Saturday, 30 September 2006


... I just couldn't resist this one.

Art for art sake

Castleford is the birthplace of Henry Moore. An artist to some a dreamer to others. Castleford is not known for its civic art. It is almost bereft of art of any sort. Until now, that is. A new work of art is standing proud in this once 'almost' art free zone. It's called the Crate House. It is constructed from two old cargo containers and hundreds of crates piled high as a circular wall. It is a beacon at night as the illuminated inside glows orange. It is a place where you can go to 'view' the surrounding area from a different perspective. All built from recycled rubbish.

So why did it cost £25,000? Who got the 25K? Surely some budding artist didn't get the lot, no two renown german artists. Not that I have anything against the Germans, but can't they have ther little joke in Germany? I know what kind of artist that makes him. Civic art is a necessary evil; it allows erstwhile dreamers and ne'er-do-wells to 'experiment' with other peoples hard earned cash. While Local authorities cry 'no money' for services, good dosh is seemingly wasted on ventures like these.

When will they see sense? In June next year the Crate House will be removed, but will the cash be replaced? I doubt it!

Some art is good art. Some art is not, not by any stretch of the imagination good or even tolerable, often just a fun thing to while away the hours for a select few.

The Angel of the North is good art. I say that because it is designed to be seen by the maximum number of people from it high vantage point and it is built to last. A stack of crates is neither designed to last nor be seen by hundreds of thousands.

I couldn't in all honesty stack up a pile of crates and charge 25 grand.

What do I know? Make up your own mind.

I wonder what Henry would think.

Friday, 29 September 2006

Why me?

Funny old thing I got an email from the New Statesman yesterday. They asked if I would be interested blogging my life aboard. I think they must have asked a lot of people, I can't see my name coming out of the hat so easily. Unless……..nah, I think I am a good writer, but I doubt anyone else does. I should think they have trawled all the search engines.

Anyway I said yes, but only if they thought I was any good and sent them this blog address. They want 400-800 words as a trial. I think I may have to shelve writing about Islam for a while. What have I got to lose they can only say no!

Thursday, 28 September 2006

Thinking out loud

It's been over a week now since I moved on to the boat. It is still upside down, but I am having fun. I suppose every one in this situation has a few doubts about the decision to sell up your home and plunge the proceeds into a boat.

In my quieter moments I do wonder what? why? should I have? I suppose it is because I have been sitting about waiting for things to get done. I have had too much time to think, and thinking I do a lot of.

What the future holds in store for me I do not know, but I do know this 'I am going to have a lot of fun'. Yes there will be time when I will want to give it all up, usually when I find it hard to sit up in bed because the muscles across my stomach ache so much. Or when I fall in to icy cold water, but this has been something that I have wanted to do for a long time. To a degree there is no going back. I could never get back to the same situation as I was before. That in itself is a good thing, it will stop me from wanting to.

So it's onwards and upwards. Another trip out at the weekend and then next week I will be away. At the tiller come rain or sun snow. Off around the country on my many travels.

I suppose the only real cloud on the horizon is the Red diesel problem. When that is resolved once and for all then I will be able to work out a pattern to follow and get on with it all.

There she is, the Milly M, resplendent in all her glory, just waiting to get out tere and enjoy life on the canals. Given the choice I would rather start at the other end of summer, but that is gone. I am here now I will have to make the best of it. Happy Boating!

All go!

Nick and Diane Smith have been on site since Saturday, they drove up from Dorset. N&D are having a wide beam built. The shell is complete. The engine is in. They are doing the paint job themselves. They have been de-rusting, de-greasing and priming since their arrival. I of course have been offering supervision skills and the occasional coffee.

The boat, MV Fleurie is going to be based in France and will be used as an extended holiday home.

Milly M is just about done. Dare I say just a few little odds and ends and I can leave. I will go out this weekend for another trip and hopefully put enough hours on the clock to warrant a first service before I leave. I want to go to Kirklees Low Lock and try and get through without my fenders on. John O mentioned that it might not be a good idea to attempt the Rochdale single handed just yet, but that would mean going through the Standedge Tunnel on the Huddersfield, which I don't want to do while the paintwork is nice and shiney. So now I have a conundrum. I plan to head over to Llangollan to visit family. What to do.

