Sunday, 18 September 2016

Holiday cakes

It's a bit of a tradition in our office to bring back edible treats from one's holiday. This we have enjoyed, this year, salted liquorice from Denmark, 'wine biscuits' from Greece, chocolately Frenck biscuits and a variety of fudge and shortbread from those holidaying in the UK.

I, on the other hand, would normally bring back pork scratchings (not universally popular) or Staffordshire oatcakes which, with the best will in the world, unless expertly handled and filled with something greasy and tasty, bear too close a resemblance to damp cardboard to really be considered a treat. But at least the Black Country has regional delicacies. I was completely stumped as to what I could possibly supply that would be redolent of Woking.

A quick Google, spreading the net a little wider to encompass the whole of Surrey, however, provided inspiration, in the form of Maids of Honour, also known as Richmond Maids of Honour, reputedly enjoyed by Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn at Richmond Palace and Hampton Court. Well, we boated past Hampton Court, and here we are going under Richmond Bridge, 
Photo: Pete Boyce
so that is the treat I am taking in tomorrow to help keep people's strength up as the new cohort of students arrives.

There are lots of different recipes (and different stories) but I plumped for this one from Clarissa Dickson Wright, although I used shredless marmalade as I couldn't get quince jelly. The pastry is absolutely sublime - I shall be using it for my mince pies this year. Now all I have to do is get them to the office without crumbling.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Crochet progress

Having successfully managed something approximating to a square with one colour, chunky wool and a big hook, I went out and bought some DK in three different coulors, and settled down with a 4mm hook. So far I have made three tri-coloured squares, each neater - but also smaller - than the last. That's the first one at the top, the second on the left and the last on the right, but the perspective's a bit squiffy. If I can stop the increasing tension here, that will be perfect, as the last square is bang on 6". That means I will need 72 of them to make a blanked to cover the top of the crossbed (or go under the mattress). The current plan is to stick with just these two designs of square, and join them with cream, although that might alter.

So, crochet away!

Monday, 12 September 2016

A weekend in Woking

Here are a few photos to give an impression of the Woking gathering

A long plank was vital...
Handrails optional..

Sunday, 11 September 2016



After decades of failure and frustration, I can crochet.

With the invaluable help of How to Crochet: A Complete Guide for Absolute Beginners by Alison McNicol, the encouragement of Cath Fincher, and a great deal of brow-furrowing and trial and error.

My project this winter is a cross bed blanket. I feel I am now sufficiently competent that I can go and buy the wool.

Saturday, 10 September 2016


And how.

One of the high spots of the rally weekend - certainly judging by the number of photographers present - was the loading of a considerable quantity (my memory for figures lets me down here as usual but it was somewhere between four and eight tons) of timber into Renfrew. And not the sort of timber you get in Travis Perkins; no this was entire oak trees, cut into 2, 3 and 4 inch thick planks.

Pete, seen here inspecting - or possibly simply appreciating - his purchases, is in the process of restoring, among other wooden narrow boats, Lucy. Lucy was the last boat built by Nursers at Braunston, for Barlows. Lucy was sold on to Blue Line in the 1960s and was paired with Renfrew, and they were on the 'Jam 'Ole' - generally recognised as being the very last regular long distance carrying contract, which ended in 1970. The wood will be seasoned for a couple of years before being used - but the goal is to have Lucy ready for the fiftieth Jam 'Ole anniversary.

Fittingly, the loading took place at the site of a former timber wharf, although the consignment arrived by lorry to what was now a towpathside playground. Very impressively, the hiab was operated via a wireless remote control unit worn over the driver's shoulder - you can just see it here - he's the (terribly young looking) chap on the right.
Pete had to do endless risk assessments etc. before the council would let him load there, hence the hard hats and hi-vis jackets. There was also miles of plastic tape keeping us at a safe distance. Meanwhile the hiab operator and his helpers didn't have to bother with any of that.

Andrew from the Narrow Boat Trust made this video of the operation:

While this was going on - which was on the Saturday morning - Sue from HNBC must have been doing her rounds of the boats at the rally site, because although there's an article with photos about the loading, Renfrew wasn't on the list of those boats present.

Once all the planks were in, Renfrew's crossplanks and chains were replaced, leading a passer by to ask, a few days later, how the timber had been got underneath them. He almost convinced himself that it had.

Friday, 9 September 2016

The Patent Droitwich Funnel

Or, Jim's moment of glory.

Back in 2012, when HNBC had its Easter gathering at Droitwich, we (for Jim and I were both on the committee at the time) had to make a number of arrangements, including providing elsan emptying facilities. So a holding tank was ordered and set up. However, it was found that the hole in the top of the tank was rather small, and the top of the tank itself a bit high off the ground, to make the task of emptying one's receptacle easy or convenient - especially for those who favour the more traditional design of engine 'ole facility. Jim's contribution - welcomed by a grateful multitude - was to find a traffic cone and cut the top end off to make a giant funnel. A ladder was also procured, and while emptying the bog was still quite difficult, it was no longer as risky.

Imagine my delight, then, to see the the Patent Droitwich Funnel was once again being deployed at Woking.

The appalling photo quality is because I took it on my phone. From a safe distance.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Gauging interest

On Friday August 5th we finally progressed onto the Basingstoke Canal. In this photo, taken by Jim of the Narrow Boat Trust, you can see the gauge that was used to ensure that boats would be able to get over the delicate wooden cill of the bottom lock.

It's simple and ingenious - sunk beneath the surface of the water is a metal frame, constructed to the same depth as the cill. The white floats support its top level with the water surface. The boat goes over the gauge, and if it's too deep, it will pull the floats down below the surface. As far as I know, all the boats which came through got over it successfully - although the NBT might have had to offload some coal first.

Volunteers from the Basingstoke Canal Society, working in conjunction with the Basingstoke Canal Authority, organised things and helped us up the first lock. We then had another five locks to ascend, in partnership with another boat that we'd been paired up with. This would have been an easier task if not for the fact that the boats going up ahead of us were leaving the top gates open behind them. I was not impressed, but typically only moaned to third parties rather than the people actually responsible. I did hear one of them say later that they thought it would be OK because they thought the NBT were behind them!

To get to our festival mooring, first of all we had to go and wind. This proved interesting. The history of ownership of the Basingstoke Canal is to say the least interesting (as we discovered at a quite entertaining talk on the first evening) and there are parts of it where the BCA does not own the bank. This includes the winding hole. A housing estate has been built on the bank here and the developers have taken the gardens right up to the edge of the water, with residents' plant pots overhanging. In addition, the winding hole has not been very well designed, with the protective timber baulking at the wrong height.

Knowing nothing of this, we toodled up, and (fortunately) winded very slowly and gently, putting the stempost into the bank as usual, and managing for once to do it very gently. We noticed the residents watching us, and one of them was on the phone, but we thought nothing of it. Until, that it, we got back and tied up and found that the BCA had been phoning other boaters who had winded earlier, telling them that there had been complaints and that they had damaged the winding hole. This was roundly denied by all concerned. I also got a phone call, but I didn't answer it. There was an email waiting for me when I got home, but by then it had blown over. At the time though there was a lot of fuss, with the BCA wanting to give our details to the residents (we refused) and muttering about insurance claims and demanding apologies. I think they simply had never seen the winding hole used by a full length boat before.

The HNBC Chair, Phil, smoothed things over far more diplomatically than I would have done, and one upshot was that any boats using the winding hole in future had to deploy a man on the bank dangling a tyre on a rope to protect its delicate fabric from those nasty historic fore ends.