Time for breakfast, we’d some big eggs to eat so a couple of poached eggs each to start the day. We have poach pods and normally only two sit in the pan to poach. But today with four in there it was a little bit cramped, so much so two of them decided to sink! So we had one poached egg and a boiled egg each. Getting the timings right was a touch harder than normal as they were so big to start with. But they turned out well. The yolks on the sunk ones just, but only just starting to thicken up, so lovely and creamy. Yum!
A dry day, the first in an age! The thought of maybe having to put up with a bored cat for a week made us reassess shore leave. It was decided that she could go out if chaperoned.
Tilly and I went out to access the situation, the river had quite a flow to it and was making a noise which caught Tilly’s attention. An amorous couple across the way did too, I told her not to stare! The noise was off putting and the trees were more attractive. So up into the ivy of a dead tree she scurried, the only sign of her position was the waving branches.
Mick took over so that I could get some work done. The aim to get all my model wet so that it would have to have time to dry, meaning we could go out for a walk and explore Newbury.
The warmer and drier weather meant this took some doing as everything was drying quickly. Tilly came in to lend a paw. Today for the first time she became fascinated with the paint water. I’ve been fortunate that she’s not noticed it before and today I was able to keep an eye on her.
Houdini our previous second mate, couldn’t keep her paws out of water pots. When I worked full time I had to remember at the end of the day to pour the contents away. If I ever left it on my work bench, by the morning it was guaranteed to be spilt over everything! Living on a boat means I am very unlikely to leave my water out as we’d be needing the table for other things.
Mid afternoon we set off to stretch our legs. I was after some grey card and we wanted to see if we could get rid of some rubbish. Newbury is quite a good place to be for transport, shopping and things to do, but unless you pay at a marina there is no water and there are no bin stores along the towpath, these are marina based also. So Sainsburys got our recycling, then we set off to walk to Hobbycraft.
The walk involved dual carriageways, underpasses which after a while I decided wasn’t worth all the noise and pollution for two pieces of card which I could get away with not using. So we turned back towards town to see what was on offer.
A large town center with many big names including John Lewis and Lakeland tucked away to the side in a new shopping area. The main street is long and ends with a clock tower. Here fingers point towards Oxford and Bath. Oxford closer, but inaccessible to us for the time being.
We had a good nosy around the shops, if you ever want to buy marker pens go into Wilko first before WH Smith, they are a third the price there! I maybe got a couple of things for Christmas too and we had a discussion as to whether one decoration on a tree in John Lewis was a pie or pudding.
More Houdini model painting before I put it all together, but by this time it was a touch too dark to check to see what else I might want to do to it. Hopefully not too much more, then I can have a couple of days off before Panto starts in earnest.
0 locks, 0 miles, 4 eggs, 2 floating , 2 sunk, 1 engine run, 8 red boards, 1 purple wash, 1 hour shore leave, 1 blue sky, 1 canoodling couple, 1 tree conquered, 2 red tabs moved, 2 black tabs okay, 0 grey card, 1 paw painting assistant, 1st pork left overs, paprika pork and peppers.
On Sunday Mick helped me with all my things to Avoncliff Station.
I had quite a lot and a quick change at Westbury Station so he decided to come with me that far to help get me onto the next train. After another change I got a taxi to Admirals Hard where I caught the Cremyll Ferry across to the Rame Peninsula. Only an eight minute crossing but just long enough for those of us sat outside to get sprayed by the waves.
Lou was there to pick me up, we dropped my work things off at the workshop where Ade was busy and then she gave me a lift down to the village of Kingsand. With keys to my flat I made myself comfortable, stocked up on some things to eat and drink from the shop, possibly getting ripped off and then went for an explore. This was likely to be the only time I’d get in daylight to look round.
Kingsand and Cawsand are twin villages in Cornwall, however until 1844 Kingsand was in Devon and Cawsand Cornwall. A house still marks the boundary, about 100 ft away from my flat.