Tuesday, 26 September 2006

Soon........ yawn!

Well the curtain rails are in. The back cabin is finished. Just a little bit of tidying up and its all mine. Oh and I did get a wine rack! (of sorts)

Do you remember the taps I bought in Dubai?

The dogs sphericals

I could get used to this

I spent an enjoyable evening over a bottle of wine last night with Bill and Boo from the nb Bendigo which is also moored at Ledgard. Boo is the lady who, you may remember, used to sunbathe on the roof of their boat when the weather was hot. Boo runs 'Café BOO' in the high street. Friday night is Tapas night so I might just pop along.

This afternoon I had guests for lunch. This pair and Mum and Dad crept up on me for a free feed.

Monday, 25 September 2006


Ok! Ok! So I went swimming. Not like real swimming just a gentle dip up to my chest. It had to happen sometime. At least I have that out of the way. It did tell me one thing 'GET A LIFE JACKET'. It could so easily have happened out on the cut and may well do in the future. Should it happen again I might be unconscious and a self inflating jacket will certainly save my life.

All I was doing was cleaning the roof in preparation for the first trip out on Saturday. I did down the port side no problem, but about a quarter of the way down t'other when I gracefully slipped down the side of the boat, all in slow motion. Luckily the water was warm if a bit yukkie.

Sad to say that the door lock mechanism on the washer/dryer is not working properly so I had to hang me wet stuff out in the cratch.

Oh the joys of boating. One day when I am a real boater I will look back on this and laugh, but until then you can all do the laughing for me. I know Bones has had a grand giggle.

This morning, a swan stopped by for breakfast. Tame as you like. Took bread from my hand. Apparently once they know you they come and tap on the hull for you to feed them.

Just the smallest excursion today Mark wanted to go up stream for a trip out. And also wanted to be on the outside, him being a night worker didn’t want to be disturbed by people leaping on and off his boat getting to mine. So I did a short 50 yard reverse up river and back again. Of course I was a dab hand at reversing having reversed nearly a mile on Saturday.

Sunday, 24 September 2006

A short trip away.

Well it was a good day for my first trip out. The sun eventually came out and was out for most of the day. I left Ledgard Wharf about ten o'clock heading towards Shepley marina. I would like to say I had a good day out, which I did in the main, but I made a right ass of myself at Shepley much to the disdain of Brian. I moored almost perfectly at the diesel point only to find out they only took cash or cheques, neither of which I had. I took the boat back up to the other end of Mirfield to get cash.

On returning to Shepley I tried reversing into the diesel point, but across the canal is not wide enough. The guy on another boat to whom I was precariously close said why didn’t I turn at the end. I didn’t realise I could so I tried that. The trouble with what I see along the roof is that at the end of the roof is another 81/2 feet of bow. Nearly taking out Brian's fence he got a bit irate, and I don’t blame him, however I would not be the first because it has been repaired before. A lesson to be learned methinks!

The tanks took 202 litres for which Brian only charged me for 200. I know the small tank is full right up because the auto shut of was not auto and but for the collection ring would have put a litre into the canal. The second tank is nearly full, I didn't want to risk it overfilling. Brian offered me many wise words for which I am grateful. These included ' I see thee's got a bow thruster, thee'll never learn now', and 'go out on't river and practice there where ya can do no harm'. I would like to reciprocate 'Change the pump handle'. He did say I was not as bad as some from Ledgard, one of whom he had banned from the marina.

Apart from going in straight lines I also learned to go backwards finding myself in need of turning a near 60 ft boat in 55 ft of canal I decided the only way to do it was backwards for what seemed at least a mile.

Anyway after my debacle at the marina I set off in the direction of the Rochdale canal back passed Ledgard. By 'eck them locks are small. Battyeford lock has very leaky gates. It seemed to me that the water was leaking out faster than it was going in, so that seemed to take an age.

The lock at Coopers Bridge was also leaky but not so much. Another boat tried to come in with me, but Milly was going to have to sit at an angle or she wasn't going in. At Kirklees Low lock Milly was not going in. Oh I showed her the lock, but couldn’t close the gates so I had to turn around. This presents a problem of how I am going to get the the Llangollan canal without going through the Standedge Tunnel. I eventually got back to Battyeford Lock and moored up. I wasn't going to risk going down in fading light.

