Category Archives: Buses

400 Spiced Buns. 30th March

Hebden Bridge

A touch of a lie in then Tilly sampled the towpath. Hedbum Bridge! Far too many woofers and the wave of walkers along the towpath after a train arrives isn’t conducive to feline fun. Plus there is very VERY little friendly cover! The flower beds are very well kept in the park!

I’ve actually braved it twice!

We had a slow morning. I spent quite a bit of time trying to sort out lodgers in the house in the coming months. We get quite a few returning actors who want to stay with us which is fantastic. The only problem comes when someone who would stay for 9 weeks is taking their time thinking about it and someone else wants to book just 3 weeks which would overlap with them. We obviously would prefer someone for 9 weeks, but at the same time if they don’t want to stay we’d rather not have the house empty.

Next on the agenda was to hunt out the bakery we’d visited five years ago, it was coming up to Easter then. Saker Bakery on Market Street also has a shop in Todmorden and is most definitely worth a visit. The shop was full, we joined the queue. The menu board outside advertised the loaves available today, Black Russian, Sour Dough, plenty more and at the bottom were Spiced Buns.

The aroma filled the street, trays of freshly baked buns. ‘Two Hot Cross Buns Please’ everybody’s first line. Some added a loaf. One Japanese lady only want the one bun, but as she wanted to pay by card she had to up it to two. I suspect Spiced Buns are not just for Easter, as from this bakery they normally come with a CND logo on them rather than a cross, but today the chap didn’t have time for this so had resorted to mostly crosses , he did have 400 to do! Mick opted for two buns and a loaf of wholegrain with molasses.


Next it was to Valley Organics. Here was full too, I knew exactly what I was after, Chestnut flour and some Tapioca Starch. Tapioca is used in a lot of gluten free baking as it adds a chewy texture to things. Chestnut flour makes wonderful gf pastry and this is the only place I’ve seen it for sale (suspect on our next visit to the Gloucester Sharpness canal I’ll find it too).

Hebden Bridge

We then had a wander about, the market was full of interesting things nobody really needs. There was a new (to us) cheese shop, we’ll come back to have a closer look and another bakery that had some fantastic looking vanilla slices, sadly they stayed in the window, but Mick did buy himself a pork pie.

Vanilla yummyness

Back at Oleanna Tilly tried and tried to go outside. We managed to put dog walkers off using our ash bin for their pooh bags. Tillys and our toilet were refreshed and we smartened ourselves up for an evening out.


The 592 bus heads between Burnley and Halifax, we caught it and headed towards Todmorden following the canal and river all the way. The hire boaters that had arrived in Hebden this morning were working their way up the locks, wonder how far they got before dark? It was also interesting that most of the river is corralled in by walls. At Tod the bus veered away from the canal and river heading up another steep sided valley towards Burnley. The sun shone on the hill tops as the road wound itself up the hill.

We hopped off at The Staff of Life pub where we had a rendez vous. Two friends from Croydon College, a couple of years above mine, Alan and Doug. I try to meet up with Alan when we are near and Doug helped us down the Rochdale 9 into Manchester five years ago.

Alan, Doug, Amanda, Pip and Mick’s hand

We had a very nice meal in the pub. The others had walked over the tops to get there so deserved their pudding more than we did. We then walked down the hill a short distance to Eagles Cragg Brewery. Here they open their doors on the last Friday and Saturday of the month for themselves and anyone else who like to join them sampling their ale. Mick had already sampled some at the pub and had a second pint, sadly they haven’t managed to filter a beer yet for them to have a GF beer, but the chap said that maybe next month they’d have one.

There was a DJ playing half of my Dad’s record collection, so the music was good, just a shame it was really quite loud which made it hard for us to carry on our conversation without shouting. After a pint Mick and I headed for the bus stop, just outside and made our way back to Hebden Bridge. If you find yourself in the area at the end of a month it’s well worth a visit.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 buses, 2 hot cross buns, 1 special loaf, 1 chicken supreme, 1 gammon steak, 2 college friends, 1 girlfriend, 1 Mick’s hand, 2 bags flour, 100,000 all-time views of the blog!

Imp Hunting. 19th September

Brayford Pool, Lincoln

With not having a couple of days away we decided that today we’d be tourists as much as my little toe would allow. I’d thought we might have an early start, but Panto had other ideas. Overnight I’d been happy that my artwork could be scanned and stay in focus, today I needed to see if we could afford for all the print to be done by one company, Prompt Side. I worded an email to those who could make the money decisions, I’d already alerted Gemma the Production Manager that this was the way I wanted to go. I clicked the send button, started my breakfast. A few minutes later my laptop binged a response from John, backing my proposal. Yipee!!!! Gemma soon followed, she’d been through the budget again and clawed as much back from everywhere as she could, we’d have no contingency, but with the budget bulging at the seams we’d make it. Bigger YIPEEE!!!!

Casual chaps

Being at Brayford Pool meant we were really close to the bus stop for the bus that runs up the hill to the Cathedral. We walked over and waited. The bus runs every 20 minutes during the day and for a return it was £3.50 each, we’d certainly be using the return. The ride was all of ten minutes taking a wide route up to the top of the hill, still on steep roads, but an engine got to do all the hard work instead of us. We were dropped off right outside the front doors.

First though a post box was needed to post the fourth pair of socks to their owner. Gold boxes are harder to spot than red, but we found it in the end.

The West Facade

We walked back through Exchequer Gate to get the full view of the west face of the Cathedral. Impressive.

Looking down the nave

In 1072 Bishop Remigius started work on the cathedral, the diocese stretching from the Humber to the Thames. The hill was chosen for the location, it’s vantage point for miles around an obvious location. Twenty years later the Cathedral was consecrated, it stood for thirty two years before it was ravaged by fire. Then in 1185 the cathedral was partly destroyed by an earthquake, it left only the western front and twin towers standing. The original cathedral is easy to spot with it’s round arches and ornate carving, lattice work covers areas which in later years would have been left plain stone.

In 1186 Hugh of Avalon was appointed Bishop of Lincoln and he set about building a new Gothic cathedral with state of the art architectural features like flying buttresses, ribbed vaults and pointed arches. His death in 1200 was before the cathedral was consecrated, he was buried here. Frequent miracles were reported by pilgrims, Hugh became a saint and in 1280 his body was reinterred in a newly built Angle Choir in the presence of King Edward I.

1237 saw the central tower collapse, thought to be due to the pioneering building techniques used. In 1311 the tower was rebuilt, a wooden spire added to the top making it the tallest building in the world for 238 years at 160m!


Extensions were added, spires either fell or were removed through the centuries. In 1834 Great Tom, the bell was lifted into the central tower to strike the hour. More info can be found here and here.

By the time we had walked part way round, seeing the military chapels, the treasury, I was in need of a sit down and some food. The cafe is situated behind the cathedral through the cloisters, reaching there we had to walk through what felt like a wind tunnel. Good views up to the central tower.

Mick had a club sandwich, I had food envy, my jacket potato didn’t look as appetising even though it was very nice. I did manage to sniggle some chips which made up for it. Now we had to prioritise one thing before we left, we had to find the Imp!