Several small beaches link the houses together, all very characterful, smugglers hiding in the corner of your eye. Narrow roads with no parking make for a tranquil place, well until the tide comes in! It did however feel as though nobody actually lives there, it’s just for the tourists now.
My flat was about as long as Oleanna but wider. Have to say that our bathroom layout is better designed despite being half the size. Everything was very comfortable, but the kitchen lacked a few basics that would have made cooking a touch more flavoursome.
Monday morning I was picked up from outside one of the pubs and was at work for 8.30. First thing was to lay out the back drop. Normally this would have been stretched on a frame, but as my design needed me to be able to draw lots of circles we laid it out on the floor. By 10am I’d primed the cloth and gained a couple of blisters in the process. Ade and Lou’s workshop has been having a new roof fitted, the central ridge still needed replacing and in parts it was open to the sky. So as the day progressed and the weather outside became damp, buckets were deployed around the place.
By the end of the day just about every bit of set that was ready had been primed and my backdrop was marked out. A pencil and string being my compass, I could have done with Frank’s trammel heads (ends of a compass that you can attach to a length of wood), but I managed in the end.
Tuesday and I started to lay blocks of colour onto the backdrop. Three shades of blue paint, a straight edge and a steady hand were needed. Occasionally a helping paw would appear, Bo and Shine two collies spend their days over seeing what happens in the workshop and hoping to be able to gain access to the bins from next door.
The workshop is next door to CornishPod, winner of the World Pasty Championship in 2016. The smells wafting through from them were too much for me, on Monday I’d put in an order for a couple of gluten free pasties. Fresh and warm I enjoyed one for my lunch, keeping the second one for Wednesday. The day was wet again, water flooded in through a hole that had been made for new electrics, a blocked drain was found and sorted by the landlord.
Wednesday thankfully a dry day but water had seeped under the wooden floor where my cloth was pinned out , it had crept up between the sheets and was creating quite a stain. In parts the cloth was wetter than when I’d first painted it. Action was taken and we relaid it on sheets of plastic, a fan heater deployed to drive off the worst of the moisture and I concentrated on painting the portals. The roofers were back in for the day, covering up sections of the ridge.
Each morning I woke to wonderful sunrises, some from Tellytubbies,
others more moody and grown up. Not a bad view to have from your bedroom window. The local sea swimmers would all walk down for their morning dip shortly after dawn. They’d bob away in the swell as the tide came in, Kingsand only seems to have high tide!
Thursday was the start of the next storm. We hoped the worst would miss us. The team grew by two, Ade’s nephew Frank and a scenic artist Debs. Debs had come to paint another set they have been building for The Drum in Plymouth. Nothing quite so time consuming as my backdrop and portals, just lots of washes and rust. Lu and Frank lent a hand where needed, basing things in for me and painting black for Debs. As the day progressed the winds got stronger and stronger, necessitating brushing more bits of decaying roof off my backdrop.
By the time I got back to my flat the tide was being aided by the wind. On other evenings towards high tide the waves had been making it onto the road outside my front door, but the direction of the wind having changed and the tides not being so high the waves just crashed against my bedroom wall instead. Their bumping giving the sofa a slight nudge. I hoped I’d be able to get some sleep, but thankfully things calmed down and I managed to get some shut eye.
Friday, Debs and I were left to it in the workshop, the others on apple duty back at the house. Ade and Lou have around 250 apple trees from which they press apple juice. This years crop has been plentiful, so whilst painting brushes were working hard at the workshop, Lou and Frank picked up the latest windfalls and Ade worked his way through the first of 40 crates of apples.
By the end of the day the other set was finished and Panto had a completed backdrop and two portals. Plenty more for me to do, but at least the main aim of the week was completed. I celebrated by having a halloumi and roasted pepper pasty for lunch, very tasty it was too.