Friday, 22 September 2006


Well yesterday the replacement charger came from Holland. Every thing is now tickety boo.

I will be taking Milly M out for a run this weekend so if you don't see it at the wharf I will be up at Dewsbury.

Still got some door handles to fit and the curtain rails. Dave is building the table, but not today, it's Friday. The final clean and polish will take place when Stuart the painter deigns to show his face, inshallah. (Note: I use that word in the Maffi sense and not the true Arabic meaning.) Paint to be touched up.

My last box should arrive today. There has been some problem finding someone at the Manchester depot that could speak English, this seems to be happening more and more these days.

The only problem I have now is where to put it all.

Thursday, 21 September 2006

Doggie doo again!

I walked down the canal last night on my way to get a curry. I was most impressed by the couple who owned two dogs. After one dog took an extremely big dump the guy looked around, I thought to find a bag or something, but no he found the biggest dock leaf he could and cleaned the dogs arse. Very commendable!

He left the steaming pile on the towpath.

Boo! Boo! Hiss!

None of that Sissy Crap

I get lots of sissy friendship emails but this one is different.

True Friendship

Are you tired of those sissy "friendship" poems that always sound good, but never actually come close to reality? Well, here is a series of promises that actually speak of true friendship. You will see no cutesy little smiley faces on this card-Just the stone cold truth of our great friendship.

1. When you are sad -- I will help you get drunk and plot revenge against the sorry bastard who made you sad.

2. When you are blue -- I will try to dislodge whatever is choking you.

3. When you smile -- I will know you finally got laid.

4. When you are scared -- I will rag on you about it every chance I get.

5. When you are worried -- I will tell you horrible stories about how much worse it could be until you quit whining.

6. When you are confused -- I will use little words.

7. When you are sick -- Stay the hell away from me until you are well again. I don't want whatever you have.

8. When you fall -- I will point and laugh at your clumsy ass.

9. This is my oath..... I pledge it to the end. "Why?" you may ask; "because you are my friend".

Send this to 10 of your closest friends,Then get depressed because you can only think of 4.

Friendship is like peeing your pants, everyone can see it,But only you can feel the true warmth.

Wednesday, 20 September 2006

Nearly there

A few small things to do. Door handles, a bit of varnishing in the office, and little things I have picked up looking around. Shouldn't take very long.

The charger went tits up on Monday. They swapped it out, but it is a problem with the unit. The manufacturer said, 'it's a known software problem'. Well if they know about it then surely they should fix it before it leaves the factory and not wait until I am getting ready to leave before they change it. Nil points to Mastervolt.

I picked up a chair from Ikea. Red leather on mid brown woodwork matches the Sapelee trim very well. And, more to the point, very comfortable, so comfortable in fact I went back today to get another.

The shower works a treat. Very hot. Plenty of headroom. The addition of mirrors in the shower room means I can shave without cutting me sen!

My feet are getting very twitchy it's now been three days since I travelled anywhere, except to Manchester to take the car back.

Tuesday, 19 September 2006

First night

Well last night was my first night aboard the Milly M. It was different. There is a slight nose up attitude to the boat so I got a bit of a headache but that was soon sorted by changing ends of the bed and sleeping with my feet towards the stern. I don't know how long I slept, I kept waking up with the rocking of the boat, but I will get used to it in time.

I rose at 6 this morning, had a coffee and a smoke and went for a wander. The fish were rising in the river and a heron glid low across the water. Below the weir, a pair of Greylag geese waiting for the sun to come up.

Is this not just what I wanted when I first ventured forth in my quest for a narrow boat? I think so.

When the builders are finished I will be able to get my self sorted and unpacked, the weekend inshallah.

It's a boaters life for me tra-la!

Oh bugger! It just started pissing down. Ho hum!

Monday, 18 September 2006


Well here I am at Ledgard Wharf ready to move on. Is it ready? NO!

There are 4 people on board working to finish it.

I WILL sleep on board tonight!

Sunday, 17 September 2006

On the K&A


In all the time I have lived near the K&A I have never walked from the bottom to the top of CAEN HILL, until today. Kim dropped us off, me and Jim, at John Rennie's old house, from there it's a splendid view up the flight. The plan was that Kim would go off riding and we would take on the hill and she would meet us at the top later at the Black Horse. We both set off apace talking canals as we went. Well it took us about an hour to get to the top stopping on the way to 'inspect' leaks in lock chambers and helping one rather elderly looking lady with the gates. The pint at the Black horse was welcome.