Somewhere up there maybe

Our map showed us where abouts to look, near the Angel Choir, we stood and gazed up at pillars and carvings, scanned round. I think Mick resorted to Google for some assistance. There he was sitting up high peering over everyone.

There he is!

‘Legend has it that one day the Devil was in a frolicsome mood, and sent two naughty creatures to cause mischief on Earth. After allegedly stopping at Chesterfield, twisting the spire of St Mary and All Saints Church, the two imps went to Lincoln to wreak havoc in the city’s Cathedral.

Upon arriving, the naughty imps went inside the cathedral and started to cause mayhem, knocking over the Dean, smashing the stained glass windows and destroying the lights. In a bid to put a stop to their antics, an angel was sent to warn the imps off causing any more chaos. One of the imps hid underneath a table, whilst the other started throwing stones and rocks at the Angel in a final act of defiance – “Stop me if you can!” it cheekily retorted.

In a moment of anger, the Angel turned the Imp to stone. He has remained in the same spot ever since, sitting cross-legged on top of the pillar overlooking the Angel Choir – a constant reminder of how good will always triumph over evil.’

The second Imp is meant to be blowing a hoolie outside whilst he waits for his friend. It certainly was blustery out there. We carried on round. Side chapels with murals painted by a two year old (?!). These are the dates that Duncan Grant painted the murals, he was part of the Bloomsbury set and was a theatre designer as well as an artist.

A sit down to admire the choir. Lots of the carved figures have very long necks. Were they replaced after the reformation? We got caught up in a guided tour by the font, no way out but through them. We sat patiently and heard about how often, or not, the holy water in the font was changed and about the Dole windows where pilgrims could collect food and drink and enough money to pay for shelter for the night, this is where the term Dole comes from.

A slow hobble to look down Steep Hill was needed, we walked down a short section of it, it is steep, but I suspect it gets steeper. Then we found a bench to await the bus to return us back down the hill.

Steep Hill

There is still a lot more to explore in Lincoln, my toe lasted but I definitely needed a sit down. Next time we’ll visit the castle, next time we’ll walk along Steep Hill and explore more. Not sure when the next time will be though.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 set passed and approved, 1 very happy designer, 2 buses, 3 hours of hobbling, 1 imp, 1 vast cathedral, 2 cuppas, 1 club, 1 jacket, 1 catch up with Jo, 1 bored cat.

Returning Home. 7th June

Morris Bridge 15 to Burrow’s Bridge 85, Shropshire Union Canal

Two boats had already gone past us by the time we were on the move this morning, well our first lock would be Minshull Lock more commonly known on Oleanna as the Queuing Lock. However both boats seemed to have pulled over, one for a comfort break for their dog the other to explore Yankee Candles. Would this mean we’d be first to the lock?

Some of the moorings on the Middlewich Branch are lovely, big views across rolling fields, the prime spots taken, but still plenty of room.

Aqueduct Marina

Aqueduct Marina, where we once spent a week iced in on NB Winding Down, we also picked her up there once in thick fog after she’d been blacked, we only made it out onto the canal that day.

What! No queue

No boats in the queue! Hooray!! Just one coming down to help. Soon we were joined below by two more boats, we were the front of the queue. It can be quite a wait as the lock is really quite deep.

NB Merlin moored at the barbecue mooring

Onwards we pootled, plenty of space at the barbecue mooring before Venetian, in fact just one hire boat NB Merlin, do Ian and Irene from NB Free Spirit still own her?

Cholmondeston Lock ahead

Now we were being transported back three years. This is where on the 22nd March 2020 we moored up for the night, slotting in between boats, laughing at a chap who was obviously coughing on purpose to avoid having anyone too close! The following morning we woke with a feeling that maybe we should retrace our steps and go back up Cholmondeston Lock as we had no idea what was ahead. That evening was when lockdown was announced.

Coming up onto the ‘Home’ pound

Today two volunteers helped at the lock which had been our last ascent before lockdown on 23rd March, and our first descent on 10th June when we had to start moving again. It’s been three years since we’ve been on the Nantwich pound, it felt quite odd to be back.

Lockdown Mooring 1

Where boats had been moored for weeks on end there was a queue for the lock. Venetian Marina was one of the places you could get parcels sent to, the very helpful lady there taking in Mick’s birthday present. Soon we passed what we called Lockdown Mooring 1, where we’d stayed for the first few days before we needed to fill with water. It hadn’t been an ideal place to be, a narrow towpath when everyone was doing their best to keep a minimum of 2 meters.

Barbridge Junction

More boats headed towards us at Barbridge Junction two came under the wide arched bridge, the way ahead was clear for us then. Here we turned left towards Nantwich and the south. Some familiar boats still on their moorings, others that had been abandoned for months now gone.

The fairies used to live at the bottom of this garden.

The pretty garden with flag flying high and a ramp for ducks. A wind sock? When and why? I waited patiently to see how the fairies were doing at the bottom of a garden, sadly their toadstool house now grown over with plenty of dead plants. Sad. The boat that had a repaint during lockdown still looks as fresh as it did three years ago.

No scrabble boaters hauling water down the hill

The white posts in the banks of Hurleston Reservoir, are there more than there were when we were in residence? ‘No mooring’ signs now sit at the bottom of the embankment, this had been where several boats had sought refuge away from the increased number of towpath users. No Scrabble boat, or the chap who was signwriting his boat, he’d also designed the yellow bicycle that we’d bought when in Hebden Bridge for the Tour de France back in 2014. Neighbours we just started to get to know towards the end of lockdown when our personal parameters were all clearly drawn.

Hurleston Junction sign post

A couple sat on the bench at the junction. The last people we’d seen sat there had been the owners of NB Somona, a Finesse boat that followed Oleanna out of their workshop. No sign of the testosterone filled pheasants on the bridge. Sadly no wheelie shoppers either, I so wonder who?what?why?

To our great surprise ‘Home’ only had a couple of boats moored on it. Normally this mooring is filled to the brim, yet back in 2020 this became where we moored for most of our time. Sharing it with passing boaters heading for water/shops/diesel. Our spot straight in front of the big gap in the hedge was free, we were tempted to stop for lunch. The field this year is just grass, no crop to watch grow. A good wide towpath where we could sit out, have barbecues and wonder just how far Tilly had managed to venture each day. We carried on.

Past the Flag Bubble mooring, their wide sitting out area overgrown now. No potatoes in the field opposite. Was this the cow that fell into the canal and gave us all an exciting day! The Lapwing mooring, the bus and Lamas, the horses who were always a bit frisky!

Coming into Nantwich we wondered if one boat had been moored in the same spot for three years on the one day mooring. We slotted in at the end of the embankment moorings where we’d been for the Beast from the East. Gosh this pound holds a lot of memories.

I love these almshouses

Lunch first then we both headed out. Mick to see if the chandlers had a float switch for the bilge pump, sadly not. They could order one, it would be here in two days, however we wouldn’t. I walked into town, far busier than when I’d last visited, no lines of queues for the essential shops either. Unfortunately WH Smiths didn’t have any mountboard. The lady suggested there might be an art shop up the street opposite, but the only interesting shop I found was a cheese shop, worth a visit next time.

