Life, photos but not the universe

wildlife – water

We saw quite a lot of both. I shall now spend several hours tagging all the photos of  wild and domestic life that I took.  By the end of the holiday, even I was saying – “Oh.  Another heron.  Er, yes, good”

It may take a while – here’s a few. There were some pretty seabirds which I thought were either terns or petrels – haven’t identified them yet but I think they were common Terns – also known as sea swallows – very apt.

Heron landing in a garden



(for Mel)

Not sure – an immature Teal?

Swan and cygnets

A whole gulp of cormorants (or a flight if you prefer).  I always used to think Cormorants were seabirds but they seem to be everywhere these days.  Certainly, like Herons, they’re all over the Thames – its a wonder there are any fish at all.

I really did take too many pics this time.  It’s getting so that every time I sit down in front of the computer, my legs and back start twitching and I have to get up again.  Which I shall do now!

Sleep well all, it’s 0009 of the clock and I hope all’s well.

June 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Flood, Fire and Dog Overboard

For most of our holiday The First Mate, Ships dog and Captain, got up between six and seven every morning and with various bangings and crashings, engine/pump noises and cups of tea, gradually woke the rest of the crew until everyone was up.  After which, we cruised peacefully along the Thames, the Oxford Canal, the Grand Onion (Union), The Regents Canal more Thames (of various widths and water directions) and all was peaceful and occasionally industrious.  (Not especially interesting links – just fyi –  except the first Thames link which has some interesting history and some nice quotes and old photos)


~On the the seventh day there was flood

~On the tenth day there was fire

~On the thirteenth day there was a dog dangling overboard

But the Captain’s wife mopped up the flood,  the First Mate put out the fire and the Second Mate rescued the dog single handed while steering with the other and all was well.

Most of the time we just glided along with a few bumps and thumps and sudden lurches. But there was a moment when, walking down the corridor I noticed a little water running along with me.  “Odd”, I thought, “usually that’s outside”.  so I followed it to its source and it turned out to be overflowing from the loo.  It seems that the flush didn’t always reliably turn itself off.  It only took an hour or two and a lot of mopping to find all the places the water had crept into and after that somebody had to watch the loo whenever it had been flushed to make sure it didn’t try to sink us again.

Maybe it was a little amazing that six adults and one dog could so often roll up the kitchen roll, next to the gas cooker, grumbling that it was a nuisance when it got loose and flapped about (well I exonerate the dog – he didn’t actully do any of that), without ever thinking “it’s crazy having the kitchen roll next to the gas cooker”.  So then as Wendy was alone in the kitchen she heard an unusual noise and looked round to see flames licking the paper and the wall – well, roaring a bit actually.  She screamed loudly and repeatedly and frantically searched for something with which to put it out and the following things happened.  Captain looked down from the tiller and saw the flames and put the boat in reverse (not quite as as silly as it sounds because it takes a good fifteen or twenty seconds to stop a seventy foot narrowboat and while a sinking would put out the fire it would also add to the problems of survival).  I suddenly heard the urgency coming from the kitchen and rushed a bit and like Wendy, looked around for the nearest fire extinguishing object.  Second Mate rushed in and started unwinding an uncooperative fire blanket and then First Mate came through like a thunderbolt, grabbed a fire extinguisher and with one blast,  extinguished the fire (and most of the kitchen too).  Then added a second blast for good measure.  An enormous amount of black smoke and dust billowed everywhere.  Realising that things were happening too fast for an aged ship’s dog to cope, I hauled dog out to join the Captain and watched, through the black clouds, as the people inside milled around a bit, investigating the copious amounts of extinguishing powder that now coated everything in the kitchen.  And I mean Everything!  You might have noticed that only two of the aforementioned six adults actually seemed to know where to  find a fire extinguishing appliance.  Well even at our age, life is full of useful lessons.

Anyway, that was  the (only) day I did some locking.  (while the entire kitchen/bedroom and all the contents therein were being washed and wiped)  It happened to be the day that the lock gates, paddle gear and nice black and white markings on the ground had all been freshly repainted.  Yes, they were all still wet.