We walked into Devizes along thetowpath and stopped to view the Museum at the Devizes wharf. Quite impressed with that. If you go don’t touch the TV unless you have time to sit and listen. Very informative exhibits including working models of beam engines, tools and something I have only ever seen in books before, an Archimedean Screw.

We rang Kim at 3:30 and she said she would be 10 minutes, so half an hour later we rang her again and she promised she really would be 10 minutes at which point we said we would meet her at the marina on the other side of town. It was probably near 5 when we met up.

We drove off to Pewsey for a meal and ended up at the Barge Inn right on the canal. The Barge is a bit old and in need of some TLC. Being there we found out there was a horse show over the weekend so we had to return for the display of American quarter horse riding the next day.


It was a late start and we only just got to the horse show in time for the last four contestants. Ho hum! But nonetheless sitting by the canal later we did enjoy a conversation with an elderly couple, who we didn't know, from our home town Calne. From their talk and behaviour I would have thought they were teens, but Lillian at 74 & Stan at 87 were obviously screwing the most out of what life they had left.

Very amusing people, a real joy to meet. We had to put them right about boaters though, they thought we were all gypsies. They were quite surprised that I owned a boat especially when I mentioned earlier that I had spent 26 years in the RAF (Stan was a Brylcreme Boy). New converts to the cause.

From there we shuffled off to the Lock Inn at Bradford on Avon for a meal by the canal and ended up having to rush Jim to Chippenham to help his brother's band set up for their entry in the Battle of the Bands. Busy, busy.

Tomorrow will see me off up north to the Milly M. She is not finished contrary to what Ledgard would have you believe, but nearly.

How I am going to get all my belongings in the car I don't know. Maybe I need to be a bit more ruthless in my down sizing.

Saturday, 16 September 2006

Closer still

Well time is getting near. I will make my way to Mirfield in the next two days and move on board. Given a few days for assessment and working out what's where and a few doughnuts in the pool, some paper work to sort out and it's away.

Oh and I must get rid of that VW Polo.

Thursday, 14 September 2006

So glad to be back

It rained today, which was nice. It is a very different to that which I have experienced during my time abroad. Unlike the Saudi rain there is a greater feeling of need.

There is rain and there is UK rain. A coolness that is oh so welcome. The canals and rivers are very much short in the water department!

It is seemingly fresh, cool and invigorating, almost revitalising. I love English rain!

Monday, 11 September 2006

Down South

I travelled down south on Saturday just after lunch, all the way to Milton Keynes. The M1 was surprisingly empty. I suppose I did the journey in about 3/4 hours. Robert was as I always remember just Robert, it's a bit like looking in a mirror. Jilly, her high tone Hull/Southern twang slightly amusing, somewhat less serious than her sister Jen who was also there.

For the foreseeable future I will be repeating the story of my escape for the clutches of Islam on a regular basis. This was no different.

Big Col and his wife Joy came to visit the next day and took me out to brekkers at the Golf club. Colin and Joy you may remember took me out on Sleepy Otter last year. T'were a damn fine bacon butty, Colin. We parted company just before lunchtime and I made my way to London.

It's not a long way but it does seem to never end, but with out the aid of a map I got all the way to Sutton.

So back in the bossom of the family once again! Tales to tell, stories to exaggerate etc etc.

Saturday, 9 September 2006

My Boat

Well there she was resplendent in the morning sunshine. Rocking gently side to side as the workers moved around her interior. Not finished but getting there. Next week is the new projected date…….September 15……I seriously doubt that.

Like Saudis boat builders have no concept of time or urgency. They are on a different time scale to the rest of the world. A day is a week, a week is a month, who knows how it works. What is certain is that builder's time and real time are most definitely not the same. I have no idea why.

Oh well! So how is the boat otherwise? Looking good! The space is much smaller than I envisaged. It is quite difficult to think in terms of narrow when you have a computer screen with in finite possibilities to play with.

For the time being I will settle for one comfortable chair and foot stool. Whilst I managed to fit two in during the drawing stage it might be a little difficult in reality.