I tried a picture framers shop, he could sell me some Conservation Mount but it would be £15! I could get a sheet twice the size I need with delivery for £10, he was trying to make an extra fiver. I decided to manage with what I have until I know where I’ll be able to buy some at half the price.

Nantwich Embankment needs some care to walk on. The bank is subsiding somewhat, the path drops by about six inches in parts, quite alarming. C&RT are keeping an eye on it, safe solutions as their signs suggest are hard to come by. A few more miles to do before we could pull up for the day. We checked the look of the stop gates at the next bridge hole, they looked like they’d help hold water back should anything happen at the embankment.

The last lockdown mooring was passed just below Hack Green locks. We only ventured out here once lockdown restrictions had started to be lifted, getting a feel for moving again before we had to start heading our way back towards Yorkshire and the house.

Hack Green

The lock was in our favour so we held up a hire boat with at least six chaps and their twenty or so empty bottles on the roof. Going up the second lock of Hack Green I had the assistance of a boat mover who’d stopped to have a bowl of ice cream, he was making the most of being on a boat with a working freezer, good man.

Hack Green top lock

Now we’d left the Nantwich pound. Today we’d spent 5 hours 13 minutes on our ‘Home’ pound, three years ago we spent 80 days. As Mick said, Michael Palin went round the world in 80 days! We pulled up a short distance further on, Tilly was given 1hour 30 minutes which ended up being extended.

Oleanna has been looking very grubby since we left Goole, so Mick suggested that maybe we could give her a wash. As he’d offered to help I put an hours worth of work on hold to take him up on it. Between the two of us the roof was given a very good wash, then the port side got a good going over. Drying her off in the shade meant I couldn’t quite see what the end result was going to be, hopefully a lot better than when we’d started, let’s face it she couldn’t be any worse!

Tilly enjoyed most of her extra towpath time, that was until the complaining Magpies contained one bird who simply wasn’t going to put up with her any longer. Tilly came running back to the boat all bushy tailed with a swooping Magpie close behind her. The second time this happened we decided it was her dingding time.

A strangely emotional day for us being back in Nantwich and reliving the days we spent here in lockdown. Perhaps it was good that we were only passing through, perhaps ‘next time’ we’ll stay longer and see if we get to spot the Wheelie Shoppers again.

4 locks, 12 miles, 1 left, 2 many memories, 5 hours 13 minutes, 80 days, 1 slipping embankment, 2 failed shopping missions, 0.5 day closing, 0 pies! 1 possible new digs, 0 wheelie shoppers.

Chatsworth? 15th May

Granary Wharf, Leeds Liverpool Canal

Mick was on an earlyish train returning to Scarborough. The usual photo from York arrived showing cruisers and a narrowboat moored on the River Ouse by the Museum Gardens. He was returning to the house to finish off hoovering and making it ready for our next lodger.

I got on with finding more reference photos for panto. Some of the buildings in Colombia are just soo colourful they almost certainly have to be used.

I walked into the city with the aim of trying to find a new plastic jug for our cat litter cover. We use moistened wooden cat litter as cover in our separating/compost toilet, the old jug has developed a crack on the bottom, so leaks when you add water, not so good for the shelf it sits on.

Down a back street near the station

Sadly Wilkos didn’t have anything thin enough. Maybe Yorkshire Trading or Boyes will come up trumps when we get to Skipton.

I can look after everything from in here!

Tilly was left in charge with an early ding ding, she was told not to expect this from now on! A train took me to Sheffield, no boats on the River Aire through Wakefield today.

Then it was the 218 bus out through Sheffield to the Peak District. As soon as we hit the countryside the driver kicked up the speed, whizzing the scenery past. Great views.

Chatsworth House

What felt like a detour had us turn onto parkland with sheep and their lambs roaming freely. The immaculate grass stretched on for miles the branches on the trees all neatly starting at the same level. Below the view across to Chatsworth House. It appeared I was on a bus trip around the grounds. A group of visitors crowded round the bus, two thirds wanting to head to Sheffield!


Onwards to Bakewell where the last official day of school was being celebrated by students stood on the roundabout encouraging drivers to beep their horns. A very noisy place!

I swapped buses and a short ride onwards I hoped off in Rowsley. The Level Centre tucked down below the road, I’d be heading tomorrow. The Grouse and Claret my home for the night provided me with a meal and a glass of wine before I headed out to explore the village.

Hunters Chicken and a glass of house white

This didn’t take long. I spotted the disused railway viaduct, visited the big graveyard around the small church. Then a walk around Caudwells Mill. Sadly not much to see on an evening, but a pleasant walk none the less.

Then I cast on my next sock. Well my cousin had requested a pair and I asked if she’d be willing to wait a little while if I didn’t get chance to knit them in April. I’ve nearly got all the sock shots back so I’ll start to add them to my Sockathon page in the menu above when I get chance. I’ll be knitting more socks for Dementia UK as and when I have time to use up the donated yarn, I just have to figure out how is best to do it as the Justgiving page will close at some point.

0 locks, 3 trains, 2 buses, 1 Tilly in charge, 1 stately home, 1 pub, 1 small village, 1 house clean and tidy, 3 beds made up, 1 designer ready for a days observing.

Armed With A Hacksaw. 5th January


1.79 m

A list was made of items I still needed to purchase for #unit21, including a 3m length of plastic pipe! I nearly ordered it along with elbow joints online from Screwfix, but decided to see if there might be a DIY stall in Derby Market. Derby Market Hall is currently undergoing refurbishment, but I was aware of The Eagle Market, the front doors of Derby Playhouse open into the Market. The website suggested a couple of fabric stalls, time to catch the bus.

Mick had made the decision to fit the new alternator this morning and was already down in the engine bay. I required a hack saw so collected one on the way past. The Skylink bus picked me up and whizzed me into town. I made note of a Tool Station next to the big Royal Mail building where there was a handy bus stop, a much better location than Screwfix.

The Eagle Market has seen better days, I’d say only about a third of the units were occupied. I found a couple of fabric stalls and most of what I wanted and ended up having quite a chat with the lady who lives on a boat in Shardlow Marina. Sadly no-one had any navy velcro, that will have to be ordered on line.

We’ve missed Wind in the Willows

No DIY stalls. I had a wander around Derbion the big shopping mall, nothing of use in there, just a sandwich for lunch. Much of Derby Centre stands empty, the bright lights of the shopping centre, being out of the rain has pulled customers and retailers inside. Such a shame. But I believe Derby Council are hoping to rejuvenate the area, refurbishing the market hall being part of the plan to try to pull retailers back into the streets and make it a destination. Well that’s the standard blurb used for such places nowadays!

After a visit to Wilko I walked back to Tool Station taking note of a low wall just by the bus station. Pipe, elbows and cement purchased I headed for the low wall. Here I pulled out the hacksaw and cut the 3m length of pipe in half, no problem getting on the bus now.