Saturday my last day. A quick tidy up of the flat before I got a lift up to the workshop to see what I could achieve before heading home. I made a good start on two large flats, but I’d hoped to get them almost completed but the paint just wasn’t drying quickly enough. There was also the matter of packing paint and mixing colours so Lou can carry on basing things in,hopefully saving me hours of work.
The last job was to mix a huge vat of grey. I hate mixing grey, you think you’ve nearly reached the right shade, just a bit more black, a bit more, a bit more, maybe just a touch more. Damn! Now a bit more white!!
The other set was loaded onto a wagon. The pieces I’d finished were stacked away and the backdrop was hung to help it continue drying. The water stain is fading but I doubt it will go completely.
Back in my civvies it was time to head for the train. A lift down to the ferry which was just coming in, then an awaiting cab to the station. I had 4 minutes to get to the right platform, my luggage a touch lighter as my brushes will go to Chipping Norton with the set. Two trains and I arrived back in Bradford on Avon where Mick was there to meet me.
A hard weeks work in the company of the lovely Lou and Ade in such a wonderful setting. It’s just a shame I never really got to see the village at low tide in day light.
Meanwhile back on Oleanna.
Mick and Tilly have not been idle. On Sunday afternoon Mick moved the boat a little towards Bradford joining the local boats. On Monday he took the toilet to bits. We have a Separett Villa, the urine gets separated into a tank under the floor from which we can pump it out into another container for disposal. Gradually when rinsing through the system I have noticed it taking longer and longer for the water to drain to the tank, so I’d raised a chitty with the maintenance department.
It was quite sometime ago that Finesse showed us how everything had gone together but Mick managed quite easily to remove the toilet and then the floor above the tank. From the separator one pipe leads to another which then does two 90 degree turns to enter the underfloor tank. Here was where the blockage was gradually getting worse and when Mick poured vinegar into the top it stayed put, the pipe finally having blocked.
With some drain unblocking cabley thing and more vinegar he eventually managed to shift the blockage. No need to cross our legs, we can go to the loo again. But maybe we need to add more vinegar to the bottle we spray the separator with, or even add it neat every now and again, or maybe we should just drink it so that the pipe doesn’t block again.
On Tuesday morning I made a request that Tom should move the outside. This outside was okay, but another would be better, so he moved it to a Mrs Tilly stamp award winning mooring, Dundas. Here I busied myself outside, returning to check on Tom only to find he’d lost his legs! I found them for him down in the big box at the back of Oleanna. It was quite soggy down there so Tom was trying to get rid of all the Aunty freeze that had leaked there a month or so ago. He was very careful to keep me away from this Aunty, apparently it can be deadly to cats.
Thursday they filled with water winded and headed back towards Avoncliff. All the sink U bends and shower traps were given a good clean and then on Friday they moved up to Bradford and managed to get a spot on the 48hr moorings below the lock. Here was good, plenty to keep me occupied, but then Tom decided to nudge the outside a touch. This touch to the outside meant there were far more woofers, in fact a constant stream of them. It really wasn’t worth stepping off the boat!
0 locks, 7.24 miles by boat, 5 different moorings, 1 calcified lump added to the yellow water tank, 10 litres anti-freeze, 2 winds, 5 trains, 2 taxis, 2 ferries, 13 lifts, 2 pretty villages, 0 beach to be seen, 6m plus high tide, £51!!! 2nd shop at the co-op, 1 flat almost on the beach, 1 thumping sea, 4 bottles wine, 1 bottle oil and some garlic required, 58 hours, 1 fat knee, 1 pastie powered painter, 1 back cloth, 2 portals complete, 1 well used straight edge, 2 woofer assistants, 1 slightly blue ball, all three crew back on board, 1 purring cat.
Swinford Meadow to the very end of the Oxford Canal
The cows came to check on us last night and again this morning. We were fine having a cuppa in bed as we couldn’t go anywhere. Around 9am we had a call from RCR saying that an engineer would be with us after he’d finished on another job, he’d give us a call when on his way. So we were patient.
