Category Archives: A Regular Little Houdini

Vienna Postcard 1. 9th January

As there have been a few comments looking forward to postcards from Vienna, I felt a little under pressure. So I thought today I’d share my breakfast with you.

Viennesse breakfast

A different cooked breakfast to one of Mick’s and sorry that the photo isn’t the best, but to my phone enables me to post.

I had some scrambled egg, tomatoes with melted cheese on top, the thinnest crispiest bacon I’ve ever come across and some sautéed veg, which included aubergine peppers and courgettes. I avoided the sausages as they were guaranteed to have gluten in them and didn’t look that appetising.

I did also have a bowl of fruit. I suspect for the next few days breakfast will end up being my main meal of the day, it’s also free!

German word of the day Prickelnd. This was on a bottle of water, my phones translated it as Tingly.

Kicking Heels And Packing. 5th 6th January

Oozells Street Loop to Cambrian Wharf to Oozells Street Loop

A bit of old amongst the new office blocks

Sunday we decided to go for a little bit of a pootle, we needed water and to dispose of our waste. The original plan was to cruise round the Icknield Loop and then the Soho Loop stopping at the services at Hockley Port, before returning.

A new fender!

But by the time we’d walked to Sainsburys for a few things for a roast in the evening and emptied the yellow water tank and pooh bucket, time had run away with us.

Paul’s boat

So instead we continued round the Oozells Street Loop, past NB Waterways Routes and turned left. Turning right isn’t an option here as you would be turning about 300 degrees without sufficient width. So we continued on to near Monument Road Bridge where you can wind at a short stubby arm.

No right turn here

We then cruised back into town and pulled up at the Cambrian Wharf Services. Here we knew the tap would be slow, but with a wash load in the machine and no moving boaters it didn’t bother us, so we stayed, had some late lunch, until the tank was full. The bins here were overflowing so not the right place to dispose of our waste.

Back into town to the services

There was one space left at Cambrian Wharf quite close to the pub, The Flapper. Normally this would have put us off pulling in, but the pub closed it’s doors for the final time on Saturday night. However the thought of being hemmed in on a pontoon wasn’t that appealing, so we returned to Oozells Street Loop.

Oh BUMingham!!!

Tilly requested to go out. We told her it was just the same, but she insisted. Each alcove into the car park had to be checked just incase there was anything interesting. There wasn’t so she returned tail hung low.

This is one very stubbornly boring outside

Then there was the horrible job of returning everything to the Christmas hamper. The tree was allowed one more night inside before it was returned to the cratch and normal temperatures.

Naked again

Monday morning and it was time to sort myself out. The back steps were lifted and my paint brush bag brought out from storage. A small selection of brushes and a nice natural sponge were put to one side before the bag was returned to it’s hidey hole.

These don’t get worn that often

The big black bag came out from storage along with my red winter boots. Some thermals, something I would consider smart, but others maybe not.

Tilly has been caught several times today trying to get into the big bag, but I’m afraid it isn’t her way out of Birmingham. Mick will do that soon.

Nothing! Not me!!

Schedules, tickets and euros are packed. I’ve checked in for my outbound flights and now have boarding passes on my phone. So tomorrow I will jet off to Austria to work. I’m hoping it will be fun and that I’ll get chance to have a bit of a look round Vienna before I come home. Mick will please Tilly no doubt and find her an outside that appeals more than here.

Money and guide

Mick may post about what they get upto whilst I’m away and I may post a Viennese postcard or two if there is time. But for now, we’ll see you soon.

0 locks, 1 mileish, 2 lefts, 1 wind, 1 straight on, 1 too familiar mooring, 1 roast chicken, 2019 Christmas packed up, 1 big black bag, 105 euros, 15A window, 1 cat with cabin fever, 1 eye test, 2 boaters kicking heels.

White’s. 2nd January 2020

The Giraffe, Birmingham

This years daffs are starting to show their heads already
The ideal ash can

The two of us have spent a bit of time trying to hunt out where or how we could get a new ash can. Getting one delivered to a Post Office or Amazon Locker would have been great, except they are too big according to Amazon! So instead we’ve been concentrating on trying to find a hardware shop that might just have one.