Shardlow is getting quite full

At the water point in Shadlow there were three widebeams. WB Lazy Days had moved across from the pub moorings where now sat two C&RT skip boats. Then there were the two widebeams that had been moored above Derwent Mouth Lock, one having a wash, the other on the lock landing. Later on in the evening we could see tunnels lights and hear spikes being hammered in, we presume the widebeams had moved to above the lock, freeing up below.

Back at Oleanna Mick had been working hard to fit the new alternator. Three bolts and three wires, simple! Except things on the old one had settled in nicely, a touch of corrosion on the negative terminal made getting the nut undone a touch troublesome. Time and patience was required. One bolt was in an awkward position and when it came to fitting the new alternator things didn’t seem to marry up as they should do. It turned out there was a bush on one of the holes that needed adjustment. A tap with a hammer sorted this.

Power restored

All bolted in and connected the engine was fired up, things checked over. Everything working as it should. Hooray!

Time to pack Christmas away, well the lights outside could wait for light tomorrow. The tree was stripped and then given a good soaking in the sink. It will get a day or two inside before being popped in the cratch.

The neon bunny was just about finished off this evening. All limbs sewn on and body stuffed, just a fluffy tail needed. Although I may want to give him longer ears as he’ll be a magicians rabbit. Tilly wasn’t enamoured with it, I may have to hide it away so it doesn’t get beaten up!

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 buses, 24volt 120amp alternator fitted, 2m poly cotton, 1m stiff interfacing, 3m cut to 2 x 1.5ish, 3 widebeams, 1 bunny, 1 miffed cat.

Excluding Vat! 3rd January


1.55m this morning

If all had gone to plan Oleanna would this evening have been sat above Cromwell Lock waiting for the morning tide to head to Torksey. Working on #unit21 becomes more complicated because we are stuck due to flooding. I need to get the props I’m making to Huddersfield as soon as I can. Finishing their construction would have been so much easier on land rather than on the boat without all my tools. I could really do with a hot air gun to bend some pipe. The pipe could be walked from a shop in Scarborough, but on the boat it requires a bus journey. The pipe is 3m long! Just complicated and more time consuming.

I spent some of the morning sussing out when would be good to head to Huddersfield with the props, this will involve hiring a van and on the same trip we could pick up some new flooring for the show. I also need to do costume fittings with three actors, at the moment they only work three days a week. So logistics, orders and payments. Nearly sorted.

Mick called Beta to order a new alternator. Our engine has a WOC number which means that when ordering anything from Beta they can see how our engine was set up and exactly what part we require. Mick did a slight ouch at the price, he did a bigger one when he realised that hadn’t included vat!

Our alternator has a special pulley on it. To replace the pulley you need a special tool, which we don’t have. The chap on the phone said they would put a special pulley on the new one for us to save moving it from the old alternator to the new one. It should arrive tomorrow, fingers crossed.

Skyline bus

Being in Shardlow means there is a good bus service to Derby and Leicester on the Skylink which runs every twenty minutes ferrying people to East Midlands Airport. The bus stops by The Navigation Inn a five minute walk away. Add to this the government putting a £2 cap on single bus fares. Very easy.

Waiting at the bus stop I got chatting to a local lady about the river being in flood. We compared notes on levels of the River Trent and Ouse. My family home over looked the flood plain in York and Dad would give us reports of how high up the five bar gate the flood water had reached. I think if it got up to the fourth bar then driving around York was very tricksy as there would only be one route into the city not under water. The lady I chatted to recounted the floods of 2000 on the Trent. Sand bags were put over the drains in the road and stood at the bus stop you could just pop your hand over the wall and touch the flood water. Thankfully the water isn’t anywhere near that level …. yet!

Lovely houses click photo to look inside one

The bus sped into Derby. Past the train station where strikers stood with placards. Further on the bus passed the lovely houses on Railway Terrace. These were built to accommodate the senior Midland Railway staff in the 1840’s, the first houses built to house railway workers in the country. Jackson and Thompson built a triangular block of streets, North Street, Midland Place and Railway Terrace, NMR. In the 1970’s there was a campaign to stop the houses from being demolished, they are very fine looking houses. However their sight reminds me of a trip we did to Derby a few years ago. We walked down the same streets to Derby Crown Court to hear the sentencing of our original boat builders.

A Mickleover bus

I swapped buses at the bus station and headed out towards Kingsway Retail Park. Here there was a Homebase, no pipe and fittings suitable for what I wanted. I checked the isles for anything suitable to make a giant mug from. A plastic dustbin? Too much to cut off to stop it looking like a dustbin. Kitchen bins were all too narrow.

Over at Hobbycraft I scoured the isles for something that might be useful too. But they had nothing suitable for a giant mug. A couple of months ago I’d spent ages hunting online for anything that might be useful and come up with very little the right size. So back to the foamcor plan. I picked up 8 sheets and some more tape.

Handy makeshift strap

My dodgy grip doesn’t like carrying thin things, eight sheets of foamcor isn’t that thin, but still. I’d brought with me three carrying straps from the yoga mats I’ve bought. These have elastic looped ends joined by some webbing. I passed two of them over the corners of the sheets, one each side and then joined them together with a third one, creating a handle on the top. Not the perfect handle but a much easier carry back to the bus for my return journey.

Whilst I was away Mick had changed the fuel filters and the gear box oil. We just need the alternator now.

Bunny legs

0 locks, 0 miles, 4 buses, £2 each, 0 pipe, 0 connectors, 0 hot air gun, 8 sheets, 2 pies, 1 sad gits pie, 1 order completed, 1 plan coming together, 1 new filter, 1 cleaned filter, 1.5 litres oil, 2nd bunny leg.

The Big Shop. 13th December

‘Avecoat Marina

A phone call just before 9:30am, Sainsburys. Mick quickly put on his shoes and coat and headed to the car park, they were early. He and the delivery chap arrived with five crates of goodies for us. These were all put in bags and carried onto Oleanna. The fridge and veg bag both put out the back under the pram cover, well it’s as cold out there as in the fridge! The stowing of everything could wait for later as it would take time and we were wanting to head into town.

Wine delivery

Mick headed across to the marina office on the other side of the canal. We’d originally booked in until today. We didn’t think they’d have a problem with us staying a few more days! Mick was told to settle up when we eventually leave. Bags of coal were ordered for delivery to Oleanna on Friday and a 24volt water pump would be ordered for us.

Front doors wrapped up for Christmas

It’s a fifteen/twenty minute walk to the bus stop from the marina and with a bus only every two hours we really didn’t want to miss it. Over £11 return for the two of us, not quite as expensive as a taxi both ways, but far chillier!

We’ve not really explored Tamworth before, it’s set just that little bit too far away from the canal. There are many big smart buildings about the place. Today we’d come to do some Christmas shopping and hoping to find a small tree as it was market day.

Green grocer with wreaths

Town seemed to be buzzing, maybe due to the market. No suitable tree to be found, only those six inches high sprayed with white stuff, not recommended if you have a cat. Mission Christmas tree failed. Mick and I went our separate ways to do secret things.