Mick had another look in the engine bay and I got on with some work, Tilly resigned herself to having a long morning snooze, hoping that she might get to have some shore leave later in the day. No chance, not today.
Yesterday Mick had tried tightening various nuts on the pipe from the calorifier to the engine but still the pipe wobbled and leaked. His thought was that it wouldn’t be a simple thing and a part would have to be found. We suspected we’d be sat with the cows for some time yet.
Time passed I got new supports and some fresh welsh mud carved and covered in tissue paper and then started to cut out sections to make a section of the transporter bridge. Having a stationary day was going to be good for my model. Lunchtime came and we wondered if the engineer would ever turn up. Then we got the call, he was five minutes away, didn’t know the area so it might take him sometime to find somewhere to park.
At just gone 1pm he appeared through the meadow with his dog Caspar. A nice jolly chap who climbed down into our engine bay. Mick explained things, he took them to bits then tightened everything up with that bit more force than Mick had used, everything back together. The amount of coolant in the bilge required the skin tank to be topped up, ten pints of water and half a bottle of pink stuff later the tank could be bled of air. The engine was started up, no leaks, Hooray!! Bubbles of air worked their way through the pipes into the header tank, more water added. He was satisfied he’d solved our problem, only time would tell if we got hot water or not. He finished his cuppa and headed back off across the meadow with Caspar in tow.
2pm. How long would it take to get to Oxford? We consulted our maps, about three hours. Fingers crossed that we’d find a mooring. We rolled up the covers and pushed off. Our original plan for today was to get a fix of narrow locks, having not done one since Hillmorton almost three months ago. But time was a touch short so we opted to miss out on turning down Dukes Cut and head down the faster route on the Thames.
At Eynsham Lock the engineer was sat in his van having his lunch, we waved goodbye and thank you and pushed on.
Right at the junction and at King’s Lock the Lockie walked over the top gate and pushed one side open for us then walked away to start mowing the grass. Mick dropped me off to open the other side.
This was our last match stick lock so I had the opportunity to use the big long pole to open and close the bottom gates for the first time. Then we were on our way again to Godstow Lock where the Lockie and her volunteer were mob handed to push buttons.
Past the meadows we played spot the cow. The empty landscape had one black cow sat in the middle all by itself, the others miles away towards Jericho. We were making good time, hopefully we’d find a space for ourselves at Osney Bridge. We passed Sheepwash Junction, under the bridge.
A space! Brilliant!! Well except there was a man stood there reserving it. Mick questioned this as we were there before his boat. No he was reserving it and there was his boat a few hundred feet away. We carried on. There were a couple of spaces which would have fitted a shorter boat, like the one heading for the space, but not us. A couple of git gaps, but either nobody was home or those on board were avoiding eye contact. No luck. We managed to wind before the weir and retraced our steps hoping there would be space up on the canal.
Isis Lock was occupied, a boat facing downhill, the lock gates closed, but nobody about. Having spent time here last winter I recognised the boat and knew they’d be filling with water from one of the taps along the permanent moorings. The tank was full and over flowing, it didn’t take long for the chap to come out, disconnect his hose pipe and reverse out of the lock. He said there was plenty of space up ahead, Phew!
As I set the lock for us Mick walked down to the very end of the canal. The two day visitor mooring was free, so once out of the lock we reversed down the arm past all the residential moorings and pulled up the closest boat to the city centre, it was a little after 5 pm.
Quick showers and we were out the doors leaving Tilly in charge for the evening.
A quick meal was needed, so we opted for Nandos, we know how to live! This was Micks first ever experience and it went down well. Then we joined the long queue to collect tickets at the New Theatre. We were glad we’d got there when we did as the queue by the time we got to the front was vast. Two company tickets to collect and pay for was possibly one of the easiest transactions the box office lady had to do.