Farmers Bridge flight

This morning we walked down the Farmers Bridge flight. We like this flight but have realised we’ve only ever been down it, never up. The BT Tower sits high above as the locks work their way under buildings, roads and the railway.


Once off the canal we followed a dirty rubbish strewn road to our destination, White’s Ironmongery. Sitting on the corner of Lower Loveday Street and Summer Lane the 1930’s building melded in with it’s background.

Hinges and numbers

The window displays of hinges, brushes, bolts on boards totally filled the windows. We opened the doors and went in.

Shelves and shelves and shelves, older than the RSJ’s above them

I was immediately taken back to when I was four, with my Dad going into Stubbs in York for some screws. Shelves lined the walls, each opening once filled with boxes of screws, nuts and bolts, all manner of things. The wooden drawers covered in decades maybe centuries of patina. Labels for many an imperial sized object still in place. As a kid I used to imagine the shop assistants sliding along the shelves on their ladders to reach the top boxes, pushing from one end of the shop to the other.

1″ what’s?

Today in White’s the shelves were not so full, but still the atmosphere. There were a few displays in the middle of the room, more boards advertising their wares, a few gaps where the last hinge of its type had been removed. Hanging from the ceiling were mop buckets and two galvanised buckets. A lady appeared a touch like Mr Ben bringing with her some warm air.

50p a pair

Unfortunately the suspended buckets were all they had, none with lids. A bucket however would do us for the time being. It would give us somewhere for hot ashes to cool off before being disposed of with our rubbish and mean the ash pan could stay in the stove rather than sit on the towpath. If we were going to get anything else nicked, we’d rather it was a bucket than the ash pan from our corner stove which would be hard to replace without ordering one from Yorkshire.

Whilst here we had a routle through boxes of bolts. Back in the summer Mick had wanted one for our batteries. A good look round and he may have found just the one. When asking of its price the lady said 10p! When our hand written bill was finished she said call it £7, the bolt now 5p.


What a wonderful shop, with just about everything, except an ash can with a lid. How do they stay trading in this modern world? Hopefully local builders and joiners give them plenty of business.

The old and the new

A walk back through town to get some food for this evening. The trams now run into the centre and many of the hoardings we’d got used to seeing 18 months ago have now gone. Old buildings surrounded by new glazed towers.

Skating and a big wheel

Then it was time for me to do a touch of work. A script was printed out, read, notes made, photo references added to Pinterest. Then my tickets for my flight to Vienna were printed out. These are all in German, so I spent a while trying to translate them in case there was something I needed to know other than the obvious times and flight numbers. It’s a long long time since I did German at school and only the bare minimum has remained with me.


0 locks, 0 miles, 1 flight walked, 1 bucket, 12, 1 bolt, 1 time warp, 8 page script, 105 images, 4 flights, 22 letters in a word, 2 many consonants!

Inverting Again. 11th December

Cropredy Marina to Broadmoor Lock

New berth numbers going up in the marina

Sainsburys took their time in getting back to me yesterday, but this morning I woke to an email and message from them. The Banbury store had not followed the correct process. Anything with the delivery date or following day as Use by dates should have been flagged up on the paperwork. This would have given us the chance to return anything. As it wasn’t mentioned we got our money back for the ham and some humous. So it’s always worth commenting on such things.

Much of the morning was taken up with A Regular Little Houdini conversations. The production manager rang about something else so I got chance to put forward my new idea, then a lengthy chat with the new director. We came up with a solution that once we get to Vienna we may be able to improve on to get the Wow factor. Another chat with the Production Manager and all was agreed.

Festive inflatables

Mick in the mean time readied Oleanna for the off. A final load of washing was done, the dirty washing drawer now empty, again. He topped up with water and flattened down the pram cover.

Then it was time to unplug the hook up. He flicked the switch in the electrics cupboard, but the inverter didn’t come on. This should be seemless, no interruption in power, but the inverter wasn’t working!