The stove is fitted woo hoo! It was done on the morning I arrived more than two weeks after I asked why it wasn't done and was told, "They were going to fit it today, but were called away".

I visited the cratch and smartly banged my head on the ceiling as I passed through the doors, it still hurts. Doh! I will have to learn how not to do that.

I did point out to Keith that they had forgotten to install the coffee cup shelf to the side of the bed to which he said "What?" "It's in the drawings", I said. Quickly the drawings were produced and sure enough there it was. However, seeing the space as it is in reality I said not to bother. I reckon if I reach out to pick up a cup, the outside wall it is so close I just might punch a hole through the side.

Alien abduction

On Thursday evening, aliens removed two parts of Yorkshire. Experimented on them and returned them in the early hours of the morning. The Navigation Public House was spirited away from its canal side location and what is more I believe the locals were in on it. Every one I asked said "it joost 'arf mile dowen rood, ya can't miss it. I did! Many times.

Prior to that I went to Ikea in Leeds, on my return I discovered that Mirfield had completely vanished and not for the first time, it wasn't very apparent when I arrived in the morning. Supposedly the biggest village in the country had been taken away for two periods of several hours while I was searching for it. I was reminded of the story of Brigadoon, only emerging for the mists of time once every hundred years.

Where I lived in Calne there was a sign on the edge of town announcing that you had arrived. Not so in Mirfield, in fact not many road signs (to Mirfield) at all. I think Yorkshire must be a poor county if they can't afford to tell people where they are. Added to that, they have no funding for roundabouts. You cannot say "I will turn round at the next roundabout" because there isn’t any. If you go to places like Aylesbury or Hemmel Hempstead the road network is littered with roundabouts like Polka dots on a bikini, nearly every junction has one, but Yorkshire nah barely an isolated mole on the bum.

If you ever go to Yorkshire never ask a Yorkshire man the way to anywhere. First off for an increasing number of Yorkies, English is their second language and secondly none of them know where they are anyway so can't actually direct you anywhere not even to the curb If you happen to be a Yorkie reading this, and more important from Mirfield the Navigation pub is not on the road just opposite the Swan not even close. It's not even on the same side of the canal. This I know because I am writing this from the Navigation pub.

I feel I shall be forever doomed to wander the Yorkshire dales looking for Mirfield in the mists of time or waiting in Mirfield for my boat so I can get away when the time portal opens.

PS Since when has Larger been £2:50 a pint! Don't these people know I have just left Saudi Arabia minus a good few grand! Do they have no mercy!

On arriving at the Airport

Security at Riyadh airport is not good. By that I mean excessive, over the top. I was stripped of all my hardware and that was just to get to check in my bags, even had to take of my shoes. I was 5 KG over weight at SR 104 a KG it cost me SR 520 in excess. The sh*t of it being that I had already changed my Saudi dosh for Dollars and they wouldn’t take dollars. which meant I had to go back out of the check in to change my dollars back to riyals. Of course I had to go through the same rigmarole to get back in. it took an age to pay and then get my change. Then the clerk forgot to give me my boarding pass so I had to go back yet again. The official at the desk, where I was to hand in my 'get got of jail free card', asked me if I was going to come back again. When I said no he looked hurt. When I said "Not while there was Islam", he looked enraged. Best stop before my parole is revoked.

To get into departures proper more security my boot were beginning to feel like a whores drawers, take 'em off put them on take 'em off put them on. Is there no end to the monotony? I mean lets be serious I do not fit the classic suicide bomber profile. I am 55 overweight and white a far cry from young skinny and arab. Add to that I do not have a god that will tell me it is right to do such things.

I settled down to make a few calls and use up the riyals on my phone before I left. My fight was called and I never heard. Eventually they came to get me I was the last to board. I apologised profusely only to be told it wasn’t my fault the speaker system wasn’t working, O…..K…a…y. On the ramp into the aircraft yet more security. Are these people for real! If I have got this far with a bomb they ain't gonna stop me now. Dumb! Dumb! Dumb!

