency consent, and in consultation with local boaters.

The British Waterways team worked closely with a local boating business, College Cruisers, and other boaters including representatives from the Oxford IWA Branch to gather feedback to help assist in the decisions to construct the final structure. Following feedback generated by local boaters, the length of the landing stage was increased.

Since installation, British Waterways has agreed to make some alterations to the design of the structure. These will enable boats to ‘nose into’ the pontoon structure to aid with specific boaters turning preferences, and a gate and hand rail will also be installed to further improve safety for users of the new lock landing.

A second stage of the works around Isis Lock has seen the installation of a number of piles near the entrance to Castle Mill Stream. These piles will be linked by a ‘string’ of booms. The purpose of these piles is to prevent access by illegal overstaying boats, prevalent in this area, as well as preventing larger craft from being swept down the stream and towards the weir. Again practical testing on-site was undertaken with local boaters, and the location of the piles was amended following their suggestions to the project team.

Jeff Whyatt, British Waterways’ senior manager, said: “The safety improvements at the area around Isis Lock have been delivered in partnership with the Environment Agency, and with input from local boaters. The installation of the piles has caused some concern to a small number of boaters and their complaint is being investigated via British Waterways’ formal complaints procedure.

“Some of the comments and complaints we have received have made us aware that sometimes boats may be using this water at a time when there are high flow or flood warnings – at a time when the Environment Agency advises against navigation. We recommend all river users to follow the Environment Agency’s important safety advice. British Waterways will continue to work with the Agency to alert river users to changing conditions.”

Gail Bradstock, a Waterways Manager at the Environment Agency, said: “Any planned structures on Environment Agency designated waters require our consent. The alterations proposed will not impact on the consent granted to British Waterways.”

For recorded information on Thames River Conditions and strong stream warnings please telephone 0845 988 1188 and when prompted press 1 on your keypad followed by quick dial number 011131. Information on river conditions can also be found at www.riverconditions.visitthames.co.uk.

Dear Granny and Grandpa

I have a new toy. It is pink



and I absolutely LOVE it.  I had a yellow toy too, but our family don’t do yellow so I hid it in the grass. I think that has got the point across.

Lots of Love


Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Many people complain about the stretch into Oxford along the canal, but I rather like it. There is plenty to see, and this time I was rather attracted to the doors. I missed one, but here are two of my other favourites:



Morning Frost

Monday morning was deliciously frosty!15112010253


This light made Boots look deliciously orange.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Heading North

Wolvercote Lock:13112010231

The high winds left some crack willow across the canal so we hauled it out with boat poles and rope:13112010235

There is a lot of willow along the side of the canal that has been left to grow, and BW have finally started trying to bring it under control. I look forward to them visiting the areas nearer to Oxford to bring them under control.  Following Maffi was most amusing as he zig zagged up and down the canal. Periodically he would disappear in a flurry of trimmings as he took his sheers to the over hanging branches.

BW have put new locks on the bridges, but they haven’t yet got the hang of balancing them. Fortunately Nick is long enough to be able to hold this one open:


I picked up some logs on the way so Dave came along to chain saw them into bite size chunks…


and so I am back home for a while.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wooden Boat October: Too much water on the inside

On my walk the other day I came across this boat:


I was particularly interested that it had plastic sheeting all around it, I assume it had been leaking and this was a leak prevention strategy. I wonder if normally it works?

On Sunday I noticed a rather splendid looking boat pumping rather a lot of water out of the bilges. I think it looks rather swish with the sailing dinghy next to it.  Later in the day the owner was putting plastic sheeting around the hull, and when asked what it was for he said it was to keep the water out. Apparently after 8 hours there is water above the floor boards at the front.07112010177

Here it is sheeted up:


This morning I saw the owner and asked whether it was working. He said it hadn’t yet, although it MAY have made a bit of a difference, but he wasn’t really sure as strangely enough the boat leaks less in winter. Only time will tell.

I presume there is a reason why he doesn’t take the boat out of the water (he said part of the reason it leaked was because it had been in the water too long), boats, like people, tell an interesting story. If this boat was a writer, I wonder what it would write.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Picture Book: The fallen leaves


I love St Barnabas church peering from Jericho at the boats lining the canal:DSC07996

The way to the end of the Oxford CanalDSC08000

Were I to have a cratch it would be like this one. I love the open space and the wooden door:


Monday, November 08, 2010

Bad Engineering number 2

I said in yesterday’s blog “ IF that isn’t bad enough – you should see how they built it, even I think I could do better…!”

So here is a bit about how it is built. Italics are part of BWs response:

In order to put the pontoon in “The original bank has been reinstated with tubular piles and stone which has eroded over the years as a result of  boaters pushing up against the bank to turn

Here is the bank with the tubular piles and "Since the timber  fender has been installed on top of the piles it has made it look worse but it is just the one pile slightly shifted. “


Looks like 6 piles have shifted to me, and I don’t think they are ‘slightly shifted’ at all, but rather extravagantly shifted.