Was open inverter surgery required?

He tried all sorts, the big breaker switches were turned off and on, the cover came off, he checked for loose connections, the volt meter came out to check for voltage. He unplugged the cable going to the Victron Monitoring system, the inverter started to work. Plugged it back in, it stopped. It was unplugged again.

Curtain storyboard

By now it was the marinas lunch time so we had lunch ourselves, I finished off a new storyboard all about curtain movements, scanned and emailed it to all concerned in Vienna and Wales. At 13:55 we untied and pushed back, only to come forwards again into the next berth which is a service mooring.

Byebye marina

A top up of diesel and five bags of coal, then we were finally ready for the off. Our plan was not to go far, the stoppage at Claydon flight is only a couple of miles away and due to reopen at the end of play on Friday. So the first available towpath mooring would do us. These however were all taken, so we rose up Broadmoor Lock and found a space there. With only half an hour before cat curfew time Tilly was allowed out to survey our location.

Broadmoor Lock

Mick spent some time on the internet looking for a solution to the inverter problem. He plugged our laptop into it, had a look. The settings seemed fine, so he plugged the monitoring system back in and all was fine. He then altered a setting which means if the inverter is not needed it will turn itself off but will wake up to check if it’s needed at regular intervals, this will save us power.

Some of those red berries would look good on a wreath!

Tomorrow the forecast is for rain much of the day. But if we wake to favourable conditions then we’ll carry on up the last two locks hopefully before it starts to rain. Fingers crossed.

Just what am I meant to do with half an hour?!

1 lock, 0.36 miles, £6.30 refund, 1 reverse, 1 left, 1 fault on the monitoring system, 1 last load, 5 bags coal, 55 litres diesel, 1 very helpful dutch chap, 1 inverter set to turn on and off by itself, 1 problem not solved just gone away, 30 minutes! 1 sock completed, 8m by 3.1m Taft CS Weinrot.

Hunkered Down With The Washing Machine. 10th December

Cropredy Marina


The day started windy, it then increased to being windier, to WINDY, to BLUSTERY, to Buffettingly BLASTING wind, with a touch of rain added in for good measure!

Before we left the marina we were wanting to top up with diesel and coal which would mean manoeuvring to the service point which is only a short distance away and at a right angle to our mooring. But the strength of the wind was very off putting, so we changed our mind. Mick headed over to the office and handed over another £15 for an extra night. At least this meant we could carry on with washing things.


Around midday there was a lull in the elements which was handy as we had a Sainsburys delivery. Our mooring was very handily positioned for the driver and he pushed his trolley with six crates of goodies down the pontoon to the stern of Oleanna. With Tilly locked in the bedroom we were able to unload the crates at ease.

Blimey that’s a lot!

I’d just finished cleaning and rationalising what was on the kitchen counters. Now they groaned under the weight, we’d decided to get some Christmas booze in. With 25% off when buying six bottles it was worth doing. Finding space to stow everything was a bit tricky but it all got tucked away in the end.

That was meant to last Mick a week!

Checking the Use by dates on the fresh produce I noticed there were a few things with short dates. Two packs of ham and some humous running out tomorrow, a complaint was needed. I entered a facebook messenger conversation which took ages to get replied to, photos were needed of the dates and paperwork. Still no reply when we went to bed, we’ll see what they come up with.


The kitchen tap has developed a drip, quite an annoying one. It can be stopped with the precise positioning of the hot water tap. So last week we’d ordered new valves for it, no washers nowadays! Getting both hot and cold valves we were covered. Today was a perfect day to do such a job, except we don’t have a 2mm allen key to be unable to do the taps! We’ll have to cope with the water torture a little longer.

Shh closers

One of the soft closers on our pullout kitchen cupboard in the galley had broken the other day, so we’d ordered two more. This was a lot easier to sort as the closer just slots over the top of the cupboard door hinge with a bit of umph it locks into position. Job done.