Chilled Medication was ordered for the interval, we found our seats. We’d made it in plenty of time. At last we were going to get to see War Horse.
I’ve worked at the New Theatre a couple of times. The 30th anniversary production of Bouncers opened here back in 2007 before going on a National Tour. Before that I sat next to Anthea Turner at the opening performance of Great Expectations, the musical back in 1994 (?) when I was Assistant Designer. I sat with my fingers crossed after a brolly was left mid stage by Darren Day, wonderfully positioned to fowl a big house truck that was about to be winched onto stage. I think only a few hundred in the audience noticed the Stage Manager crawling across the stage to try to rectify the problem.
Tonight however the show was slick, loud, impressive, just how many actors and puppeteers can you get on one big stage? More than four that’s for sure! A fantastic show that I’ve always wanted to see, but never been in the right place, or had the money. Our friends Matt and Bill are currently touring in the show, world wide and we have managed to coincide with them here. Company rate tickets made the evening that bit kinder on our pockets.
We met up with the chaps after the show at The Lighthouse for a few drinks. It’s always lovely to see Matt and have a catch up, I hadn’t seen Bill for quite some years. He’s been in War Horse now for two years and is signed up for another, spending Christmas is Paris before heading to Australia. Bill was full of all the information about the show. 34 in the cast, 16 local crew and around another 20 back stage staff ranging from an armourer, 3 technicians, 3 puppet technicians who can change Joey’s leg should it get broken mid show, a bit like a pit stop in a Grand Prix.
The puppets for the show are made in South Africa, a Joey puppet costing £250,000 and the cost for the full set of puppets is £1 million. This touring production has two of everything, one set is currently in storage in Australia awaiting their arrival early next year. Lots of money, but it brings the crowds in and tonight, as I’m sure just about every night, it got a standing ovation. If you’ve not seen it you should. It’s only taken us 12 years but it was worth the wait especially as we got to see two old Hull Truckers too.
4 locks, 1 narrow fix, 7.27 miles, 0.25 miles in reverse, 1 engineers dog, 1 nut tightened just that bit more, 10 pints water, 2L antifreeze, 4 uprights, 0 shore leave, 3 hours, 1 space reserved, 3 git gaps, 1 surprisingly quiet 2 day mooring, 1st Nandos, 34 actors, 2 northern Devonshire accents, 2 huge horses, 2 chocolate chilled medications, 1 tank, 1 ship, 3 glasses of wine each, 1 Sainsburys delivery booked for Saturday, 2 fingers crossed for a mooring, 2 am to bed! Now who’s the dirty stop outs!
Cats are supposedly meant to sleep for 70% of the day. Yesterday our little thug managed to turn that figure on it’s head being wide awake for 70%, so today there has been a lot of sleeping to catch up on. Heading out of the back doors whilst cruising normally requires Tilly to say hello to Tom, whilst I have a controlling hand around her chest, then the door is closed and a toy is thrown down the cabin for Tilly to chase, giving me enough time to pop out through the doors and close them behind me before she returns. 70% of the time this works. Today no such tactics were required she barely opened her eyes all morning.
A quick top up of water at Shifford Lock and we were on our way down, winding our way around the Oxfordshire countryside. Lock keepers were on duty at all three locks today, the sun keeping everyone warmer than expected. The fields have been harvested, the straw all bundled up ready for storage. Our washing machine was set to work with a load of bed linen which would be ready to hang out when we arrived at a mooring.
At one bend we came across two narrowboats heading upstream. Mick pulled us over to let the first one past, the existence of the second one only noticeable due to the looks over the first ones shoulders. Giving way whilst heading downstream isn’t always possible due to the flow on a river which keeps you moving, but nobody was slowing for us, so our stern ended up sliding along some screechy scratchy bush. Luckily only a thin surface scratch to the cabin side.