Then there was the morning when, noticing an unusual amount of dog and human comment from the back, we witnessed the dangling dog, over the side, in a lock.  Thinking that at last the people were going to let him on shore for a pee (the Thames locks were very high sided and very far apart and the only times the dog managed to get off was when we stopped for water or shopping) he’d made a leap.  The imagination part was good but the realisation – and the dog – fell short.  Second Mate, heroically hauled him back in with one hand while simultaneously keeping the boat in place with the other (quite a demanding task in big locks where the water rushes in powerfully and tightly held lines to the shore and continuous back and forwards throttle are needed to stop the boat being tossed around).  Dog, quite unaware that the uncomfortable few minutes might have been his last (since if he’d fallen in, crushing between boat and lock walls, drowning in the undertow or being mangled by the propeller were all highly likely) whinged about not getting his pee stop and panted a lot.

Never say life on the water is dull.

Though on our first few days, the weather was.

But we did see a heron, fed up with standing in the wind, no doubt

Second day, it tried to cheer up a bit but mostly only succeeded in raining on us!

But we wouldn’t have missed Steve’s dayglo anorak for the world

And the Californian poppies dimly remember the sun

which was waiting, somewhat uncertainly, the other side of the bridge

Ah well!  Back to the washing : }

(But hey, it’s WONDERFUL today : )  Hope it is for you too.

June 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

There’s no place like a boat

After the overall peace and quietness of life on the waterways (the Tidal bit with all its noise and excitement took a grand total of three hours out of the two weeks we were away) it’s always a bit of a shock to get in a car and drive along roads.  For one thing you have to stay on the left!   Lorries seem to make enough noise and vibration to bring down large buildings and other traffic seems to be astonishingly small and quick and zig zaggy – as indeed does our car.  Then there’s the Herculean task of unloading the car, particularly exasperating as only an hour earlier there had been the equally Herculean task of getting it all out of the boat and into the car (and very quickly too as the boat has t be returned, empty and clean, by 9.30 am) .  All that stuff, spread out, gathered, compressed, unloaded and spread out again, then compacted into little spaces in the boat before being further compressed back into bags and then positively crushed into the car before arriving home and exploding all over the house.  All this to the gentle accompaniment of rocking sensations, completely appropriate while you’re on board but increasingly disconcerting when you get onto dry land – say, for a few drinks at the pub 100 yards along the narrow towpath or to teeter along lock gates – or to stagger up and down stairs (another forgotten sensation!) loaded with stuff!

Still, on the plus side of returning, it’s truly wonderful to be able to use a regular walk-in loo – as opposed to sidle in, balance and perch before falling out again.  (regular use of a ship’s loo would be good training for a magician’s assistant I reckon).   It’s lovely to have a shower in which you can stand upright.  It’s wonderful to have a bed wide and long enough to accommodate the whole of two people together at once with no bits sticking out or wedged against bits of boat.  Lovely not to have to dismantle the whole bed every morning and then reassemble it before you can sleep in it.  Also very nice not living in a constant list to the side or sleeping on a slope.  The house, of course, rarely makes a sudden loud crashing noise followed by a bump and a lurch which tips you neatly into the shower, or onto the floor or up the corridor at unsuitable speed.  And although at home you don’t see a heron or a cormorant round every bend, when I took the dog up the road in the evening, I did see a barn owl, flitting its twisty way across the field like a giant, white moth – silent and swift in the dusk.

Not quite so nice is a letter telling us that our water supply has been tested by the Environment Agency and found wanting.  Suggest we boil our drinking and eating water until it’s confirmed ok again.  Hmm.  I wonder how many people know that to adequately sterilise drinking water it has to be boiled steadily for 10 minutes.

I am working my way through photos.  It’s taking a while but I’m not saying how many – you can’t make me.  I could say too many to count?

Here are some.

Hanging from the bridge arch, in accordance with the Port of London Authority rules – I kid you not – a bale of hay. Really.   This is to indicate that the headroom is reduced but still navigable with care.

Big Ben – couldn’t miss this one : )  With a bit of Westminster Bridge.

Westminster Bridge (with people : )

St Paul’s, hiding behind the Millennium Footbridge.

Two bridges.  They came thick and fast these bridges – I lost track very quickly and I have no idea which ones these were!

But this one I recognise.  Also it was the first one we came to.  The approach seems a little cluttered!

And so does the other side.  The two little boats just going through on the right are the two who left Limehouse Lock with us.

Blimey!  Is that two battleships I see waiting for us?

No, it was ok, they were anchored and we shot past without disturbing them at all keeping prudently to the (ahem) ‘starboard’ side.

Anyway, got to do some mounds of washing now.  About two weeks worth as washing facilities on the boat were small and on land, non-existent.  (We could have found a launderette or two but we had an important appointment with the tide so we didn’t spend much daytime on land)

June 25, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Returned from the Big River : )

Yay!  We made it.