The usual cheap shops, Wilko, Home Bargains and numerous charity shops, but nothing to inspire Christmas shopping proper. I picked up things to plug present gaps but sadly didn’t find any nice independent shops.

A great tool and hardware shop

It turns out that the Peel family had a lot to do with Tamworth. Robert ‘Parsley’ Peel moved here from Lancashire where his textile mills had been damaged in riots, he set up mills in Burton on Trent around 1790. His son, Sir Robert Peel, established cotton mills in Tamworth, one inside the castle. Textiles became Tamworth’s main industry, Peel established several banks and moved into Drayton Manor, he became the areas member of Parliament from 1790 to 1820.

His son also Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet is the one we’ve all heard of. He served as the towns member of Parliament from 1830 to 1850 becoming Prime Minister in 1834-35 and 1841-1846. In 1834 he unveiled his Tamworth Manifesto which created the modern Conservative Party. Whilst serving as Home Secretary he helped create the modern concept of the Police Force. A statue stands in front of Tamworth Town Hall.

Sir Robert Peel and a pig

In amongst the flower bed stands a pig wearing a policeman’s helmet. Tamworth pigs are also famous. The breed of ginger pigs also known as Sandy Backs or Tams, are a vulnerable breed in the UK with only 300 registered breeding females. But this is not why they are famous. Back in 1998 two pigs being taken for slaughter in Malmsbury escaped, squeezing through a fence and swimming across the River Avon. They became known as Butch and Sundance as the media followed them during their week of freedom before recapture. The Daily Mail paid for them and their upkeep until they reached old age, 13 and 14. This explains why there is a pub called the Crafty Two whos logo is of two pigs.

Just what was needed

After a couple of hours I was in need of a sit down and something to eat, so Mick and I reconvened at Cosy, a cafe that seemed to be popular. Thankfully they had an upstairs and jacket potatoes on the menu. Collections of 70’s Spanish paintings, telephones and typewriters adorned the walls as we tucked into our lunch.

We’d maybe have explored a little bit more but the next bus back was due to leave shortly. Back on the same chilly bus we hopped off early in Amington. Here a shop was looking after two deliveries of yoga mats for me. The man really didn’t understand that the parcels would be quite big on matter how many times I told him. But he got there in the end!

An Ikea bag of yoga mats

Outside we summoned a cab via an app and were soon on our way back to the marina.

The Sainsburys shopping still needed stowing which meant finally getting to put away my paint brush bag under the back steps, well the wine cellar was about to be filled right up! Stocks of mince and sausages were repacked to take up less room in the freezer. A large chicken was jointed and bagged up for four meals, the carcus left in the fridge to make a stewy something in the next few days. The larder drawers were reorganised and an amazing amount added to them. Considering we’d had five crates arrive in the morning you could hardly tell where it had all gone to. This should last us a fair few weeks and we’ll only need milk and fresh veg to keep us going till the new year.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 marina well and truly frozen, 5 crates, 6 boxes wine, 6 bottles wine, 25% off couldn’t be missed! 2 chickens, 3 lots of sausages, 500g mince, 2 bags potatoes, 6 wraps not 4, 2 buses, 2 pigs, 0 Christmas trees, 2 jackets, 2 mugs tea, 5 bright green yoga mats, 100g neon green wool.

Panto Postcard 5, 2022.

60.75 hours

Coventry Basin, Coventry Canal to Brownsover Services, North Oxford Canal

Following the red lit path

Monday morning a seriously early start to the day, the alarm went off at 5:20. We were both up and out of the door in 20 minutes. I’d opted to walk across Coventry rather than get a bus or taxi. At about a mile to the Station it’s not that far, but my knees and calf muscles were playing up so Mick accompanied me with the bike in case I needed to ride instead. Coventry was dark and misty, very atmospheric.

First tea of the day.

The train got me to Banbury forty minutes before the bus to Chippy, so I sat in the station cafe with a cuppa and ate a sausage sandwich I’d brought with me watching the sun rise through the fog. The bus onwards to Chippy was quite late arriving and by the time it had made it’s way through some road works it was half an hour late. It had taken me 3hrs 15 minutes to get to work!

Abi the Director was back with us, thankfully Covid had been mild for her and her family. Paul was also back with us, there was time to sort a few problems out before the actors came on stage. It was now time to finish off the technical rehearsal. When the Pippins joined us late afternoon we then did a tech/dress. This meant that if there were any problems we’d stop to sort them. We stopped a few times and then afterwards had quite a lengthy notes session, there were still things missing costume, props wise and a few problems with scene changes.

Mick had a morning snooze on the sofa before pushing off, winding and heading back up to Hawkesbury Junction where he turned back onto the North Oxford Canal and pulled up for the day.

Tuesday. An early start for Jo and myself trying to work through the long list of things that needed finishing, making use of time on stage before the actors arrived. Having a key to the theatre was useful as I could open up.

There was one scene that needed finishing off before production photos could be taken. The finishing off consisted of a lot of cross hatching which I knew would take several hours. I chose to finish the funnels today as they would help the scenery look more complete.

A portrait of Whittington

During the afternoon scenes were worked on by the actors and I got chance to finish off the piece that would sit on the proscenium, this was done by torch light. Have to say I was rather pleased with it.

Getting ready for photos

Then late afternoon we settled down for a dress rehearsal with Josh the photographer, Becky the composer joining us by zoom and we were also joined by several members of staff and ushers to give the actors a small audience. Today we got to see the walk down costumes for the first time, still work in progress and several props were now finished. But sadly things were still being worked on, a black curtain got stuck in one scene meaning many of the photos won’t depict the show as intended.

Such a fair weather boater

Mick’s day was totally opposite. It was raining, so he stayed put avoiding getting wet. Apparently Tilly ventured out for a little while.

Wednesday another early start. The side of the ship needed finishing off and as it spans right across the whole stage in three pieces I needed to do this early so as not to be in peoples way. Finishing touches happened to more props and costumes and I did my best to tick painty notes of my list.

The wings full of scenery and props, so much so some flying was needed

Today we were joined by Gemma the Production Manager who’d been off with covid. Having both her and Paul back in the building meant jobs were being crossed off the list. The auditorium needed clearing and Sophie the DSM was moved up into the box from where she’ll operate the shows. Christmas garlands were primed to be flown in and space was cleared in the wings so there’d be room for the actors.

Highgate Hill

The first preview hadn’t sold many tickets, so last week the decision had been made to cancel it, meaning we’d be able to have another dress rehearsal. A good thing as so many of the creatives had been ill. It was actually a dress without costume, enabling wardrobe to continue working on things.

A well earned beer

One problem was found as Paul watched from the wings. The final scene change was tight and to get two large arches into position in time it was felt that some alterations to them were required. Two truck bases would need to be made, but for now he would be an extra pair of hands back stage.

The first preview went well and we rewarded ourselves with a drink next door at Checkers, followed by some chicken and chips from the burger van.

