Panto Postcard 1, 2022.

The Chocolate Orange Test.

57.25 hours

Blank canvas in a morgue! It’s only an old film set.

Monday morning, Mick helped me with all my painting kit to the unit where I’d be working this week. We’d moored close to the Tramway, so it was only a short walk round to Power Park where I was met by Suzette and John from the theatre. I’d warned them in advance that I was still testing positive, I wore a mask and kept my distance as the set pieces were brought in for me to work on.

Based in and drying

A covid filled brain didn’t help with the laying out of everything, but thankfully we managed to get half the portal flats laid out on tables, all facing the same direction, so hopefully I knew what was what and it would get painted correctly.

This is the third time these portals have been used by me, the markings on the back suggests they’ve been in at least another two or three productions. However this year they have had a make over and been recanvased with a nice fresh coat of white emulsion ready for me. Today’s aim was to get the basics marked out and base colours added so that it could dry overnight. I also joined a zoom production meeting for a short time to chat set and props, then excused myself.

Tuesday. Today NB Dusty would come past Oleanna, bags of coal, a new gas bottle and a top up of diesel had been ordered from them, but their arrival time could be anytime.

Starting to mark things out

In panto land I drew out the designs on the three pieces of portal I’d based in, the stencils I’d cut out in Marlow proved very useful indeed and made the marking out very quick. Mick took time off waiting for Dusty to come and help me rearrange the flats as on Wednesday I’d be joined for a couple of days by Elise. I wanted to get enough flats based in and drawn up so that the two of us wouldn’t end up working on the same piece, helping to keep our distance as I was still testing positive.

Rats and cats

The first few repeats on a border had the black painted in. Each one taking about 20 minutes. To paint both headers just in the black would take a good seven hours!

NB Dusty arrived, Jock and Katy were both well and very jolly as usual. Mick had a good catch up with them at a distance, our paths haven’t crossed for a few years due to the pandemic. They will be doing one more run before Oleanna needs to be north of their patch for the winter stoppages, so Mick should be able to stock up again before heading over the summit of the Oxford Canal.

Elise making a start

Wednesday I was in early, drawing out the design before Elise arrived at 9am. I had just about finished when she arrived. A cuppa each and a chat before I set her going. Elise comes from a TV and film background and has only in the last couple of years swapped careers from researcher/assistant producer amongst other things to work in art direction.

Lining in

It takes a while to gain confidence painting in intricate designs. I’ve been doing similar things for decades but today was Elise’s first time. The first section took her a while, the second was quicker, the third quicker still. I continued with the border, and by the end of the day this was completed and the second border based in ready for Thursday. It had been really nice having someone around to make cuppas and to chat to.

Elise cracking on

In the afternoon samples arrived of the cloths. These basically are giant colour photocopies taken from my model that are printed onto scenic cloth. As I thought the front cloth was a touch too dark, loosing some of it’s luminosity. Adjustments could be made before the big PRINT button would be pressed.

Mick during the day had headed to the service point to fill with water whilst the washing machine was in use. He managed to coincide with other boats using the lock so had assistance through it and at the lift bridge. Tilly had been patient for a couple of days so a mooring by Spiceball Park was required to give her some much needed shore leave. Unfortunately Mick had chosen a space opposite Fine Lady Bakeries, we couldn’t remember if the noise there would continue all night, it did! A new mooring would be needed.


Thursday. More of the same for me and Elise, painting black and keeping inside the lines. Elise today was storming ahead and by the time she had to head off to London for the evening there were only a couple of bits left to finish off on her second flat. The second border was finished too. A good days work. Only two more flats to be blacked in.

It still being October the time limits on visitor moorings haven’t as yet changed to 14 days. So Oleanna needs to keep moving to stay within the rules. We hoped that nudging up along the towpath by 100 yards would count as a move, after all we’ve cruised just about 1100 miles this year with a couple of hundred more to go. Thankfully the noise from the bakery was much less and we managed a much better nights sleep.


Friday morning I was on my own again. Two flats to black and a pod cast to listen to. Elise joined me for a couple of hours and put the finishing touches to the borders. On Thursday it had started to rain which had necessitated the moving of flats to avoid drips. Today a drip had started in the toilet above where we were working, slightly disconcerting getting dripped on when having a wee! By the afternoon this drip had managed to work it’s way through the floor and was dripping onto a finished flat! We moved things around very very quickly. That evening on Oleanna we celebrated with a glass of wine, we were both feeling better and I had my first negative test result for covid.

Saturday we had a lie in before Mick came to help me move flats about. There was red to add and a few bits to touch up on the portals. After a couple of hours the weeks mission was accomplished. There were also a couple of sliders that I started to give some attention to for the Piccadilly Circus scene. Sadly as I started to apply a wash of colour to them it became obvious that the base colour was lifting and mixing in. Not good, but fixable when they eventually dry. So it was time to pack everything up.

Meanwhile Mick headed to the arm just north of Banbury to wind, he then returned into town and pulled up just before the new glazed footbridge in the new development. Returning to the boat in day light whilst working on Panto is a rarity. Mick has been doing a very good job of feeding me this week, but his repertoire had just about runout. Having a Pizza Express opposite meant we could treat ourselves to a take away.

We then settled down to watch the latest Alan Ayckbourn play, ‘Family Album’, that is available to watch ‘At Home’ from the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. During the summer two of the actors had been staying in our house and we’d not had chance to get to see the show. A very good play that tenderly skips between three generations of the same family in one house, and the changing roles of women over the last 70 years. Well worth the ticket price whilst it’s available on line.


Sunday we woke to torrential rain. We were due to help load the van at 9:15 to get the portals back to Chippy so that they could be erected on stage this afternoon. The pick up was postponed hoping that the rain would subside and not damage the paintwork. I picked up some dust sheets on route and thankfully the rain was subsiding, by the time John arrived with the van it had stopped raining. Two trips to Chippy and the set was delivered. Tomorrow the rest of the set will arrive with the builders from Plymouth, the actors, the rest of the creatives and staff from the theatre will join together for the readthrough.


Mick, Tilly and Oleanna will move out of town tomorrow to find somewhere that is safe for Tilly to have some shore leave.

Can we got somewhere better!

Why the subtitle of The Chocolate Orange Test? Well over the last ten days or so we’ve been having a segment as pudding after our evening meal. At first we could taste it, then as covid morphed itself we both lost our sense of taste and we could only enjoy the texture of the chocolate. After another two days the orange flavour started to return. Last night we both had full flavour back. Maybe this is a more enjoyable way to test for covid than sticking swabs up your nose!

1 lock, 1.55miles, 1 wind, 1 gas bottle, 5 bags coal, 67 litres diesel, 2 borders, 4 legs, 2 sliders, 2 days assistance, 1 chocolate orange, 1 Waiouru passing, 1 cat reminded about bringing friends home! 2 pizzas, 2 boaters negative and on the mend.

3 thoughts on “Panto Postcard 1, 2022.

  1. Ade

    Great covid test must remember that!
    Touch wood totally COVID free to date.
    Nice you/Mick saw Waiouru about miss seeing her regularly on Toms blog.

    1. Pip Post author

      Waiouru was going a bit fast and by the time I got to the hatch with a camera they were too far away to get a decent picture. Still had a big satellite dome on the roof though.


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