After a long and gently winding route through bits of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, other shires and London, we, along with two other narrow boats, were eased gently out of Limehouse Lock into the hurtling tides of the Thames.  (A champagne cork rather than a melon seed style of exit).

(Look look!  There’s us in Limehouse Lock!!)

We hurtled.  Also we went up and down a lot.  Famous sights and fabulous views (and, yes, one, or should I say two, of those was/were indeed the lovely ILTV and her very nattily dressed Teen*)

rushed past in all directions and so did enormous vessels and little vessels and lots and  lots of water.  Bridges loomed and overwhelmed and vanished astern.  The other two boats looked like matchbox toys bobbing up and down far ahead of us.  (So I imagine we also looked like matchbox toys.  Certainly we felt like one.)

We all wore enormous orange lifejackets  (even the dog who made the trip lying on the stern deck looking interestedly round him in a vague and puzzled way) which made individual manouvering extremely difficult and at the back of the boat, the VHF radio, dangling from a hook, told us a wealth of fascinating information about vessel movements up and down the river.  We saw the lights above the bridge arches to tell us which arch to go through and the marker  buoys alongside the Houses of Parliament warning us not to go too close or we’d be torpedoed

and ooh, lots and lots of stuff.  We thought, possibly, we were doing about eight miles an hour – I know it should have been knots but no one knew precisely how to calculate those and on the canals you don’t travel at knots but miles.  And speaking of ups and downs, when those of us at the front of the boat looked at them on the back, it was quite alarming how much they seemed to be going up and down.  Apparently, from the back, the steerers couldn’t tell how far down the front was going (It’s a sixty-nine foot boat) and for a while they were quite anxious about whether the HUGE wakes we were bouncing over might swallow up the front before they could see it happening).  There were HUGE wakes : )  And big splashes along our little blunt bows.

Sadly we didn’t see any of the giant refuse barges or any giant container boats.  Nor were we boarded by the river police.  We passed an awful lot of picture postcard views and, well, it was all quite enormously exciting : )  And we didn’t get to use the anchor (though there was a hat overboard but it sank too quickly to be saved).

I won’t tell you now, about the flood, the fire or the dog overboard.  Got to keep some of the excitement for another time.  Also, I now have to download about 5 or 6 thousand photos and see if I can find any that will be interesting!

Keeping an Eye on the Aquarium

And I should probably mention that I missed you all LOTS and LOTS!!  And it’s so nice to be back even though it was really fun.


More tomorrow – ‘Night

*Not that we could exactly see from the far side of the river but as you will have notice from the photo, they were extremely smart, small, blurry, distant blobs – What do you mean you can’t see them?)

June 23, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

gone but not for ever

I am resting with a cup of coffee and a cig after a wrestling match with parts of my body that even heineken might have had trouble reaching.  All that needs to be said about them is that they’re a long and tortuous distance from the rest of me and I’d much prefer not to think about them.  I will just say that my shoes now seem to fit better. *Wiping sweat from brow*

Another small task completed in the complex business of preparing for great adventures.  (At least if they have to fish us out of the Thames they won’t now immediately say “Oh what a fat little werewolf they must have been cursed” – just “oh what a fat little woman, no wonder she sank”.  And I’ve also practiced drying my hair without my usual assortment of hairdryery, comby, brushy things as we’ll be dependent on the ships hairdryer.  I ought to have practiced it without a mirror really but hey, it’s the feel of the thing that counts.  Isn’t it?  Yes.

The ship’s dog is following me around anxiously.  I suspect this year he’ll be more of a figurehead than an active member of the crew.  Perhaps we’ll put him in a little sling, slung from the prow because a dog following you around a six foot wide house for any length of time is a terrible thing to contemplate especially with his utterly useless reversing technique.  I hope he never needs one of those dog wheelchair/crutch thingies!  I wonder if they have such things as Stannah dog lifts?  Or if the boat could be fitted with a small hoist?

Anyway, now that I’m groomed (*snigger* ) I’m going to hoover.  For some reason I feel that it will be much easier to pack in a hoovered house.  A curious thing about my hoover (yeah, yeah, vacuum cleaner) is that it is no longer possible to get bags to fit it.  Not currently a problem as you can get multi-fit bags which stick onto the fitting part of the last (proper) hoover bag I used.  This is made of cardboard and as more and more multifit bags have been stuck to it and then replaced, it’s becoming a little tatty.  I realise that the day will come when it disintegrates and then I’ll have to  buy a new hoover.  Talk about disposable!