Pulling it out

My knitting was checked for size, sadly just a touch too big, I amended the pattern and pulled it right back to where the rib started. Fortunately by the end of the evening it was further on with just two fingers left to knit, then the second glove.

Shortly before sitting down to enjoy some left over Salmon en croute I received an email with a new version of the script for Houdini. Magic tricks added and a rewrite of the opening of Act 2. This is the most problematical section of the play. A quick read of the stage directions, oh bugger! Curtains that have taken quite a lot of sorting out now need to do a lot more than had been planned for. A rethink is required to accommodate edits in the video footage. Can we achieve the required effect without use of solenoids?


0 locks, 0 miles, 1 immensely windy day, thrice bored cat, 1 empty wee tank, 5 bottles wine, 1 bottle prosecco, 6 boxes wine, 7 bottles beer, 1 wine cellar overflowing, 1 veg shelf now stocked with beer, 3 more loads washing, £15, 1 stove lit, 5th version, 2 extra swipes, 1 big rethink.

Christmas Cut. 5th December

Tom Rolt Bridge to Slat Mill Lock

The last push this morning as we wanted to be pushing off. About time too !!!

There is a lack of post offices where we’re heading so last night I’d packaged up presents that needed to go in the post, printed off a few cards all that was left this morning was to find addresses and take them to the post office in Castle Quay.

Time to move onwards

Whilst I was busy Mick cycled down to Morrisons for some of their peanut butter. Three jars were purchased (it’s the best in our opinion, only made with peanuts and nothing else), sadly their gluten free aisle isn’t what it was last year and there was no gf black pudding!

Once the post had been posted and a couple of things picked up from other shops there was one thing left to do. I took a deep breath and walked into The Cutting Bar for my annual haircut. I’d considered going elsewhere after last year, but here I could just walk in without an appointment. Only wanting a straight line cutting it should be cheap and I was determined to not let them put loads of gunk on my head..


There was a short queue, but after about ten minutes I was directed towards the sink. Here the lady who’d been sat on the desk gently washed my hair, she took so long I’d have been able to do it twice and have a shower at the same time.


Then another lady took over. I felt like I should say, ‘Bless me, for it has been twelve months since my last hair cut’. But instead I just asked for it to be cut as short as possible but still able to go back into pig tails. My lovely hair dresser in Scarborough knows what this means, this lady though added a couple of inches on, most probably hoping it would encourage me back sooner, little does she know!

Not quite a years worth on the floor

I was very quick off the mark when she reached for the blow drier and a hair brush. I’d noticed this year there were signs saying you could have a rough blow dry for £2 extra. This would be enough to get rid of the damp before going out into the cold again, but hopefully not involve all the brushing and curling under to give me a lions main. I had made the right decision, thankfully.

After. It can be Christmas now.

No products, no curling, no extra body. Phew! My ordeal was over for another year. At my reckoning it was going to cost me just over £20, so imagine my surprise when she said £15.95 please! Who was I to argue? This was £3 less than I thought it would be before the blow drying. Then the penny dropped as I walked out the door, I’d been charged the Senior rate! Excuse me, I’m not even 55 yet!! Blimey has my face become that haggard!?!

As I got back to the boat, Mick had just started to reverse back to the water point. I was picked up and handed a windlass to lift the bridge. We filled the tank and put on winter cruising clothes, time to make a move.

Dink and Malc’s

Last year as we left Banbury we came across ice outside Dink and Malc’s house, today it was clear. As ever a friendly wave from inside the conservatory and a big thumbs up from Malc as we passed. I wonder how many times he has to wave a day in the summer months to passing boaters.

Rising away from Banbury

Up Hardwick Lock, under the M40 and on to Bourton Lock. Here the lock cottage looks much the same as ever. All the windows shuttered up, wonder what it’s like inside.

We’ll try

We decided to pull up before Slat Mill Lock in an Herbie Award winning mooring. But before we reached there we crunched through our first bit of ice this winter. No body had been this way for a while we thought as we broke the cat ice ahead of Oleanna.