If you look carefully you might just seen the spouting water

The sun was out again on the North Oxford Canal, so Mick carried on retracing his steps of last week. In Ansty a bridge had been spouting water, social media comments had been concerned that it may be closed by C&RT, thankfully Mick got through without any problems. He thinks it’s a water pipe in the bridge that has burst. Here’s hoping it doesn’t get closed before we are back through in a couple of weeks.

Full moorings

As he approached the swing bridge at Rose Boats the canal got busy. The bridge opened and closed and opened again and the narrows approaching it were congested. This meant that when he reached All Oaks Wood where he’d shared the moorings with one other boat last week, he got the last space.

Thursday. Only one show today in the evening, giving time to do acting notes on stage and time for props, costumes and set pieces to be finished off that bit more. Measurements were taken, timber purchased, alterations to the arches would happen after the show this evening.

One of the traditions of Chippy Panto is that Edith, a lady who adorns the proscenium arch is taken down each year and replaced by something to do with the show. This year I’d decided that it should be a portrait of Whittington the cat. Photos had been taken of Nadia in makeup, this was blown up, a simple version traced onto a shield and then painted in. In previous years I have only once witnessed Edith being replaced, handy to know that it is simply done with a D handle and a safety chain. Time and care were taken and Edith was taken to John Terry’s office for her rest.

Getting all Christmasy

Garlands were fluffed up, ribbons added. Piccadilly Circus was finished off including the extra lines on the backing flat. Jobs ticked off at pace.

Jo had been meant to finish on Wednesday, but she’d decided to stay one extra night to be able to finish off one quite elaborate prop. This took her quite sometime, but was well worth the extra hours and that prop got an extra Ooooooo! in the evening from the audience.

The final lines added to Piccadilly Circus

After the show Paul, Gemma and myself got busy with saws, drills, screws, wheels, canvas and paint. Two truck bases were made up and had a coat of paint applied before we left the theatre, the paint would be dry by the morning ready for the arty bits to be added.

Mick avoided the rain as best he could. Tilly kept the stove company as he moved onwards through the autumn colour.

Autumn colour

A pause to top up with diesel was needed at Armada Boats, then he found a space just before the water point at Brownsover. This meant that Oleanna wouldn’t need to move to top up the water tank and the mooring was a good place to pick up a hire car from.

Friday. Over night I’d had cramp in my right calf muscle which has been playing up for the last few weeks. As I stood up out of bed to try to alleviate the pain I heard a bit of a popping noise! Not good, my hobbling walk would be even worse today. After packing my bags for collection later in the day I hobbled slowly in to the theatre where the truck bases were already fixed to the arches. Time to get arty and paint them.

Spring Street with the theatre at the end

Two colour washes were applied and left to dry. They had just about got there by the time the actors arrived for their warm up on stage. New things should always be shown to actors before a show so that they don’t get thrown, the truck bases would be a step up and down that hadn’t existed before so everyone it affected got to have a go.

Then I could finish painting them. The last black line of Chippy Panto went onto a truck base at 11:46, it would be dry before the final scene of the afternoon show. Other little jobs were ticked of, more garlands and ravens added, then it was time to start collecting my possessions together.

Touch up paints were rationalised and put together. Some things are likely to need a freshen up as they are used, other paints are there just in case.

Some straw still to be added

As the afternoons show started I sat down to have some food, listening to the first school show on the show relay. Not so many laughs, but total excited noise at some scenes. The model box was put together to be added to the 50th anniversary exhibition in the gallery. After the interval I sat on the back row to watch the second half, each member of the audience wearing cat or rat masks that they’d made prior to their visit.

A coat of glaze to the truck bases was just about the last thing I could do before press night. My job was done. A couple of things sadly not achievable in what time remained, but an email to Paul next week will hopefully see them get done.

A technical glitch needed sorting

Mick arrived in a hire car, we loaded all my work gear and then headed to my digs to pick up my bags there. A chat with Suzanne and a final goodbye and thank you for letting me stay again. Some cheesy chips were consumed before joining the audience at the theatre for Press Night which seemed to go down very well.

We stayed for some food post show and a drink, but by now my energy levels had run out. It was time to say my goodbyes and thank yous. Time to wish everyone a good run and a Happy Christmas in Chippy. Time to climb in the car and drive back to Rugby, have a few head nudges with Tilly, a glass of wine for the driver and go to sleep.

Dressing rooms

Dick Whittington is open and what a show it is. This year has had many problems come it’s way, covid, family bereavements, people doing their best to plug gaps in the back stage team. We got there in the end with a lot of hard work from everyone and the assistance of zoom. Now I need to rest up and get back to day to day boat life, a far slower pace will be welcome.


1 lock, 17.92 miles, 1 right, 1 hire car, 1 panto open, 616 hrs work in total, 1 designer hanging up her dungarees, 1 boaters hat being dusted off, but first the sofa calls.

Panto Postcard 4. 2022

75.5 hours

Bridge 68, North Oxford Canal to Coventry Basin, Coventry Canal

Another long week in Panto land and some more cruising for Mick and Tilly.

Monday I arrived in the theatre to find sliders being cut down to size and lots of magnetic catches and door handles having been attached, all good news. But then I soon heard that Abi the Director had tested positive for covid over the weekend whilst at home in London. The cast were given various options, the one they chose was that John the Artistic Director of Chippy Theatre and the writer of panto would stand in for Abi until she returned and Abi would join when she could via zoom. Our Production Manager Gemma was also unwell so she stayed at home an extra day.

Counter getting close to completion

I got on with painting what ever I could without being in the actors way. A list of scenes required for the following days rehearsals is sent out so it takes a little bit of working out what I might be able to paint and when. The wings of the stage were sorted by Stage Management to hopefully help make the technical rehearsals easier.

In the evening we were joined by a couple of chaps to help with setting up the sound equipment and drilling holes in trees for fairy lights. By the end of the evening two out of the four trees had lights and a lot of the sound system was up and running.

The River Avon in Rugby

In Rugby, Mick and Tilly stayed put on the boat. Mick did venture out for his covid booster jab, four weeks after we’d tested positive.

Painting ovens and doors in the wings

Tuesday. More setting up of sound with Matt the Sound Designer about for one day. The aim was for levels to be set for the songs and cues to be programmed into the desk so that only minor adjustments would hopefully be needed. Songs were sung by the company accompanied by the two man band.

Dicks solo being sung in front of the Pippins and Becky the composer

Gemma joined us for a few hours but she was obviously still not well. She did her best to keep her distance, helped get sliders rehung and sorted a few bits out, but mid afternoon she headed to her digs to hopefully get some sleep.

Mark the Lighting Designer had a lighting session in the evening, meaning I was either painting by torch light or had a lot of light. This gave me the chance to get some black lining done to the sliders for Piccadilly Circus. There’s still plenty more to do on them, but at least I made a very good start.

Newbold Tunnel

In Rugby, Mick moved Oleanna up nearer to Tescos, did a good shop. Topped up with water and headed onwards through Newbold Tunnel. Over the weekend we’d discussed where might be easiest for me to get back to the boat next weekend, Rugby was a little bit problematical and quite a bit of a walk to reach the boat. We’d decided that Coventry would be better.