One of the very useful things about camping the week before a canal holiday is that you’re predisposed to think about rain and water and chill factors even in the sunshine.  So I’ve got a heap of thick wollies, waterproof leggings and sou’westers waiting to go in – something.  Another bag maybe, to add to the five or more that are already full?

I’m sorry, I was going to post some more photos but I seem to be running out of time.

See you soon!

Have a lovely time back here in the virtual home


June 7, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Sewage works

Now that the boiler is fixed and we are having a little summery heat (quite a lot actually), it’s time to consider another important element of any smoothly running household.

As is normal out in the wilds here, we have a septic tank.* And Barney is of the opinion that its pipes are blocked.  So yesterday we had it emptied and today, John arrived with his dumper truck and mini digger to dig out a trench so they can lay a new (plastic) pipe.

Me and the dog had a lovely time investigating these machines and Barney got to drive the dumper truck.

It’s going to be a long, hot, smelly day.

Later, there was some excitement when John and the mini digger nearly fell into the trench.

Definitely not right.

There followed a rescue operation.

(After that I declined to be any where near the trench – I was scared someone might fall in again and I kept the dog indoors under lock and key as well.  And they declined the safety pin I offered them – really, I don’t think they were taking safety seriously enough).

Later still, the trench was finished and the new pipe laid and the drive was still full of shingle.  My car is parked next door so that I can escape as necessary.  (Mainly because there is some serious shopping to be done for the Great Thames Adventure, which begins very soon, and maybe we were going to need some dinner tonight).

It’s been a long hot day, but not as smelly as I thought it would be.

*I’ve always wondered about the derivation of that.  It doesn’t sound even as nice as it is – which isn’t saying a lot.

June 6, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Back again.

Another Bampton weekend has gone by, this time, without storms or gales or flying tents.  Ok, it rained a bit on Saturday (not a problem for me as I had to come home for the night anyway) and again a bit this morning as we packed up but overall, it was dry and there were sunny spells and it was all quite good. Also the coffee shop in Bampton, which opened a couple of years ago is still open and provides an excellent breakfast and delicious coffee. As well as other meals which I’m told are pretty good too.

I’m sorry, I go on about this every year, but there are always moments when you wonder why have you come to this village to sit about in pubs and then trudge around watching men with bells on their legs wave handkies to music, occasionally being rained on and often feeling completely, totally overwhelmingly cold, tired and ready to go home.

And then you see a once-a-year friend and rush over to hug and exchange news and within moments you are hugging the whole family, some of whom have grown so much in the preceding year that you don’t recognise them and being introduced to new girlfriends, boyfriends or  babies.  Proudly saying look there’s Youngest and her family over there, cheerily passing them on to another of our group (which is, for the most part, also a once a year meeting).

Soon after that you find yourself deep in conversation with someone you’ve seen here for years and never got round to meeting properly and you know, for sure, this will be a firm friend, next year.

Then the musicians get sat around in their corner (usually up to twenty or thirty) and everyone squeezes in to nowhere near enough space and you go into a kind of hazy trance listening to old songs and tunes and noticing the appearance of new musicians (Oooh the harp was nice – heaven only knows how she managed to squeeze herself in) missing people who haven’t made it this year, (Norma’s been ill, Liza’s pregnant, Nick’s helping a friend move house).  Later (much later) people gradually set off back to homes or campsite and next morning Barney, Claire and Jenny cook breakfast for anything from fifteen to twenty five on a rickety assortment of camping stoves.

And yeah, the dancing is quite good really.  When you notice the new kids who have made the team this year and you notice how much some of the other youngsters have improved and some of the older guys are struggling a bit and you wonder how many more years they will be able to dance and yet, together, they create a very relaxed, coherent and disciplined effect – not at all like the slightly limp and almost apologetic dancing you sometimes see in revival teams.

So then it was time for packing up and saying goodbye and we came home and set up all the tents on the lawn to dry and washed down all the cookers and tables and gear.  And, curiously, this year, hung the beanstalk on the washing line.  (This was Barney’s idea.  For those of you who don’t camp, a beanstalk is a metal thing that unfolds and clips together into three shelves on top of which a camping cooker fits perfectly).  It’s an awkward and cranky thing until it’s up and the unfolding and folding of it involves many bitten fingers and curses and it does look very odd on a washing line.  (Sorry, it was folded away before I got to it with the camera : )

Anyway, it’s nice to be home : )

And it was nice to be there

Reg playing for the practice.

Ah well.  I’m rambling.  Got to go to bed now : )

June 4, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments