Saturday, 1 November 2008

Gecko has landed

We are now in Aylesbury Basin until the end of March 2009
During the winter I shall be posting the entries I did not get round to doing during the season.
So keep logging on for


The Ones that Got Away

Saturday, 20 September 2008

I Told You So!
The HSE are investigating an accident where a boater was injured after tripping over one of the new lockisde bollards on the Wolverhampton 21.

BW have also admitted that installing these unnecessary bollards has cost £1,750,000

They have also admitted that the reason stated for installing all these bollards - to prevent inexperienced boaters from getting caught on the cills - was rated as LOW RISK by their risk assessment.

Friday, 19 September 2008

How not to spend our money - 4



Before the two men added the plate 5D to this sign it read 5Days max


This was larger and clearer than the jumble achieved.

BW are continually complaining about their shortage of cash.
I think their real problem is a shortage of brain cells.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

How not to spend our money - 3
Dear BW
I feel I must commend the dedication of your H&S team. They have obviously been working very hard fitting notices on all the lock gates warning me to keep my boat forward of the cill. It is a shame that they had overlooked the requirement for planning permission to affix such notices to listed structures but hey-ho!
At least they will be be really slick by the time they have removed these and re- applied them after planning permission has been granted.
It was especially keen of them to include all the locks on the Grantham Canal which, being derelict, is unlikely to have boats on for some decades, but hey-ho!




This eye to the future is also apparent in the project to fit three totally unnecessary bollards to each lock in the country. When they are installed I am sure that a risk assessment will confirm them as a trip hazard requiring warning signs to be fitted to each bollard. Hey-ho!

Monday, 25 August 2008

Time to make Sunday More Special
Fourteen years ago today the supermarkets like Tesco which had been flouting the Shops Act conditions relating to trading on Sundays won a victory for bully-boy tactics. Since that date the Sunday Trading Act has permitted stores of more than 3000 sq ft to sell anything they chose for six hours between 10am and 6pm. This change was opposed at the time by Waitrose, M&S and House of Fraser amongst others The argument which won the day was that with so many women working the opportunity to buy groceries needed to be expanded.
However, in most of the country it is now possible to shop in a supermarket for 24 hours in the day so why do we need supermarkets open on Sundays at all? Surely the likes of Tesco have shot a hole in their own argument.
I think it is time to claim back Sunday as a day for relaxation and contemplation by repealing the Sunday Trading Act 1994. Perhaps Tesco would like to take the initiative and start closing their shops on Sundays. If they also restricted the sale of Hot Cross Buns to the appropriate time of the year they might reverse another attack on the British way of life.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Waste not: want not
I remember the 1970s as a period of considerable change. For half the decade I was working in the food industry and witnessed the introduction of bar codes and best-before marking of foods. I think it was also around this time that the Financial Times effectively destroyed the British Billion. It is easy to upset an American by pointing out that whilst his ego may be bigger than ours, his gallon and ton are smaller. In truth so is his billion. A British billion is one million million ie: 1.000.000.000.000 the US billion is only really one thousand million - 1,000,000,000. But somewhere around this time the FT decided to use the US billion and so it has been adopted by everyone.
The introduction of bar codes and best-before dates have had a greater impact of British consumers. At the time I had a letter published in The Grocer pointing out the potential pitfalls of not marking individual products with prices and relying on computerised tills to charge the correct price. We always check our supermarket bills and this year two out of every three have been incorrect. If this is extrapolated over the country there should be considerable cause for concern. Because we shop frequently our bills are generally small but it is not uncommon to see people spending hundreds of pounds on a Friday evening and not even taking the receipt with them. Given this attitude by consumers it is not surprising that last year Tesco was the first UK retailer to report profits of over £2 billion (US)
Whilst the four largest supermarket chains amassed profits approaching £4 billion (US) last year UK consumers managed to discard more than twice that value of food unnecessarily. Yes, we- no, you - discarded 3.6million tons of food - 60% of which was untouched and ten percent of which was still in date. This represented 18% of all the food you purchased. Families with children discarded 27% of the food they purchased. When I was a child we had a larder and threw away no food. We now have a refrigerator in which we are encouraged by manufacturers to store such things as jam, pickles and mustard. Surely pickling is a method of preservation? In 1976 Green Giant decided to introduce best before dates on canned sweetcorn. To my request for guidance on the appropriate period to declare I was advised by those in the know in USA that there would be no noticeable deterioration of the product in less than six years. This was unacceptable to the marketing department in UK "the consumer will be suspicious of dates so far out" Consequently the period applied was shortened to two years. Best before dates are even printed on honey jars and honey cannot go off!
Are you convinced that change is always for the better?

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Glad News: Sad News
You may recall that at this point last year the blog ceased for some months. This was due to the arrival of our first grandson which threw our lives into disarray.

He is one year old today! And we have been up to Colne for his birthday party which included another amazing cake made and decorated by his mum.
Whilst out and about in Colne we bought some nosh at a local bakers and discovered that there is a confection called a Sad Cake which looks like a derivation of the Banbury / Eccles cake. It is, however, much thinner and the currants are incorporated into the short pastry rather than enclosed together like a pie.





This is definitely a GLAD cake










Will the blog survive or will it disappear until next March?................

Friday, 18 July 2008

Banbury v Eccles
Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross
To see a fine lady on a white horse
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes

She shall have music wherever she goes


That's how I remember the nursery rhyme
However I recently came across a very different version:

Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross,
To see what Tommy will buy.

A little white loaf and a little white cake,

And a tuppeny apple pie

But what is a Banbury cake? Isn't it just an elliptical Eccles cake ?
That is a dangerous question to put voice to in Oxfordshire. There are (apparently) well documented references to the Banbury cake two centuries before the suburb of Manchester put its name to the Eccles cake. When they are full of currants, as I believe they should be, I am partial to either offering. The travesty which most bakers produce is hardly worth the effort of making. For the original recipe (take four pounds of currants.....) go to http://www.katjaorlova.com/Banbury.htm

I found it difficult tracking down a shop in Banbury where I could buy an authentic Banbury cake.



Somehow I don't think the cake referred to on this building was quite what I was looking for.



Unfortunately in the canal world Banbury is more famous for its reputation in the 1980s of being the place to avoid mooring if you were not looking for a fight. We have been reminded of this recently by two incidents of boaters being assaulted on their boats whilst moored in the town centre.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

You Can't Trust Numbers
On the way from Coventry to Sutton's Stop there has been considerably development over the past 20 years including a giant Tesco store and the Ricoh Stadium which I understand is something to do with a game called football. There is also a terrace of houses which proclaim themselves a "Eco Houses" Apart from the very large letter E on the end of the building and the solar panels on the roof they appear fairly traditional.
When we were at school it was customary to sew name tags into all items of clothing which were considered at risk of being lost. These tags came from a company called Cash. Apparently they were woven in Coventry and alongside the canal there is a terrace of houses called locally Cash's 100. These three-storey buildings comprised accommodation on the lower two floors and weaving rooms on the top floor. All the weaving looms were powered by a single steam engine housed at the end of the terrace, power being transmitted through shafts and pulleys. This project was certainly ambitious as there were only 48 houses built, not 100. Now there are only 37.
Generally bridges over canals are numbered in sequence to aid location of boats in the absence of other landmarks. As rail and road transport developed it has been necessary to add numbers in the sequence, usually by the addition of a letter. This has led to some peculiar sequences when bridges are inserted between those already bearing a suffix. Usually the number plates are in cast iron and painted in white and black.
On this bridge the forge appears to have utilised the top of the number 8 to create a letter a (or is it intended to represent alpha?)
Perh8ps there is 8 short8ge of letters in the Coventry are8.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Sofa, So Good - 2




Please refer to blog entry of
7th May 2007
to appreciate this adornment of the Coventry Canal.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

How not to spend our money - 2
Surveys reveal (don't you love that prelude to unsubstantiated assertions?) that only 5% of visits to the canals involve boating or angling. Actually these figures come from the omnipotent British Waterways to whom I have referred on occasions before.
If you consider that figure coupled with the fact that only boaters and anglers make direct financial contributions to the maintenance of our waterways then I feel qualified to express my views on how BW spends our money.
During our week or so cruising the southern Oxford canal we have been hit only once by an oncoming boat. This is very surprising as there are quite a few boats around and many of them are hire boats which increases the chance of and inexperienced crew. From Braunston Turn to Banbury there is hardly a bridge where the line of sight is not obscured by bushes and other flora. Has anyone at BW ever tried to manoeuvre a 60ft narrow boat safely through a bridge when you have to get 30ft through the bridge before you can see if there is anyone coming the other way?


However, in their infinite wisdom they are installing THREE bollards alongside each lock on this canal. What for? No one will use them. All they are achieving is an increase in trip hazards at what are already the most dangerous places on the canals.

If you don't believe that, take a look at the following photos of recent incidents.






Two into one doesn't go

These boats were jammed in the bridge because of the intransigence of the crews but the same could happen if sight lines are not kept clear.







Friday, 11 July 2008

TBH 871
Ducks, geese, swans, coots and moorhens are our constant companions as we cruise around the English canals. They all have their own peculiarities however: ducks quack all night and wake us up at 4 am by nibbling the weed which attaches itself to the boat below the water line. When we get up, they are fast asleep on the bank, heads tucked away to avoid our angry looks; swans attack the boat when we venture near their nest; Canada geese only appear in multiples of 50; coots are likely to nest in a bush so that if the young do not get the hang of flying on their first attempt they end up in the drink; and moorhens appear to be poor parents, often leaving their young with unhatched eggs whilst they go out on the town. One characteristic all these birds share is that they know boats dispense bread. If a duck glimpses a human face or limb the boat is surrounds by birds of all kinds within minutes. Except on the Coventry canal arm. Whenever we threw food out here the birds flinched and moved away. Whey are the water-birds of Coventry scared of flying food?
It is over 20 years since we have been to Coventry by canal and generally the environment is cleaner and tidier. The canal basin is certainly much smarter. The ring road which runs around the city appears to be effective as we encountered very little traffic as we walked around the city centre. The bus station is well designed and functioned efficiently when we used it and the Transport Museum has been renovated. We visited this late one afternoon but had missed the guided walks which they offer at weekends. As we expected visitors for tea the next day and Margaret had a cake and scones to bake we decided to return the next morning and catch the one o'clock tour. One of the staff we had been chatting to caught up with us later and said they would run a tour at noon for us so that we would not have to hurry the baking. Now that is customer service. For fairly obvious reasons the museum majors on road transport and has many features for the younger visitor. I was particularly interested in the locally manufactured cars. Despite its rather staid name, Standard was quite innovative. As a child, our first car was a 1954 Standard Vanguard Phase II. Black of course. The gear change was on the steering column and it had a pair of reversing lights. There are cars around today which do not have even one reversing light.

This picture is actually of the the rare DIESEL version but the bodywork was identical.

As you may have worked out by now, the registration number of our Standard Vanguard was TBH 871. When there was fun in collecting car numbers ie: there was time to write one down before the next car passed, we used to know which counties were denoted by most of the letter groups. Bucks, where we lived, first used BH and when these were exhausted they adopted KX. Both of these seemed appropriate to me. Why they went on to use PP I could not understand.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Tunnel Vision
Nuneaton - a name to conjure with - is it the capital of dieting or perhaps religious cannibalism?
And what about Bedworth? I am not speculating about that one. (orders from er indoors)
We stopped in Nuneaton today in order to look at Astley Castle. Some years ago the Landmark Trust were offered this property but, after much deliberation, gave it up as a lost cause. The fabric of the building was just too far gone for a viable restoration. However they have now taken a new approach and have the bit between their teeth again. Their aim now is to stabilise the fabric of the building and build a completely new accommodation unit inside the castle walls. They have not tried this before and have run a competition for the best design. The weather was a bit changeable but we started the walk up to Astley late morning intending to get some lunch at the charming little country pub which will be next to the church. Apart from the rainstorm and the race-track of a road we followed, the five miles to Astley were fine. Arriving around 13.15 we found the castle, the church and the dozen houses which comprise the village. But no pub. The nearest pub, we were informed, is in Ansley about two miles away (everywhere round here begins with A). We arrived at The Lord Nelson at 13.45 but were just in time for lunch. This was really very goo. I tried a beer called OTT from the Tunnel Brewery which turned out to be in the back garden of the pub, on top of a railway tunnel. This must be one of the most bitter ales I have drunk but a superb aperitif. Of course I had to try the IPA as well. If you are ever visiting Arbury Park which is nearby I recommend you head for The Lord Nelson for a meal in either the bar or the posh restaurant and try the very local ale. We took a bus back to Gecko which accomplished the return journey in 10 minutes. On our walk up, however, we had encountered two modern incarnations of childhood memories - a rag & bone man and a chimney sweep. Haven't seen either of those for a while.
A few weeks ago we visited another Landmark. Silverton Park Stables are in Devon, just north of Exeter. It really was stables but now sleeps 14 with about six bathrooms in a magnificent building and location.