I barely had time to sit and buckle up when we were being pushed back off the terminal. I observed through the windows as we taxied out and lined up on the piano keys. The engine noise rose to a crescendo and the brakes came off, we lurched forward. While some might tense up when the pilot opens up the engine taps, I felt the weight of the last 4 months enforced 'incarceration' falling from my shoulders. And in that instant when the aircraft comes unstuck from the ground I am thinking of MLK Free at last! Free at last! I'm coming home. I'm Free at last, or words to that effect. Sleep came quickly.

On coming home.

My departure from Riyadh was a strange affair. As is the norm most days we went to dinner at the compound restaurant Jeff Dru and me. Wednesday night was BBQ night. Though we always sat inside this day we ventured outside and sat by the pool with Kevin and Daniel both of whom were well oiled on Sid

Several people stopped by the table to wish me well as the night wore on. It was quite a sad time, three years is a long time and even if you don’t make good friends with all the people you meet you do share something, in our case it was mainly the times when the company didn't pay. So in that we all had some bond. I will never understand Americans as long as I live, but neither shall I forget those that I met out there. Everyone different, everyone a gem in their own way with just one or two exceptions.

Anyway, stupid night that got stupider as time passed. Kevin and Daniel were dressed for dining by the pool and stripped off after eating and took a dip. Dru much the worse for sidiqui and not dressed for the pool stripped and took a dip b*ll*ck naked. Yeah I know we have all done such things, but not in front of Muslims for who it is haram (bad) for a man to see another mans bits. There was Dru in all his new born glory flapping about in the wind, much to the consternation of the waiters who as it would happen were all Muslims. Dru means no harm but he become unnecessarily uninhibited when he has been sucking on a Sid bottle.

My driver was due at 9:30, pm but even so I never left the pool side until ten to nine. When I left I went one way the others went another (to top up on Sid). They re-emerged minutes later at my place wearing a variety of silly hats carrying a variety of Sid containers. I finally finished packing with only 10 minutes to go.

I have never been hugged by so many guys in such a short space of time. It's not my thing, but it was pleasing to know that I had, had some effect on those people during my time in Saudi. Two spams one Welshie, one Aussie/Kiwi and one Sri Lankan who all thought I had done something important for them of which I was unaware. You do what you can when the need arises and it never seems like a great deal at the time, but they will never forget, well not till next week anyway.

Mr Priantha (the Sri Lankan) was a security guard at the other compound D96, when his services were no longer required he bought a car and started taxiing us a round. He now has two vehicles so business is looking up. He is mostly dependent on DIFA guys for his trade and suffers just like us when DIFA is late with our salaries

One guy took my pistol to sell it for me. I had emptied the mag and placed all the shells in a plastic bag which he stuffed down his kecks for safety. The bag split and bullets sprinkled over the floor, a half dozen drunks scrambling around the floor looking for bullets is a strange sight, surreal doesn’t really describe it!

The company driver turned up 20 minutes late and it was only then that I knew for sure that I was coming home. He had my passport and visa. There was a big sigh of relief all round because up until that time though packed and ready to go, there was always the possibility that it would all go down the sh*t shute.

All in all a great bunch of reprobates who have added spice to my life that I will never forget, well certainly until terminal ga-ga sets in and I don’t have the brain capacity to stop myself from pissing my pants, in a few years.

Respect you guys "Nil illigitimus carborundum"

Friday, 8 September 2006

I'm back!

Well after a long flight that was fraught with problems both in Saudi and UK I am at long last in England.

And just to prove I can it will be sunny across the land in honour of my return.

I have, if you have been watching the video, actually stood on my boat. Yay!

It is not finished, but, soon. I will be keeping this up as best I can, but keep the faith it will get back to normal.

Thank you all for your best wishes it has been a boon in the situation I was in. However that is all behind me now so it's on wards and up wards. Catch ya later.

Tuesday, 5 September 2006

And so it ends........

Its just a short step on to the aeroplane early Thursday morning 00:40. I can't help wondering how the company is going to **** it up this time. Touchdown UK 05:30 hop to Manchester 08:00. This whole nightmare will be over.

I can't help, but wonder about the future, though I doubt I will be thinking much about the past.

Autumn on it's way. Muddy towpaths, falling leaves and peace, such peace.

And then there's the boat, is it finished? I don't know, I can't see the chimney yet so I assume no, but I bet when they see my face on Thursday they will wish it was!

It's been a long path to travel. Ho hum!

Oh dear!