On the moorings above Pinkhill Lock were two familiar boats. NB Freedom, who we’d last shared Molesey Lock with after our time at Hampton Court and WB No Problem, her pram cover just visible.
We paused to say hello to Sue, our paths may cross again this year, it depends on their progress downstream, but I suspect we’ll be popping out from the K&A long after they have passed Reading.
Down Pinkhill Lock and we soon pulled in at the boat yard. First we pulled in where the Anglo Welsh boats come out from, but then moved down to the diesel pump by the entrance of the marina. We filled up the tank, the first time in a month taking on what we used to take on every couple of weeks, batteries and solar make a big difference.
Now to find a mooring, we headed straight to where we’d moored a week ago, not bothering to try any other stretch of bank and pulled in with ease. Tilly was stood on top of the toilet as I walked back through the boat, her earlier lack of enthusiasm had vanished, she’d recharged her batteries.
Time to sort a new passport, a new photo was needed. Handily our cabin walls were the perfect background, just a shame the photo checker kept thinking I had my mouth open in the photo! I think this automatically happens when you select a photo that you don’t mind of yourself, meaning you end up with a convict in your passport for the next ten years!
Before my passport can be processed my old one has to be returned to be cancelled, even though it is five years out of date. Better to do it straight away, so I set out to head to Eynsham Post Office. Tilly decided that she’d come too. I was a good two thirds across the fields when I decided that maybe she’d just keep following me all the way and that would not be a good idea.
The walk along the river to the bridge was a pleasant one, but as soon as I got onto the road!
Swinford Bridge is a toll bridge a small booth with two chaps sat at the northern end of the bridge collecting 5ps. Constant traffic passed me as I walked along the narrow footpath, I made sure I kept my arms in. As soon as I got passed the roundabout calm returned.
A pretty village with far more to it than I was expecting. A nice looking cafe, several pubs, hair dressers, the Post Office where I sent my passport off. Across the way was The Market Garden, a wholefood shop and deli. Here you can buy refills for eco cleaning products, and they have a whole wall dispensing dry food stuffs without packaging along with a very good selection of veg.
There is also a Co-op and a DIY store with rainbow buckets lining the shelves outside. I needed some more model making glue so had a good look round. They might just have the right bolt for Oleanna.
Back at the boat our bedding was almost dry in the blustery wind. Tilly popped out from some friendly cover, she’d obviously been doing ‘Nothing!’!! Mick had the tool box out, he thought he’d sorted the bolt problem, but had discovered another, far more serious.
The pipe leading from the calorifier to where it meets the engine was leaking coolant into the bilges. He’d tried tightening the join, but the connection still wobbled. This is part of the engines cooling system and about 70% of the coolant was now below the engine, not able to do it’s job. Mick might have spotted it sooner if the engine temperature gauge wasn’t inside the rear hatch! How long had we had the engine running for?
Mick used the RCR (AA for boats) app to inform them that we had a problem, this lets them know where you are. Then he spotted that the app had put in an incorrect phone number, so he made a phone call, the old fashioned way. It was out of normal hours and the lady who answered the phone had little idea that the Thames stretches way outside of London, we were also told to get off the boat and stand where an engineer could see us. This wasn’t necessary in our case, we think she had a script to follow. Our breakdown we didn’t class as an emergency, tomorrow morning would be fine. It was logged.
A while later we had a call back which had originated from the app. This lady knew far more, she took more details said someone would call us in the morning. We won’t be going anywhere until this is fixed, not unless we can do it in five minute bursts.
3 locks, 10.23 miles, 1 wave goodbye, 1 extreamly tired cat, 109.4 litres diesel, 1 load washing, 6 hours taken but not exceeded, 23 head shots, 2 rejected, 1 convict, 3 miles walk, 1 pretty village, 5p, 10p per axle, 1 bolt sorted, 500ml PVA, 1 leak, 1 boat going nowhere.