Monday, 7 July 2008

More about Bletchley Park
A few weeks ago, when we were in Fenny Stratford, Margaret spent a day at the Bletchley Park museum. We have been several times before and find that a day is never long enough. Not only are the exhibits concerning the Code-breakers interesting there are exhibitions by other interesting groups - even Newsreels being projected on historic projectors. There is a rumour at large that the museum may have to close due to lack of support so GO NOW.
When you do go, you may be surprised by the appearance of the building as it was not used in the film Enigma. Apparently it did not look convincing. How can the authentic building not look right?

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Robin's nest
For T L Williams 1935 was a big year. On the 1st of January he registered and licensed his new creation - the Reliant 3-wheeled van. A former works manager at Raleigh, he probably chose the name because many of the components he used bore the R for Raleigh.
This first vehicle was a 7cwt van powered by 600cc Jap engine.
In 1937 the Austin 7 engine was introduced.
Reliant went on to produce a range of three and four wheeled vehicles in Tamworth over the next 65 years. Probably the best know was the Robin. This was introduced in 1975 and continued in various forms until Reliant closed in 2001.

If you have been paying attention you will be aware of the connection with Tamworth of the Peel family. Here is another link (if tenuous) between Tamworth and the Peel name.
The smallest production three-wheeled car ever was the Peel P50. Built in the Isle of Man in 1963 it was 4'5" long (that's about 1500mm) and was single seated. Fewer than 100 were built and there were many variations within that number. All were powered by 49cc two-stroke moped engine from DKW.

But who would you like to see in one?

How about J. Clarkson, Esq?

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Another Guy to remember
We all remember the story of the South Sea Bubble and how thousands of investors were ruined when this early foray into share dealing crashed. For one man at least the bubble did not burst. Thomas Guy sold his shares in the South Sea Company before the crash and made a great deal of money. He brought this money from his erstwhile home in London to Tamworth and set up a book shop and publishing business. He was very successful at this too but earned the reputation of being penny-pinching despite financing the new Town Hall and a row of almshouses for seven poor women of the parish. This he later extended to include seven poor men. He was elected MP for Tamworth and the world was bright for him until he lost his seat in 1707. This he took umbrage to, accusing the electorate of disloyalty. He banned residents of the town from the almshouses restricting residents to those from the surrounding villages. He also took his vast fortune back to London with him and used it to build Guy' Hospital.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Who remembers Colin Grazier?
The short answer is : Tamworth does.
But why do they? And why should we all remember him?
Did you watch the film Enigma? Do you remember how the whizz-kids at Beltchley Park ground to a halt when the German navy started using a four-rotor machine?
And how did they get back into action?
Able Seaman Colin Grazier was the man who went aboard the sinking U-boat and rescued the invaluable code book which helped the code-breakers to shorten the war by an estimated two years. The people of Tamworth erected this handsome memorial by the church from public subscription. And they do remember him: when I was taking this photo a lady passed me and told her companion all about it without reading the inscription. And she remembered his name too.
Don't mention the war
If you follow the original A5(Watling Street) from London to Holyhead and don't get diverted by the numerous new bypasses you will pass through Fazeley just south of Tamworth. If your eye is caught by either the United Methodist Free Church on your left or the Victoria Memorial Hall on your right you will probably miss the canal junction below you. Here the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal joins the Coventry Canal. Ignore the canals for the time being. At the crossroad by the Memorial hall built in 1897 there is a monument commemorating the local men who died in the two World Wars. Take a closer look at the inscriptions and you may notice two interesting things. On one side is a list of names in alphabetical order but at the bottom is Robert Peel Bt Obviously not the one who was responsible for repealing the Corn Laws but a descendant of that Lancashire cotton spinner who built Drayton Manor.


On an adjacent side is the inscription illustrated here. What puzzles me is that I thought the Great War finished on 11th November 1918. Whey does the inscription read 1919?









You may wonder why we are in Fazeley at all when we planned to explore the Ashby Canal. This week we have guests on board - Dave the rave and Margaret. Their wish is to do some locks and the Ashby canal is signally devoid of locks. So we have made a little detour to Stone and back. This gives me the opportunity to seek out the Old Mill which the Peel family built here in 1791 when they brought their Spinning Jennies down from Lancashire to avoid the industrial unrest. They established mills in Burton-on-Trent and Tamworth before building the mill in Fazeley but last time I was here I did not manage to locate it. The much larger mill which they later sold to William Tolson for his bleaching and dyeing is difficult to miss, however. I know that the spinning mill had 19 bays so when I walk into this building full of small company offices I start counting, and here it is. Strangely this commercial park is call Tolson Park but his mill was on the other side of the canal.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Stoned Again
We always enjoy visiting Stone despite managing to arrive a week before or after a festival of some kind. In 1976 we started our first ever canal holiday here. We hired a tiny narrowboat named James Brindley II from Canal Cruising Co. Into this boat were squeezed six berths. A hire boat this size now would have only two berths. By the toilet was a lever which when pumped, drew canal water into the toilet and back into the canal along with the waste. Not all the old ways were better!
Another date which Stone remembers wit almost as much affection is 10th June 1766. On that day James Brindley and Josiah Wedgewood met in the Crown where they were appointed Surveyor-General and Treasurer respectively of the Grand Junction Canal Company with the plan to build what we now know as the Trent and Mersey Canal. The opening of the Stone section in 1771 was not quite as auspicious as they might have hoped as a lock and a bridge both collapsed. However, things soon improved and the canal became very successful.


Our visit in 1976 was just two years too late to enjoy a pint of beer from the brewery of John Joules & Sons but we did our best to make up for the lost time. The brewery building is still standing alongside the canal and appears to be enjoying a new life. In the High Street the Somerfield store still bears the Joules trademark cross (although not in colour) and legend OFFICES

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Toilet Talk
It never occurred to me that Armitage Shanks was anything other than the name of a company that made toilets and wash basins. Not, that is, until we passed the factory in Armitage.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

A bit on the side
About 30 years ago we negotiated the eleven locks at Atherstone in a hire boat. In those days the side ponds were in operation. These locks are unusual, but not unique, in having a second chamber alongside each lock and a sluice gate connecting the two. When emptying a lock, opening this sluice will transfer half a lock of water to the side pond. When the lock next needs filling the same half lock of water can be transferred back thus saving up to half a lock of water for each boat passage.
It is disappointing to see that neglect by BW over the intervening years has rendered all but one of these side ponds are derelict. This is another manifestation of the 'dumbing down' which is so prevalent in society today. We can't trust the public to operate these side ponds properly as they require the brain to be engeged. Much better to waste water and spend the maintenance money on painting bollards and sticking little signs by every bridge on the Coventry Canal to remind people of the name of the canal.