I have really started something now. Brother Robert is looking at boats and Kim likes this one. This is nb Dolly

Picture from Kim

Monday, 4 September 2006

The Veg Pledge

What was that they were saying about the Veg Pledge.

Picture from Kim

Cleveland House

Cleveland House on the K&A is really 'on' the K&A. The Georgian house straddles the canal at this point over what is known as Cleveland Tunnel. The house was once the HQ of the K&A Canal Company.

This is one of two tunnels that are placed at the top and bottom (North and South) of Sydney Gardens, which houses the Holburne of Menstrie Museum. Between the two tunnels are two cast iron Foot bridges built in 1800, one of which can be seen in the picture (187), the other slightly less ornate (186).

Picture by Kim

Two Cows

Kim has been out on the canal again this week with Jim and sends me these taken between Bathampton and Bath.
One Brown

One moody

Pictures by Kim

Ooooo Stinky

I knew that pump outs were going up in price, but along the K&A between Bathampton and Bath the price is a little too high me thinks. Is £15 a good price? Obviously the 'blue' isn't expensive because a second toilet gets done for a fiver. I wonder how that works? Do you turn up with ya mate and both get sucked out at the same time or what? Colonic irrigation for boaters.

Picture by Kim

And in case you didn't notice a £2 charge for water to.

Sunday, 3 September 2006


Hold on a minute. British Waterways bear the cost of prosecuting non-licence payers and other offences against the by-laws. The fines then go into the government coffers.

So BW are paying to give money to the government.

Once more I find myself exclaiming in my best Victor Meldrew voice.

"I don't beli-e-e-eve it!"


In the hope that I may go home shortly I need to top up my UK O2 phone so I can make calls in the UK when I land. I have been on the O2 web site for over an hour and I still haven't managed to top up my phone. Now I know I am not the brightest tool in cyberworld but I can usually get what I want relatively easily. So why is O2 so bloody impossible.

O2 must be the worst site after B&Q in the universe.

Let me give you an example:

Pre Register
Mobile Number: Please enter your mobile number and click continue. We will then instantly SMS you a code to use for registration. You can register any mobile phone for any network.

You are then given 3 options

1. Continue 2. Exit 3. I don't have a phone

I don't beli-e-e-eve it. I don't have a phone are they bloody stupid or what. (said in my best Victor Meldrew voice).

Anyway I get registered then try to top up.

Web & Mobile Top-Up - Error You are not registered for Web & Mobile Top-Up.

Oh B*ll*x

So I try 'contact us' to send them an email and ask why? I get:

Unfortunately the server couldn't find the page you requested, either because it is temporarily unavailable, has had its name changed or no longer exists.
This might be because: You may have typed the web address incorrectly. Please check the address and spelling ensuring that it does not contain capital letters or spaces;

Two things come immediately to mind

1. I clicked on their link so it's not me.
2. Since when did urls not accept capitals.

The first thing I am going to do when I get home is get another sim card. And O2 ..........FU

I give up I am off to bed.

Saturday, 2 September 2006

Friday, 1 September 2006

Congratulations Paul Balmer

Paul announced to the boating world on his blog today.

The big day has arrived for us to reveal that we have just signed the contract with Stephen Goldsbrough Boats to build our narrowboat at their Fenny Compton Base on the Southern Oxford Canal. We are looking forward to working with the team there. It will be a 58-foot narrowboat with a semi-trad stern using a Reeves hull. We will reveal more details and some of the special features as time goes on and there will be regular updates with photos during the build.


An old school friend sent me this gem from a newspaper.
You just have to laugh.

Thanks to John C


Poor old Andrew Denny on Granny Buttons is having trouble with his RSSfeeds. Seems a rogue installed program is the cause of the problem. Computers are strange things just when you are getting comfortable with your set up something changes.

Mine seems to change everyday now, nothing is ever the same two days in a row. I could opt for a restore back to a day when I was reasonably happy with the set up, but why should I, I don't ask it to change. I would like it to be the way it was the day I bought it, but it ain't like that's ever going to happen.

For all the years we have had computers I really don't think the hardware and soft ware producers have properly addressed the problems we have before going on to the next thing. I think the race for the top spot is clouding the issues. It must be time for producers to stop going forward, take stock of where they are and make sure the products they are selling are the absolute best they can be.

