Saturday, 8 October 2016

Resurrecting the Town Class Sticker Album

More recent readers may not know about the Town Class Sticker Album - my repository, begun more than six years ago, for collecting photos of all the GU 'Town Class' motor boats.

It fell into disuse for a long time because I somehow came to believe that I had forgotten the password for it. But it's on the same account as this blog! So I am a fool. Glancing down it, there are photos of boats that I haven't seen for years (so lucky I grabbed them when I did) and so many missing ones that I could so easily have added - Aber, Alton, Aldgate, Banstead, Birmingham, Letchworth, Nuneaton, Renfrew... all of which I've seen up close in the past year; some of which I do have photos of. Then there are others where I could add more recent photos.

What sent me back to it today was a most unexpected find - well, I certainly didn't expect to find a large Northwich on the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal, but coming back from doing the Five Weirs Walk this afternoon, there it was - Naburn. Cut down a bit, of course, and apparently still a BW CRT workboat.

I shall now gradually set about tracking down photos taken in the last few years and uploading them to the album, and then we'll have a better idea of how many I've still to see.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Feeling detached

I finally got around to it! Having boated (in Warrior) all the way up the Chesterfield Canal from West Stockwith to Kiveton Part, and in Chertsey as far as Morse Lock, on Sunday we finally took a trip on the detached part of the canal, from Chesterfield itself.

It was a two hour trip - an hour out and an hour back - taking in three locks, on the Chesterfield Canal Trust's new trip boat John Varley II.

The section of the canal we travelled was largely rural, and to be honest, fairly devoid of any interest other than the fact of its restoration - but that is pretty amazing. It was very pleasant, particularly as we were two of only four passengers, the others being a very knowledgeable man and his grandson. Our numbers were equalled by those of the crew - a steerer,  a hostess and two lockpeople, one of whom was ninety. The volunteers seem to work incredibly hard, equivalent to a full time job in some cases.

My photos are rather disappointing - I put the longer lens on this time and a lot of them are a bit shaky. But here is a small taste.

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.