It is comforting to find a real coal yard with real sacks of coal above the top lock, however - a rare sight indeed. Last year when we passed this way we had to wait two hours whilst an obstruction was removed from the top lock. By the time the flight opened there were about 20 boats waiting and I have to admit that we were so busy drinking tea and gossiping with the others in the queue I did not notice the coal yard on that occasion.

This reminds me of my childhood when , at primary school, each classroom was heated by coke-fired stove which stood at the front next to the teacher's desk. In the winter the crates of milk in one-third pint bottles which we consumed during morning break were sometimes brought in and placed on top of the stove to warm up. Occasionally this was done too early and the milk boiled over. On many occasions the milk was too warm for the waxed paper straws we had to drink with and they unwound. This could have passed as a practical science lesson.
The coke was delivered by an ancient black man in an ancient black flat bed lorry. When he had started these deliveries in his youth it had been by horse and cart. I believe now that the man was white underneath and the lorry was green. Deliveries were quite frequent as the cellar only held one ton - 20 sacks for the metricated readers. One day the black man and black lorry did not come - in their place was a young man in blue overalls and a shiny lorry. This did not go down well with Miss Reddit, the headmistress. This needed watching. And sure enough, her suspicions were vindicated when the shiny man came in to the office after only tipping 19 cwt into the cellar.
"I'm not signing for a ton of coal - you have only shot 19 sacks."
Miss Reddit was not going to let this young upstart pull the wool over her eyes.
The shiny young man looked nonplussed,
"I can't get any more in there"
was all he said.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

A Bathfull of Culture
There is always something going on in Bath but each June the International Music Festival squeezes more concerts into two weeks than most venues in the UK manage in a year. Every space is used either by the official programme or the increasingly popular Fringe.
By chance we were in Bath for the last May bank holiday and so caught the first few days of this the 40th anniversary festival. On the Friday night we watched the fireworks from the third floor of Elton House (Landmark Trust) after wandering around the city where there appeared to be as many street performers as visitors.
After a hectic Saturday and Sunday of which some of you are already aware, we relaxed on Monday by visiting some Landmark Friends who were staying in another Landmark - Beckford's Tower. Joe and John, you may remember, had come to our rescue in May last year when we miscalculated the journey from Froghall to Alton Station. This year, however, we needed their help in eating some chocolate cake. As the rain and wind were punishing us for booking so much sun on the Saturday we decided to do some culture and booked three concerts for that afternoon and evening.
We started at lunchtime with Peter and Kathryn Tickell performing folk-based songs on Northumbrian pipes, violins and guitar. I was a little wary of bagpipes beforehand but I was enthralled by their performance. It was lively and moving and even humorous in parts, I hardly noticed the rain when we emerged from the Assembly Rooms. After a late lunch we went to the Forum to hear a jazz quartet. The music was not memorable as each musician seemed more interested in his individual performance than in the ensemble effect. The City Church which occupies this ex-cinema on Sundays has restored the Art Deco features immaculately and I was happy for the music to accompany the greater pleasure of taking in the d├ęcor. At 22.30h we ventured forth again to another church hall but on a different scale. Whilst the Forum could probably seat 800, the Intervention Studio did not seat one tenth that number. This more intimate setting was more appropriate for the solo concert by Wu Man who plays the Chinese Pipa. Her repertoire on this stringed instrument similar to the lute included the traditional lyrical and martial works but also more modern interpretation of the instrument's scope. As we walked the 50 yards back to Elton House at midnight the evening was now dry and mild. A fitting preparation for bed.
More smoke and mirrors
Last July 26 I voiced scepticism at the effectiveness of the carbon trading system to reduce global warming. This week I read the following in the Sunday Times relating to a coal fired power station to be built in India by Tata (the company which owns Land Rover, Jaguar, Corus and Tetley Tea.

When the plant ....becomes operational in 2011 it will emit 25.7m tonnes of Carbon Dioxide a year - more than any power station in Britain. Yet it will be classed by the United Nations as a source of Clean Power . That means Tata will be able to sell surplus carbon credits established under the Kyoto Treaty to firms in the West. Energy firms will be able to buy these credits as an alternative to reducing their own Carbon Dioxide emissions. It is estimated Tata could earn £30m from such sales.

Allowing for journalistic inaccuracies and jingoism I still do not understand how this benefits anyone other than the energy firms involved.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Take a Bite
Down to London today for annual appointment at Moorfields. All clear for another year. I have been attending here or the long-gone branch in High Holborn for 40+ years and the management of the out-patients' clinic is worse now than it was in 1964. Such is progress. Four hours waiting for a 20 minute appointment seems normal nowadays. It really makes me wonder when the word appointment changed its meaning. Four consultants cannot examine 40 patients at the same time but this message is not understood by those making the appointments
However, two good things emerged form the train journey. Firstly I used my BITE card for the first time with no problems. If you travel by train a proportion of your journey will be spent waiting at a station somewhere. There will usually be a variety of refreshment establishments and with the BITE card most of them offer 20% discount for no other reason than that you have a card! To obtain the card for FREE log on to www.bitecard.co.uk There really is no catch.
My second fortunate occurrence was that I managed to travel on several trains without leaving a laptop or a bright orange file marked Top Secret on any of them. Now I know why I failed the Civil Service entrance exams.
The Lost Property Manager of Transport for London recently divulged that amongst the 170,000 items turned in last year were a bag with two human skulls, a stuffed puffer fish, inflatable dolls, breast implants, a coffin, false teeth and limbs, a suitcase with £10,000 in cash, 32,268 books, 27,964 bags and 25,802 items of clothing. Obviously some people take the Civil Service training more seriously than I.
Margaret has just reminded me of another benefit accruing from my journey today - I was out of her way for a whole day.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

All Steamed Up
We seldom see steam powered boats on the canal but yesterday Beatrice pootled by us to stop for lunch at the Red Lion in Fenny Stratford.


Built eight years ago by the father of the lady passenger, it is named after her mother.