Wednesday. Gemma tested positive for covid this morning. Hopefully she hadn’t passed it on to anyone whilst she’d been in the building, but more importantly she could head home to recover.


Conversations were had about outstanding jobs. I can lend my hand to quite a few things, but it would all take time. Better to have someone who knew what was needed and free me up to carry on painting and helping where needed.

The Technical rehearsals begin

In the afternoon we started to Tech. This is where all the elements come together on stage. Sound, lighting, costumes, props, actors, musicians and set. Due to many reasons there were gaps in costumes, props and set pieces. Not ideal, but unavoidable. Everyone did as well as they could, one thing became obvious was that we still needed someone to help program the sound.

Loads of room!

Mick carried onwards. In winter months moorings that are normally chocka block can be empty, this was the case at All Oaks Wood. I think we’ve managed to pause there before for lunch once, but today he had a choice of where to pull in. Tilly made the most of a good outside!

Thursday. A long day of technical rehearsals. Days like today I spend mostly sitting in the dark, taking notes, attending to things as they arise. I decided to try to do small jobs whilst sat in the dark like signs, sorting out the new song sheet.

It was not me who emptied the chilled medication fridge leaving only vanilla!

Then when the actors have a break there is some time to get a bit of painting done. Wet things need to be dry before costumes are back on stage, so timing jobs can be a touch tricksy. Following rehearsals there are a couple of hours to get more jobs done. Jo the prop maker was about, so conversations turned to treasure chests and snakes.

Mick carried on moving. The journey from Rugby to Coventry can be done in under eight hours, but with a week to do it in he was pacing himself. Today he moved a touch further than he’d originally planned, through the new swing bridge at Rose Narrowboats, stopping a short distance before Hawksbury Junction, meaning there was space before other boats for Tilly to explore.

The Greyhound busy on a Friday morning

Friday. Mick decided to stay put, having a walk up to the bins at the junction a highlight of the day. The Greyhound was busy even quite early in the morning.

The tight turn at the junction. To head north use the left canal, south the right turning under the bridge.

Another early start to do some jobs before rehearsals started again. My lunch tends to be eaten in the next technical session, making use of as much stage time for jobs as possible. Abi is now very much in the room, joining by zoom, sending messages by Whatsap.

Laptop in the centre of the auditorium so Abi can join us

Today after rehearsals, Dan who’d helped set up the sound equipment and has been helping with programming stayed around to help with various jobs on stage. Some black tabs were not quite in the right place so needed adjusting. A tree needed extending, it’s track moving higher. But the most important job was to get a cloth rigged so that it could be lowered in to view and pulled out of view, it’s been out of view for three weeks.

A Curlywurly in the dark whilst taking notes

Chippy Theatre has a bit of a fly tower, but it is nowhere near tall enough to be able to fly cloths fully in and out. So the cloth has to work like a very big Roman Blind, pulling itself up on itself. We got all the cords in place, but lacked somewhere to tie it off to. So that we don’t now see too much of the cloth it’s been tied off to a cleat for other scenery, a better solution needs to be found.

Nice to see the cloth again after three weeks.

Saturday. A morning of technical rehearsals. There is still more to do on Monday sadly.

Last year I did one of these every day during panto

Also sadly today we were missing Becky, the composer, another case of covid. I am so hoping that I still have some natural immunity left as I spent much of yesterday sat next to Becky. This morning I did a test after spending time with Gemma, I’ll be doing a test before returning to work on Monday.

A nearly finished scene

All the trees were up and fairy lights working giving Mark the opportunity to light the next scene. We mostly worked our way through the scenes that have the Pippins in so as to make the most of their time in the theatre. Having three teams of Pippins means doing everything three times, one team are in costume the others not. We now just have to finish teching the rest of the show on Monday.

Mick moved on again in the morning, turning left at Hawksbury Junction and heading under the bridge decorated with swans. We last came this way about five years ago and today Mick saw a big difference. New houses and just generally better kept, possibly assisted by the City of Culture. Tilly however wasn’t that impressed!

Coventry Basin

After rehearsals I became unpopular asking for the trees that had only just gone up to be taken down. My aim for the day was to get the last two remaining trees painted, having them flat this would take about half the time. It didn’t take too much to get them down thankfully.

Trees finished. Well I might add some glitter if I get chance.

The last couple of hours I was on my own and was glad to not have to climb a ladder. By 18:10 the trees were painted, brushes washed up. By 18:25 the theatre alarm was set and I was heading for the bus stop and Banbury.

Goodbye Chippy, see you Monday

A train then another bus to save me walking across Coventry where Mick met me and we walked up the hill and over the ring road to Oleanna in the basin. Time for head nudges with Tilly, something to eat and slump in front of the tv.

He’s here!

Sunday. A Sainsburys delivery was early, I left Mick to deal with it as it was early early, but it did mean we could have a nice breakfast.


This was followed by the Geraghty zoom where we were all relieved to be joined by Anne who has just had a spell in hospital.

Work in progress

A slow day, much needed, but sadly I still had some work to do. A new song sheet needed designing and the best time to do it was today. Thankfully it didn’t take too long. The day will end with a roast chicken and packing my bags to head back to Chippy tomorrow. Hopefully no more cases of covid this week, fingers crossed.

Had to say hello to James

18.16 miles, 1 lock, 1 left, 1st Christmas tree, 3 positives, 4 trees, 8 pillars, 6 tech sessions, 3 teams, 0 red fabric, 7 safety pins, 2 buses, 1 train, 8 diddy maracas, 1 bored cat.

Panto Postcard 2, 2022.


The 489 turns into the 488 at 07:40

Monday morning I was on the 488 bus which dropped me off at the end of Over Norton Road, a short distance away from my Chippy home for the next few weeks. There was time to say hello to Suzanne and pick up a front door key before heading in to the theatre where Ade and Lou (the set builders) were already stood waiting for the building to open to load the set in.

John Terry welcoming everyone to the 50th Chippy panto

I collected my model pieces together and laid the model out ready to be shown at the read through, then set to work. This year the set has a lot of what are called profiled flats. Ade and Lou had built the flats to the correct overall size, but the profiled edges needed drawing out before someone could jigsaw them in to shape. I managed a few simple shapes before having to dash off to join in with the meet and greet for the company. A very good breakfast spread had been laid on for everyone, parish notices and a quick once round the room of introductions.

Paul, Imogen and Chris busy on stage

Normally I would stay for the readthrough, but this year my time would be better spent drawing things out. So I got to do the model showing to the company before heading of to put my dungarees on.

Jo the prop maker arrived with a van full of goodies.

In the past I’ve used an overhead projector to speed up drawing complicated pieces of set. I’d been offered a digital projector to help, with all the set pieces scanned this should have been easy. But no matter what myself and Louisa (the Assistant Technician) did things just didn’t want to line up and propping the projector up at the right angle proved so frustrating! In the end I gridded everything up and drew up in the old fashioned way.

Back in Banbury, Mick and Tilly headed out of town and moored between the lift bridges so that some shore leave could be taken and enjoyed again. Bumbury really is rather boring!