Lets look at how the wood was put on top. There is a block of wood in the tubular pile to which the wood is fastened:


But not on all the tubular piles


and if you look carefully at the first picture again you can see that where the boards join there is no support, I have drawn a pretty red arrow to make it clear:


Construction? This is NOT construction, it is terrible.

BW say “The new bank protection does look like its failing, but what has actually happened is that when the stone backfill was placed one of the piles moved slightly, we didn’t remove all the stone and start again but we have agreed with Land & Water to keep an eye on it.  Since the timber  fender has been installed on top of the piles it has made it look worse but it is just the one pile slightly shifted.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Bad Engineering number 1?

I really am flabbergasted at the works that have taken place at ISIS LOCK (see here and Maffi’s rather good post here for examples).  BW say it was in collaboration with the EA and the EA say it has nothing to do with them. I can quite believe it has nothing to do with the EA because the EA are quite good at lock landings and flood control and the works at ISIS lock look as if they are a million miles away from EA engineering.

The EA have good landing stages for their locks. They aren’t too wide, and they have a hand rail which is great if you aren’t feeling too steady on your feet. They also have a good surface to walk on which is designed to grip in all weathers.When you walk along them there is no fear of falling off, you can grab on to a rail:


You would have thought that if you wanted to build a landing stage then the EA would be quite a good place to get an idea from wouldn’t you. BW don’t:


This platform at ISIS LOCK is not made from the same stuff as the EA ones.  Having spent nigh on 6years on and off crutches I am rather clued into slippery surfaces and this looks like a SLIPPERY SURFACE.

Having spent 6 years on and off crutches in the past I know how to be careful on slippery surfaces, but there are NO HANDRAILS on this pontoon and a large gap between it and the bank.

I think it is dangerous even for people with both feet on the ground.  Ironically BW put a slope in for disabled users and the slope has a hand rail… but not the pontoon.


IF that isn’t bad enough – you should see how they built it, even I think I could do better…!

This is an accident waiting to happen and strangely BW aren’t interested.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

What does a women see in a man?

I don’t normally like jokes as I never seem to get them or understand them. However, my sister sent me this which is so brilliant I had to share:

Subject: University of Toronto STUDY (very interesting and short)

A study conducted by U of T's Department of Psychiatry has revealed that the kind of face a woman finds attractive on a man can differ depending on where she is in her menstrual cycle.  For example: if she is ovulating, she is attracted to men with rugged and masculine features.  However, if she is menstruating or menopausal, she tends to be more attracted to a man with duct tape over his mouth and a spear lodged in his chest with a bat up his ass while he is on fire.

No further studies are expected on this subject.

Morning Walk: Picture Book

The Thames near Sheep wash 


The railway:


Hulks by Isis Lock


St Barnabus bells were tinging as I went past. This is a beautiful church and well worth a visit if you are in the area. Especially if the choir is practicing!DSC07982

Monday, November 01, 2010

What on EARTH possessed them?

The bottom of Isis lock has changed. There is now a platform too moor up in order to work the lock.  (the ramp coming towards the picture is away from the lock)


The landing stage may be, in principle, a “good idea” as not everyone likes clambering up the bank.  However, I am not sure that it is going to be that easy to turn up sheep wash with this HUGE landing stage where it is, and a boat, in the way.

The problem is that this bit of water is difficult, very difficult when there is a flow, and the landing stage is placed exactly where the nose of the boat goes in order to wind. If you don’t wind then you have to go in a u-shape and double back on yourself which isn’t always that easy when there is a flow.

This shouldn’t be too much trouble as the area is quite big, except in their infinite wisdom they have put some posts in the water, in the middle of the channel:DSC07981

Now, it is a year or two since I did this stretch in a 63ft boat when there was a flow on the river. I was an amateur and these posts are IN THE WAY.  I would have got stuck on them.  The water from sheep wash pushed me down stream when I was trying to turn and I ended up further down than these posts are.  I am not sure that getting stuck on them is my idea of fun.

You may think that they are at the end of the navigable channel and that anyone going beyond them (to the left in the photo) would run aground. Not true. to the left of this picture is a narrow boat moored up having a lovely time.

WHY WHY WHY????   I will be writing to BW to ask them whether they actually thought this through. From where I am I can see that no boats will be able to turn there if there is a flow on the Thames (there isn’t, at all, at the moment) which means hire boats will be stuck and Dusty, our coal man, won’t be able to turn… and we all know what that means. A cold hungry winter without any diesel to generate electricity, coal to light our fires, and gas to warm our food.

Do I like it? I would if I didn’t have a boat or think anyone ever took a boat there. As it is it looks incredibly dangerous.