A steam engine of a different scale was in steam over this weekend at The Bratch near Wombourne , Staffs. From 1906 to 1960 the two triple-expansion - Victoria and Alexandra - pumped one and a half million gallons of water per day each to Bilston. Victoria has been restored to working order by the Friends of the Bratch


Saturday, 14 June 2008

Vive de Gaule!
35 years ago two events took place which were destined to affect the UK population (or some of it) significantly. Margaret and I were married and UK joined the Common Market.
I am quite accustomed to being in a minority. In the referendum on the EEC which it was then called in 1975 I was in the 2:1 minority who voted NO. I believe I was in an even smaller minority by actually reading the Treaty of Rome. It was quite clear to me that the aim of the original six members was for a political union. What we were sold was the Common Market which developed into the European Economic Community. This has now morphed into the European Union. I have always been in favour of a harmonization of trade agreements but not in a United States of Europe which is where we appear to be headed. Let's not pretend that our leaders are pressing for a reform of the EU to improve the economic or social conditions of the population. As always, their only motivation is power - either directly and personal or indirectly and corporate. It is clear that USA cannot hope to maintain its economic and political dominance in the face of the rise of China and India. To quote our leaders 'the EU is punching below its weight in the political world' This is their true concern.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

42 is the answer
According to Douglas Adams in The Hitch-Hikers' Guide to the Galaxy the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything is
42
This number has been causing considerable heat in Parliament recently. I am not in a position to judge whether 28 days is sufficient time for the authorities to carry out their investigative processes or not. However I can certainly say that most of the 'facts' presented for and against the case for extending the period of custody for terrorist suspects were bunkum. About the only thing I heard which made any sense at all was this. We do not know what crises we may have to cope with in the future but the time to prepare for them is before they occur. Legislation introduced in the panic following a disaster is usually another disaster.
In 1997, in the aftermath of the massacre of 16 children at a primary school in Dunblane hand guns were outlawed in Britain. It is almost impossible to establish whether gun crime has increased or decreased since then as by picking and mixing the statistics for shotguns, handguns, airguns and replicas any case can be supported. However the impression I have is that this panic ban has not made a noticeable difference to the illegal use of guns. Some indisputable figures I do find interesting. After the Hungerford shooting in 1987 a gun amnesty yielded 48,000 guns. Following Dunblane a similar amnesty produced 23,000 guns and 700,000 rounds of ammunition In 2003 a further amnesty after the shooting of Letisha Shakespear and her cousin in Birmingham 43,000 guns and over a million rounds of ammunition were handed in..
Although all the argument recently has been about the number 42 this Bill worries me for a more fundamental reason and that has been voiced by David Davis today. Over the past ten years there has been a relentless erosion of our liberty by power mad politicians. I have a vain hope that the announcement by Mr. Davis today will herald the end of this process. One has to have hope.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Safety Second on the Thames
Whilst BW are considering selling off all their property in order to spend it on monitoring the behaviour of Stockton fish and the like the Environment Agency (EA for short) which manages the River Thames amongst others has a more frightening idea.
They have just announced that they are to sell off 22 lock cottages to the public and rehouse the lock keepers somewhere cheaper. I have no statistics to hand and have done no research but I would hazard a guess that this will have an impact on safety at the Thames locks. EA assures us that lock keepers will still be on duty during their normal working hours but accidents do not keep office hours and many boaters have reason to be thankful that the lock keepers to date have not felt so restricted either.
So now it's Money First, Safety Second on the Thames.
Being a sceptical bod I can foresee the day when the new resident of a lock cottage, having no experience of rivers but having fallen in love with the idea of this utopia, will have a rude awakening one day when their barbecue is disturbed by boats of all things making a noise outside their front door and will apply for the nuisance to be abated.
Oh boy what fun we can look forward to!

Friday, 16 May 2008

Five Miles High
Well, not really.
When we were in Peru during the first week of January we travelled by minibus up into the Colca Canyon to see the Condors. Unfortunately the condors had not been prepared for our visit and so most of them were having a lie-in. However the trip was no less exciting and interesting. As we climbed we we consumed Coca tea, sometimes with another herb added, to stave off the symptoms of altitude sickness. Whether it worked or just kept the local trade in Coca leaves thriving I am not sure. Before descending to Chivay for an overnight stay. (More about that some day) we achieved an altitude of 5000m which is high in any scale of measurement.

This was brought home to me on our return flight to the UK via the dreadful services of Delta Airlines. Our first landfall of England was over the Isle of Wight and through the clear day the land looked just like a satellite picture. On the aircraft TV screen I learned that our altitude at that time was 5000m.

It's much more fun getting that high in a minibus with Coca tea!
Giant Coathooks and Miniature Cars





Everything on the Lee Navigation is larger than we are accustomed to - locks in particular. Bu even we were surprised by the size of the coathooks provided for boaters of a previous age.









In my quest to work only for companies in trouble I found Lesney (Matchbox Toys) in 1980. During my two years there until its demise as an independent company a gentleman by the name of Arthur Scargil was stiring up considerable trouble and at one time we were threatened with a road haulage strike. My solution which, in fact I never needed to employ, was to move our toys from the factory in Lea Bridge Road, Hackney down the Lee Navigation and across the channel to our subsidiaries in France and Belgium
I was reminded of this a couple of weeks ago as we passed the building again.


Soon after this, of course, production was transferred to the Far East by the new owners. Whether this site still belongs to Lesney I do not know.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Where are the Ovaltinies?
One of the attractions of the rail journey into Euston used to be passing the Ovaltine farm and Art Deco factory in Kings Langley. Opened in 1913 by Wander Products of Switzerland, it was closed in 2002 with the loss of 245 jobs. The malted milk drink was invented in 1904 by - wait for it - Dr Wander. It achieved popularity with the Ovaltinies programme on Radio Luxemburg. Sir. Edmund Hilary took it on his Everest expedition in 1953 and it was the official Olympics drink during the 1930s and 1940s. When the transfer of production to Switzerland was announced in 2001 the Product Supply Director, Richard Whall, sair: "so far as the Ovaltine brand is concerned the consumer will not notice the difference" I expect the redundant staff noticed and certainly those passing the site by road, rail or canal might notice too.














It seems a shame to me that the 10 million jars of Ovaltine sold in the UK each year do not constitute a viable production volume and the result is more ribbon development along the English canals.
Monsters of the Deep
As regular readers will know, the flora and fauna of the canal system can be surprising at times.(see Ninja Turtles of Alperton)
However Harefield and Hunton Bridge are somewhat more scarry.