Now we have computers those that have embraced the technology will probably not be able to do without them, but they would have less stress in their lives if what they had was 'fit for it's intended purpose'. That purpose is not always what the producer wants it to be. I am sure if the continuance of Bill Gates life depended on Windows working with out a hitch we would have a perfect program, but it's not. And because Bills life is not dependent on the totally flawless operation of Windows so we have to make do with second best.

The problems I experience with Windows are boringly repetitive. Very annoying and more important avoidable. XP is not the be all and end all of front ends it never was and never will be, but the next generation of Windows is already on its way.

This is a money driven system. People will always want the latest version of Windows in the hope that Billy's boys have at long last got it right. Sadly, they will be mistaken.

Calne Wiltshire

If you have never been there Calne was, and still is, a bustling town in Wiltshire situated on the A4 between Marlbourgh and Chippenham. Nearly everyone was employed by or because of the Harris' pork products factory that dominated the centre of the town for over 100 years. It's closure in 1983 took the fighting spirit out of the town. I decided I want to live there in 1980 when on a motorcycle tour of the west of England. When I finally moved there in 1994 it was still reeling from the effects of the closure.

It took a long time to replace the factory which was demolished in 1984, a huge open grassed area taking its place for many, many years before the local authorities got their act together and came up with a plan. But even then the plan was dogged with problems. Old workings of the factory had not been properly removed by the demolition contractors. Bats under the road bridge and a few more beside.

The major work was eventually completed while I was away in the middle east on my first adventure, the end result was very good. A state of the art library, shops and flats fronted the once open space and the river had been returned to it original winding course forming the 'beach' in the centre of town.

The Calne Arm of the Wilts and Berks Canal suffered at the hands of the Railways as did so many canals. During my time as a resident of Calne I often wondered if the canal would ever be re-opened.

The lock was always clearly visible and is now being reconstructed with the help of the WRG to include new gates to show that part of the town's history. The map at the website indicates a new lift bridge whether this indicates new as in now or new as in the last 100 years I am not sure.

Calne is a nice place. It certainly doesn't deserve its entry in some sites as a place to leave. I have many good friends in Calne and miss just being there.

Castlefields Canal and River Park Association.

Noah's Ark

Once we have decided what it is we want to do in life we set about doing it. It really matters not how much effort we put in to that which we do, our success depends on people whose faces we never see. However hard we work, however hard we try if someone in a higher place doesn't want us to succeed we wont, be it a council, a manager at work or a corporate bully.

And so it is with a family who at one time used to live on the MV Picton. Vince Shalom his wife and five daughters were, through no fault of their own, evicted from their marina. Their boat/home/possessions and even the childrens toys and pet goldfish were taken to a place for disposal. As far as I know it is still there.

So why was this allowed to happen? Quite simply, I think, the boat didn't fit in with the 'image' of the new marina. It wasn't a nice shiney plastic tub. It was a rebuilt boat that Vince turned into a home for his wife and family. Once an old hulk, a then much younger Vince and his wife converted it into a rather unusual house boat. Vince's problem was he dared to be different.

The then owners (of the marina), Crest Nicholson PLC appear to have made it difficult for the Shaloms to stay. Vince says that Crest Nicholson damaged his boat on purpose then refused to allow him to use the marina slipway to carry out repairs.

With the boat being damaged it was impossible to get it re-insured and that broke the conditions of the mooring permit. The MV Picton had to go. A court case ensued and Vince lost.

It stinks, we know it stinks, but as Vince said himself would seem, that the side with the most money, privilege and influence, gets the 'winning' result, Justice of the wallet!

Welcome to the real world Vince.

Had Crest Nicholson allowed the boat to be hauled out and repaired the boat would then have been insureable and so not in contravention of the mooring agreement. I smell a big dung pile here. The MV Picton was-is a great boat if a little unusual. Shame on Crest Nicholson for such petty minded shinanigans.

I am appalled that this can happen in this day and age. When I started writing this I had planned to finish with "it's happened, get over it, move on", but then why the bloody hell should he? Vince Shalom has invested a lot of time an money in that boat. Corporate thugs have engineered the theft of his home. They should be made to pay.

One last thing, an ex-manager of the Penarth Marina left there to work for our own British Waterways. Watch your back fellow boaters.