The award winning mooring

Up ahead on the end of the straight was a moored boat, we wouldn’t be on our own, but there was still plenty of space. We tied up and opened the doors for Tilly. At last! A new outside!!

A muddy moo

The evening was taken over by a phone call (whilst stood on one leg outside on the towpath freezing) to a new director for A Regular Little Houdini. Josh who offered me the job has sadly had to stand down as he has not been allowed to take time off Emmerdale to get the show up and running in Vienna. So this evening I had a lengthy chat with Tim the new director who will also be lighting the show. He is very much playing catch up.

Floating 1

Have to say it’s nice to have someone taking the lead. Communications between one member of the team have been somewhat lacking. I got a response to an email three weeks after I’d sent it. Constant badgering for information isn’t what I’d signed up for, so I have to admit I’d slightly given up. Hopefully now Tim is in the picture things will start happening, they’d better as the set goes into the theatre in a months time!

2 locks, 3.38 miles, 0.21 backwards, 1 lift bridge lifted twice, 3 parcels, 3 jars peanut butter, 6 inches shorter (bet you can see the difference this time Tom), 1 boater feeling older than she is, £5 saved, 1 confirmed, 1 turned down, 2 waves, 1 patch of ice, 1 new director, 16 emails, 2 fingers crossed things start to happen now.

3.99 Miles And 2 Locks! 24th November

Jericho to Kidlington Green Lock 43

We’ve moved!!!!!!

Leaving College Cruisers behind

It’s all very well being excited, but my day didn’t start well. I was a bit peckish in the middle of the night, so went to my bowls. Three weeks ago Tom had forgotten to give me my morning ding ding and I had two very empty bowls when She came home. Last night he’d even stolen my bowls, there was nothing what-so-ever to even lick!

So I had to be creative. I found a couple of things that smelt nice so gave them a lick, but they fell on the floor making a clanking noise waking them up! Tom stole these as well, saying it was for my own good as I must have caught what She had had. I hadn’t caught anything, well not that I’d noticed! If I had it certainly wasn’t tasty with a tail, because I’d have remembered.

I do not waste my time. They do!!

This morning I waited eagerly, my tummy rumbling, for the ding ding. But Tom forgot and he wasn’t even going to Liverpool! She didn’t do anything about it either!! So I had to spend much of the remainder of the day trying to sleep with the growling monster in my tummy making increasingly louder noises. When I couldn’t sleep I did get to watch the outside moving from inside. They had a few attempts at tying it up, but rejected these after a while. I thought the trees looked good, but no, who am I!

After breakfast I dug out my walking boots, the towpaths up ahead would be muddy so I traded trainers for boots for the first time in ages. We pushed off just after 11am our aim to reach a suitable mooring for Tilly to explore for the remainder of the day, see we’re not as horrid as she makes out.

Fishing at Aristotle bridge

We waved goodbye to Oxford. We won’t miss the trains through the night, although we’ll still have the railway for a while. We won’t miss the boat behind us running his generator till midnight! We won’t miss all the wheelie suitcases rumbling past. I won’t miss the narrow outside and lack of friends.

One for Bridget

At Aristotle Bridge one boat sat on the moorings where it’s been for ages, surrounded by fishermen. If we’d wanted to pull in we’d have caused quite a stir, but we’d only just pulled away so slowed to pass them all and say hello. From here on the towpath is closed as it is being improved.

Topping up whilst the washing machine works hard on my painty clothes

A gap in the works gave us the opportunity to pull in at the services just after Elizabeth Jennings Way. Another boat was filling so whilst waiting to use the tap, our washing machine already going, we disposed of the packing from the printer, ash, general waste and emptied the yellow water.

Our first lift bridge, usually left open

Once the fresh water tank was full we pulled away and were soon under our first Oxford Canal lift bridge, Bridge 238 which is left open.

Approaching Wolvercote Lock

Wolvercote Lock was easier to access than normal. The last boat on the moorings here must be off on a jolly at the moment. I wound the paddle and emptied the lock a touch for the levels to equalise then pushed open the bottom gate. This end of the Oxford Canal the locks only have single bottom gates. On deeper locks this can make for hard work, but at only 4ft 3″ the gate moved easily.

C&RT work boats tied to rotting felled trees!

Less can be said about the lift bridges! The bridges out from Oxford have a reputation. Last year I got their measure, but a year is a long time and things have been tinkered with and worn since.

Perry’s Lift Bridge 234 would not unlock. Was this the one that you needed to put your weight on and give your key a quarter turn to the exact spot? No, nothing seemed to work for me. I called Mick to have a go. A cyclist came by and was asked if this bridge had a knack. Everything was tried by all three of us, still locked. The cyclist headed off to find his mate. If you’ve ever been this way you will more than likely have met the chap who appeared, he’s often around helping or making comments about how shallow the canal is along the Agenda 21 moorings.

It just wouldn’t unlock

With the expert local knowledge he lifted and jiggled the lock. Apparently the post that the lock locks into can move, so some sideways lifting and jiggling got it aligned again at which point it unlocked. Hooray! Everyone was thanked as I sat on the beam to hold it open and Mick brought Oleanna through.

I should have had more pie to lift this bridge

The next bridge, Wolvercote Lift Bridge, I knew would be problematical, it nearly always is. No lock on this one just a lot of hoiking to do. I crossed over and grabbed one of the beams above my head and tried with all my weight to get it to move, nothing. I tried the other beam and got it to acknowledge that I was doing something. After being ill the other day I didn’t feel like being a monkey and working my way along the beam to the end and with no handy passersby I had to call for assistance from Mick.

Open and sat on as Oleanna passes underneath

Here the bridge landing is high and overhanging so it’s not as simple as just pulling up with a rope. Our extra fat fender had to be deployed to help preserve the cabin paintwork. Mick then could join me and give the towpath side of the bridge a lift until I could get my weight on top of the beam to open it. I remember last year there being a strong wind which kept lifting me off the ground.

Wolvercote Junction. Left to the Thames, straight on to the north and Christmas

Wolvercote Junction next where if you turn west you end up on the Thames by King’s Lock. I’d half expected the canal to be high here and Dukes Cut Lock to be partly under water with the Thames being in flood. But all looked fairly normal. We carried on with our course northwards and into Dukes Lock.

Oooo Aaarrgh!

Soon followed Drinkwater Lift Bridge. This bridge is closing in the new year to have work done on the bridge approach walls and the bridge will have a manual hydraulic lifting system added to it. This bridge is used more than the other two we’d come through today, as quite a lot of boaters bypass them on the Thames. Here reading the instructions on the lock have always worked, especially the quarter turn of the key. Once unlocked it’s a quick dash across as the bridge is keen to open. Then on closing it needs some persuasion and to be quick at getting onto it to add your weight to be able to lock it again. With all this in mind it is easy and I managed it without too much bother. Just a shame it’s not Wolvercote bridge getting some attention this stoppage season!

Last one of the day and easiest

Now we had about a mile to go before Kidlington Green Lock came into view. The piling edge below the lock was empty, we found our nappy pins and moored up doing our best not to slip on the muddy towpath. It now being 3pm there was only an hour left before cat curfew. Tilly had been offered some food, a small amount before heading out the back doors, but this was totally over looked.


At last!!! A whole new outside, yet strangely familiar. There was plenty to sniff and check out. I made full use of my hour exploring, showing myself twice on the cat walk before heading off in a different direction. This is so much more like it! Then when I came inside there was a great big box to sit in, this made up for not being allowed to stay out later.

What’s in here?
A cat, what did you expect?

The joint of beef we’d bought yesterday went in the oven and came out smelling wonderful, it tasted good too!

2 locks, 3.99 miles, 3 lift bridges, 2 pesky, 1 easy, 2 cyclists held up, 3 willow trees ducked under, 1 work boat tied to rotting wood, 1 hour of shore leave, 1 empty wee tank, 50% rubbish disposed of, 1 full water tank, 1 amended Houdini drawing, 1 pair socks, 1 days cruising, 2 smiley boaters, 1 happy cat again.