Wednesday, 14 May 2008

How not to spend our money
Dear BW
I share your concern at the continual reduction in your grant in aid and understand your misguided attempts to rectify the current account by selling off all the land and property you own to satisfy the demands of the cappuccino culture which values appearance so much more that function.
I agree that the disaster on the Mon & Brec was not totally due to the lack of maintenance - you were not to know that it might rain in Wales: I also think it reprehensible that DEFRA should seek to recover from their inept handling of the Farm Payments Scheme by cutting your grant.
BUT WHY ? WHY/ WHY? are you spending £500,000 on an electronic survey of the fish in the Tees esturary? What has it to do with the Inland Waterways? How will it benefit any waterway user - boater, angler, cyclist,or walker - to know what the fish of Stockton get up to?
On a lesser matter, I am very pleased to see how many lock bollards have been painted and how many nice seats are being provided for people to sit on to watch the boaters injuring themselves on unmaintained lock gear. Are you trying to compete with formula one racing where it is estimated that a large proportion of the supporters are just waiting for an accident to happen?
I must apologise for not sharing your idea of spending priorities or financial management but I am a mere customer and you are the great BW.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Dead Reckoning
It is not uncommon to see animal carcases in the canal. Today on our way from Berko to Marsworth we were surprised by first a dead otter and then a muntjac in addition to the more common duck, mouse and badger.

How to lose customers - 2
Once again we have met up with the Floating Bankers. (see previous post - 10 July 2007)
This team were from Alliance and Leicester. They were using three hire boats and a support boat. As the locks are broad along here two boats can share a lock with the benefit of much speedier passage accomplished by additional crew for winding paddles and pushing gates. As we set off this morning one of these boats came past us and offered to share the lock with us. When we arrived a the lock, however, there was a boat already in it so we had to wait while the bankers took the vacant space. After they had departed we pulled in to the bank for Margaret to reset the lock for our passage but before she could do this two lads came running along the towpath and started the process. This is a good sign as it meant we had aboat behind to share the work with. But no! These ALLIANCE &LEICESTER bankers informed Margaret that theey had two boats and must travel together. And so we actually worked all the locks to Marsworth with the charming lads on the support boat.
I now have no A & L account.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

How to lose customers - 1
When the sun shines, as it is today, Berko High Street is bathed in a warm glow all day. There appears to be no shady side. Monday morning and after a gentle walk up and down the street like Burlington Bertie I popped into Simmons bread shop and bought a couple of Chelsea buns for Margaret's return from the launderette.
When we sat down for elevenses we found the buns to be stale. I returned to the shop - SIMMONS - with the merchandise and informed the young lady of the problem. Her response was "They're not stale: came in today" And then she refunded my money!
I have been eating Chelsea buns since before she was born and by now I can tell when they are stale. Being a Monday they must have been around since Saturday. So why did she not apologise and make some anodyne observation whilst refunding my money? Instead she lost a customer for all time. They are not the only baker in Berko and obviously not the best.

Friday, 9 May 2008

No Apologies
There is very little freight on the canals today. Despite their role in the Industrial Revolution the traffic nowadays is all pleasure craft. So we were pleasantly surprised last summer when we travelled down the GU to find two nice new barges transporting gravel from Denham to Stockley Park. (Owing to the partial collapse of the wharf at Stockley Park this has been suspended pending repairs)
So why does BW think it necessary or desirable to apologise for the freight traffic?
That is what the canals were built for.
To set the balance I would like to make the following statement:
The crew of nb Gecko apologise for any inconvenience we may cause to the freight traffic on the English canal system and hope it will continue and grow.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Ninja Turtles and Coconut Palms of Alperton





If you are interested in the flora and fauna of the waterways you should get over to Alperton to witness the effect of global warming. The colony of Ninja Turtles is thriving. Although we have not yet traced the coconut palms they can't be too far away judging by the number of coconuts floating in the Paddington Arm of the GU Canal.

Monday, 5 May 2008

You take the high load....
The Regents Canal has many attractive features - the Zoo, Camden market etc. In its heyday the traffic from the London docks which came up through Limehouse, Islington and Camden included lime juice for Rose's plant at Apsley (now B&Q) and paper from the John Dickinson mills. (now Sainsbury's) The canal was so busy that it was equipped with broad locks (14') to accept a narrowboat and the butty it towed. The locks were also paired to maximise the flow of freight and to conserve water. Today there is only one pair of locks in operation, the others having been reduced to the role of bywash back in the 1930's.


If you are using this pair at Camden it is wise to take the southern lock , furthest from the towpath, if possible. Because the locks are so close to each other the swing of the balance beams overlap and to avoid them colliding they are set at different heights. Those of the lock closest to the towpath favour dwarfs as they are only inches from the ground. Moving a lock gate at that level is far from easy.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Bang!
On 2nd October 1874 at around 5am one of six barges being towed though Regent's Park exploded whilst passing under Macclesfield Road Bridge. The barge was completely destroyed and the crew all died. All that was left of the bridge were the iron supporting columns. The explosion was so loud that it woke residents ten and twelve miles away. What caused the explosion is not certain but a spark from the steam tug is the most likely culprit. The cargo off the ill-fated barge, Tilbury, included nuts, tea, strawboards, petroleum and five tons of gunpowder from Waltham Abbey. (see blog of 26 April 2008). Since that date it has been customary to use the statement May contain nuts as a warning wherever appropriate.

The bridge was rebuilt on the original columns and is now known as Blow-up Bridge.
The ten iron pillars were cast at Coalbrookdale and in the rebuilding they were turned round so that the rope marks from before the explosion can be seen on the side away from the canal whilst those made subsequently are on the canalside as one would expect.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Lee Enfield
Yes the Lee Navigation goes through Enfield and if you are in the market for an elegant lock cottage the one at Enfield is unoccupied.

Yes the Lee Enfield rifle was manufactured here at the Royal Small Arms factory.
However the name has nothing to do with the navigation. This phenomenally successful gun was developed by James Lee in 1907 and was standard issue to infantrymen in both World Wars. To appreciate the impact of its ability to achieve 12 well aimed shots per minute in the hands of a trained infantryman consider this. At the battle of Mons the Germans estimated that 28 machine guns per battalion were being deployed against them. In fact there were only two.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Bangers and mash
Waltham Abbey is a charming little town. The Abbey church is worth a visit and so too is the Royal Gunpowder Mills. It is now a museum which opens at weekends during the summer. It appears to be run by volunteers and has the feel of Bletchley Park in its early days as a museum. Entrance is not expensive and the ticket is valid for two consecutive openings, so if you are not confident of the weather make your first visit on a Sunday and the ticket is valid for the following Saturday which gives the Met office time to sort things out for you. There are five miles of canals within the factory grounds used for moving explosives and ingredients around although they are not all in water now. The boats were either man-handled or pulled by unshod horses to avoid sparks. Many weekends there are enactments involving suitably costumed militia firing blunderbuss's and canons.
Amongst the many items of interest is one particularly intriguing listed building.