A tired and out of focus photo. Ade, Lou, Gemma, Chris and fish and chips

By the end of the day, sliders were in position, over half of the profiled flats were cut out, quite a lot of set pieces were primed. Time for a drink at the Blue Bore and some food. Sadly the pub were reluctant to serve us food as they were short staffed, Chris went for a walk to find food and we all ended up sitting in The Fox. Five portions of fish and chips went down very well!


Tuesday, Ade and Lou headed home leaving Gemma and Chris to carry on with the fit up. Make up was tried out for Whittington the cat and photos taken so that I can recreate their face in part of the design.

Louisa and Andy adding fittings to sliders

More drawing out of flats and the constant noise from jigsaws filled the theatre, when they were quiet we got to hear the cast learning the songs up in the gallery. Tracks were put up by Paul, Louisa and Andy. By the end of the day we’d achieved a lot, having the main set go up on Sunday had helped a great deal.

Healthy option tonight

Tonight the Blue Bore was considerably quieter and food could be ordered. A squash and beetroot stew with broccoli was very tasty accompanied by a glass of wine, only one mind as my head is still recovering from covid.

Something’s missing from that cill

Wednesday. Mick needed to turn Oleanna. The next winding hole was at Twyford Wharf down Grants Lock. He winded and returned to the lock where he could see several protruding bolts on the top cill. Keeping Oleanna away from the bolts was important so as not to snag the bow fender. He made it safely back up and returned to the mooring he’d left an hour and a quarter earlier, Tilly got to spend the rest of the day out and about.

Such an autumnal front door

In Chippy things needed checking over, magnetic catches adding to cupboards and wheels adding to set pieces to aid their movement both on and off stage. We worked our way through the scene changes marking positions and deciding on positions for things in the wings.

Eros based in with the model for reference

I spent much of the day priming bits of scenery. Imogen who’s on work placement with me started to base in Eros, it was very nice to see some colour going onto some scenery.

Front cloth in position

Late afternoon the actors and Pippins (local children who make up the chorus) joined us in the theatre for a health and safety briefing. For the first time we were able to show the company all the different settings, each piece of scenery being put in position, the swirling front cloth whisked off stage to reveal them. We were in a good place with everything, it just all needs painting now!

Just what’s needed after a busy day

Once the stage was clear of actors I started to mark up the Piccadilly Circus sliders. If ever a projector would have been useful it was now with sooo much lettering to draw up. To celebrate getting started with the sliders I treated myself to chicken and chips from the burger van. This is most definitely a treat best eaten on the bench under the tree by the book shop. Only thing is a small portion could just about feed a family of four!

Thursday. Mick made his way back in towards the Tramway to moor. Then in the afternoon he walked over to Enterprise to pick up a hire car. He’d hired the cheapest vehicle available a people carrier, but thankfully he was given the option of a small car instead. Loading up two buckets of compost he set of and drove up to our house in Scarborough to reset the insurance clock and check things over, leaving Tilly in charge on Oleanna with two pouches of food to keep her going overnight.

Eros just about finished

At the theatre I now have to work on things around the actors rehearsing on stage. The Piccadilly sliders are fixed on stage, so I am one of the first people in the building each day and one of the last out, taking advantage of a hour before rehearsals, lunchtime and after they have finished for the day. Today I got the sliders drawn up and started to paint them.

Being around the theatre is handy when props are needed, questions asked can be answered pretty swiftly. Possible alterations to things can be noted, today we found out that a door needs to be rehung, opening onto a scene has more comedic value than the way I’d had it built, but hopefully the alteration won’t be too difficult to do.

A very refreshing shandy

In the evening the theatre staff had a club night in the bar, Bingo. As much as it would have been nice to join in there is too much work to get done. Paul set up the sound system whilst I started to add colour to the sliders. A drink was brought through for us towards the end of the evening, a nice refreshing shandy which I enjoyed once I was off the top of a ladder.

Cakes cakes and sweeties

Friday. Every morning the treats stash seems to get replenished in the green room. With lots of dancing sugar levels need to be kept up, well that’s the excuse everyone is sticking to!

Mick returned to Banbury, returning the hire car after popping to the Gateway Shopping Centre for a flu jab. He’s compiled a list of jobs that need doing at the house, some small, others quite big and costly!

I started work on the backing flat for Piccadilly Circus. Drawn out and windows shaded in quite quickly, followed by a bit of colour. Traditional panto sets have what is known as black lining, over the last three pantos I’ve designed for Chippy I’ve avoided black lines, using shading instead. But this year having based much of my designs on Victorian etchings I could not avoid them. In fact there are far more black lines than I’ve come across before!

Saturday, Mick did a shop for the weekend at Morrisons then was just about to push off when a boat came into view, too close to push out in front of. As it came closer he noticed that it was pulling in behind Oleanna and had skeletons hung by the front doors, it was Frankie Fango an Instagram friend of mine. The two of them had quite a chat and Mick gleamed a bit of information that may come in handy next week.

He then moved on up to top up with water and timed his arrival at the lock perfectly as a lady from the trip boat happened to be there and was willing to work both the lock and lift bridge for him, that’s one lock he’d not have to single hand. He pootled onwards past the bakery and found a space alongside Spiceball Park where Tilly would be able to go out. It’s the weekend, too many woofers about to have a really good time! Pah Bumbury!!

Black line crazy

The actors were on stage this morning along with the Pippins, learning the opening song. I continued with black lines, still some more to do on the backing flat, but it will be fine for a photo shoot next week and the final lines can wait for other things to get painted first. The final rats for the portals were painted in, the last of the pillars primed and by the end of the afternoon the Piccadilly sliders were all painted in, just in need of black lining now!

That black border needs to go up a touch

There was time to have a tidy up before heading to catch the last bus back to Banbury. A quick service with only two passengers on board, it didn’t need to stop for anyone so we were in Banbury very swiftly. As I climbed onboard Oleanna I could smell jacket potatoes, we’d be having pie tonight and a lot of cuddles from Tilly!

Curled up happy Tilly

Sunday. The day started with tea in bed, followed by a cooked breakfast. Very yummy.

Being near Morrisons means gf black pudding too

The Geraghty zoom, subjects included exploding boats, hedgehog fascists, and the Queen Elizabeth Line. We seem to have coincided with a canoe race day on the canal. We’ve been around for one before, it gets very choppy, we may have to go out for a while.

A quiet moment in the canoe racing

Today I will spend mostly sitting down and not doing much, we’ll round the day off with a joint of pork. Hopefully we’ll both be rested up in time for numerous hours painting scenery and Mick single handing his way up and over the summit of the Oxford Canal before the winter stoppages start.

4 locks, 2 twice, 5.74 miles, 2 buses, 1 lovely landlady, 1 forgotten bag, 5 lots of fish and chips, 1 chicken and chips, 4 trees, 1 snake, 1 gorilla,1 stand down, 6 days of busyness, 2 sit down tea breaks, 1 Eros, 1 backing flat, 2 sliders painted, 1 cosy cat, 1 cooked breakfast, 32567 canoes!