This is claimed to be the only remaining example of Victorian corrugated iron.
What we generally apply that description to is truly galvanized steel. This, therefore has been listed by English Heritage and the museum is not permitted to interfere with it. However we know what happens to iron if you do not interfere with it, don't we?


In the town square there is a Pie & Mash shop where we enjoyed a dinner of pie, mash, eels and liquor. There is also a tattooist with a sense of humour - the salon is called OUCH! We did not sample the offerings there.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Goosey, Goosey,Gander
We have just been castigated for denigrating the goose at Stonebridge Lock. Firstly, it is apparently an Egyptian Goose and secondly the odd behaviour we observed is because it has lost its mate. I feel humbled. Please watch the video.
Sad News
Today we arrived in Hertford. A charming town with many interesting features including a a Woollies with curved glass windows and wood strip flooring. When the plague hit London during Queen Elizabeth 1st reign the parliament would take an awayday or the equivalent and set up shop elsewhere until the bugs abated. One of these temporary locations was Hertford. Hence it boasts a Parliament Square.

Our spirits have been dampened considerably by the news today that Humph has died.
In the 1990s we saw him at Ricky in concert with Helen Shapiro and only last year in Bath double billing with Acka Bilk. At various other times in the more intimate surroundings of a pbu bar we have been enraptured by his jazz and humour. On the radio he has kept us in stitches first with I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again and later with I'm Sorry I Havn't a Clue. How he managed to get away with the double entendres in this show is a mystery. He was a keen calligrapher and a fine trumpeter. One characteristic which always struck me was that when a member of his band were playing a solo he always stayed on stage listening unlike some musicians who take this opportunity to go off for a drink or chat with the drummer. I think this was also the secret to his success with I'm Sorry - giving every member their head but keeping them within a team.
I think there should be a plaque erected in Mornington Crescent to commemorate his contribution to fun in life. We will miss him.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Turn, turn,turn
The technology employed to construct the canals was rather crude - gangs of 'navvies' with hand tools digging and building. Likewise the paraphernalia of operation - ratchets, levers and the like.
In the 1970s a nascent H&S movement suggested that it would be much safer if there were no exposed machinery particularly on the locks. The solution was, they claimed, was hydraulic power. This died a death but was resurrected on the Kennet & Avon recently. Hopefully it will not have nine lives but will be laid to rest permanently soon. We arrived at Stonebridge lock this afternoon and had to operate it manually as the electric gear was out of use. A local boater said it had been so since November 2007. At least BW are keeping the paintwork pretty. To work Gecko through the lock using only one gate in and out required 1840 turns on the windlass. But hydraulic power is so safe. If there had been an emergency of any kind how does one reverse the operation quickly?
We heard our first cuckoo this morning so that compensated for the arm-ache.
Opposite our mooring for the night was a pump out station in gleaming stainless steel and a mongrel goose caught sight of its reflection.............

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

A Passport for St. George
We left Paddington Basin this morning (St. George's Day) and ventured for the first time along the Regents Canal.More evidence of the growth of interest in waterside location for business, recreation and residence. As usual some of this is sympathetic and some raucous and out of place. Turning into Ducket's Cut (the Hertford Union Canal) we skirt Victoria Park much ignored by those who shun the London east of the City. Perhaps this is because it is not a Royal Park. However it is still attractive and popular with local residents. Turning left again, this time into the Lee Navigation we now follow the eastern edge of the park.
I am not going to join the debate on whether the correct spelling is LEE or LEA. It seems common practice for the river to be spelled LEA and the canalised navigation to be spelled LEE but as they are inter-twined for most of the route to Hertford I shall use either or both as the whim takes me.

In 1983 Fuller, Smith and Turner had 127 pubs. I know this because over a period of five months in that year I drank a pint of bitter in each of them. The purpose of this sojourn was to gain a confirmation in my Fullers Passport of each pub visited in order to receive a box of goodies. And so Dave and I would set out one night a week from the Youngs dominated Battersea to seek a few more of these 127 pubs. I was reminded of this when we chugged past the Anchor and Hope in Clapton today.
The challenge of this exercise was not the consumption of beer (although this was a terrible chore) but actually finding the pubs from the scant addresses provided.
When we arrived at the Anchor and Hope late one dark Thursday night after touring some of the seedier parts of the East End it did not seem quite as attractive as this picture would indicate.
We did out duty (St. George would have been proud of us) and beat a hasty retreat to an area we felt more comfortable with. This is not a project to be undertaken lightly especially as Fullers now have over 360 pubs.

Whilst on the subject of passports don't forget that the definitive history of that document was written by my brother Martin Lloyd. Imaginatively titled The Passport it is available at bookshops good and bad. If you favour nepotism them go to Marcus's website, click on the link to Amazon and order it from there. That way Marcus will earn a commission and I will earn some brownie points.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Down the Plug?
Regular readers will be familiar (fed up ?)with my views of the current fashion for local authorities to create water features in place of functioning waterways. On our previous visit to Paddington Basin we were impressed with the redevelopment but upset that again appearance seemed to be the mantra. Mooring rings are difficult to trip over but equally difficult to use and too sparse to be particularly convenient. At the end of the basin surrounded by new apartments was an small basin equipped with mooring rings and staging but boats were prevented from using this area by a tubular bridge.



It seems someone has
misunderstood the term basin
in this context as it now
has no water or staging
but does have a plug!





If you agree that this is getting ridiculous then consider the following:
- Daventry council are planning a canal basis to attract visitors to the town
but they have no canal and never have had!
- It is rumoured that one of the architects involved in the redevelopment of the canal area in Stourbridge has complained about the colour of the water it isn't blue enough!

Whilst I am in this mood I feel you should be advised that the police in Burnley have asked British Waterways to close the towpath along the canal embankment because yobs are throwing stones at the cars on the road below . As a reciprocal measure I shall be asking BW to request that Middlesex constabulary close the road bridge in Harefield whence two youths threw stones at us last August, hitting a friend of ours from Germany and also the boat.Sauce for the Gander?

Monday, 21 April 2008

Oysters for OAPs
One of the benefits of being 60 is the bus pass with which we could travel from Land's End to the Scottish border for nothing so long as we use local buses.
A further benefit we discovered when in London is that if you have a Senior Railcard and an Oyster card then you are eligible for a discount of 30% on the maximum daily charge on the Oyster. It is necessary to take both cards to an Underground ticket office (not a BR one) for the discount to be loaded. You will also have to register the Oyster if this has not been done.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Where is the River Ux?
For both my readers I would like to explain that Cowroast almost certainly originates from the days when cattle drovers would stop outside a major town to bring their stock up to condition before taking them i to market. Hence the COW REST was corrupted easily into its present form.
The Tring Summit of the Grand Union Canal has always been dogged by water supply problems hence the reservoirs around Tring and the Wendover Arm which served as an important water feed.s On the southern descent to Uxbridge there are rivers everywhere. First the Bulborne flows in and out on the way down to Boxmoor. At Two Waters the Gade joins in and just by Batchworth locks at *Ricky the Chess comes steaming in. From here on they unite to form the Colne and just as we reach Denham the Misbourne adds its pennyworth. However none of these rivers give any clue to where the River Ux (as in Uxbridge) is, was, or has been. I am afraid there is more corruption to report. This time the origin is Saxon - the Wuxen apparently bridged the River Colne here and that's why I can't find the River Ux.
Another event which should be appended to the Official History of Uxbridge is that we overstayed the 24 hour mooring limit and received our first parking ticket.
*Apparently Ricky is not widely understood as the diminutive of Rickmansworth

Whilst you were away......
Before attending Marcus and Olga's wedding we spent a couple of days in Panama where they also have a canal. Vessels on this canal are somewhat larger than those on the GU. However they do have one concern in common. The Grand Junction Canal which linked London to the Oxford canal was built with 14' wide locks to accommodate boats capable of carrying 70tons. This was not adopted by the Coventry, Oxford ant Trent & Mersey canals with which it linked and so was unsuccessful in this quest. In Panama they have found that locks 1000' long and 110' wide are too small for the latest ships and so they are building additional larger locks and widening the canal cutting. As the canal operates round the clock and there is always a queue this seems to be a guaranteed success.



From our hotel bedroom
we had a glorious view of the ships
waiting to enter the
Mirraflores Locks at the
Pacific end of the canal

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Another Tax Year Over!
All the pundits have been exhorting us to put our money into ISAs before it's too late. We found it very easy to resist the temptation to move our millions from under the bed where we can sit and count it every night.
Yesterday we spent the morning painting and blacking where the rust had taken hold on the starboard. In the afternoon we tried to knock as much of it off as possible on our way to Cowroast. I wonder where that name originated - probably nothing to do with roasting cows.
Down to 34F last night but a bright morning so we are off to *Berko perhaps to see a film at the Rex Cinema. This has been wonderfully restored and refurbished. Seats are individual armchairs grouped around tables for your refreshments. Last time we visited The Rex they had a special showing of two silent films with live piano accompaniment. What a great outing that was.
*I have been instructed by the editor in chief (Margaret) to explain that Berko is Berkhamsted.

While you were away......
On Dec 28 Marcus married Olga in Barranquilla, Colombia. We spent about two weeks in Colombia preceded by two days in Panama and succeeded by a week in Peru. (of which more later) The best way I can describe the wedding celebrations is that they were relaxed formal and great fun. The wedding was definitely celebrated.




How do we play these things?

Marcus and Olga at the reception.

Friday, 4 April 2008

2000% Inflation
No this is not Zimbabwe but good old blighty. We are in Marsworth tonight having completed the Aylesbury Arm. We shall stay here for about 24 hours in order to carry out some painting to the port (left) side of Gecko. We were so tightly packed in Aylesbury basin that we could only work on the starboard (yes, you've guessed that' the right side). Having earned an evening pass (I'm not telling you how) I decided to redeem it immediately in a true reflection of our times and went to the pub with Paul from Too Sassy. With elbow room at the bar in close contention we ventured further into the bowels of the pub and lo! we discovered a bar billiards table. However it is no longer a tanner a game but a quid! I wonder who we can blame that on.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Frog Voyeur
Yesterday we left Aylesbury late morning and negotiated half the lock of the Arm in order to spend the night near Wilstone. This was so we could visit our friends Margo and John who live in this small but expanding village. On our way back to Gecko we had to pick our way very carefully as the towpath was the venue for a frog orgy. And they are not silent while they are at it. So we went to sleep to the sound of this frog chorus which was marginally more musical than Sir Paul's version.

While you were away.....
As the London Boat Show got under way it was announced that Challenger Syndicateships had failed. Do you remember Black Prince Hire Boats going bust in the 1980's? That was also owned by Ed and Gill Rimmer. By the way, Ed was a founder member of Aylesbury Canal Society. This time there are all kinds of worrying rumours about the activities oft he company. Let's hope this mess is sorted out without harming too many customers.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Welcome back
The start of a new boating year!
First, the apologies. After the arrival of Dominic last August I am afraid my efforts with the blog deteriorated significantly. He is such a lovely and amenable chap that's all the apology your're getting.
More to come........
The Windsor Castle Shuffle
When I was younger (much younger!) I had a puzzle which comprised a picture of Windsor Castle printed on 15 plastic tiles arranged in a 4 x 4 frame. By sliding them around the picture could be jumbled up and, hopefully, reconstituted. This morning we tried the same thing with narrow boats. To extract Gecko from its winter mooring in the extreme corner of Aylesbury canal basin required more than two thumbs though.
Our departure from this friendly and convenient mooring is the more poignant as it will not exist much longer. As I have written before, BW have sold the site to Aylesbury Vale District Council who intend to develop the area with a new theatre, departments store and flats. The canal basin will then become a sterile water feature with the boats being moved a mile out of town. Only a mile and to a new purpose built marina? I hear you ask. That's an hour by boat and equivalent to 30 miles by car. How many people want to be forcible moved 30 miles from their current home on the whim of some lame-brain in the Council? Some people have lived here for 30 years. One couple are aged 93 and 87. If they were Crested Newts they would be protected!

While you were away.....
Severn Valley Boat Centre which built Gecko capsized on Jan 25 (Gecko's second birthday). According to the Administrator's report there is a shortfall of about £1.2m which means only a few secured creditors will be paid. SVBC was set up about 30 years ago initially hiring boats but abandoning that in favour of building and fitting out narrowboats. As usual in this kind of situation there are many people with part completed boats on which they have made stage payments for work which has not been carried out. One couple have sold their house and made a payment of 25% two days before the collapse of the Company.