Category Archives: Costume Design

Ghost Train Or Fancy Bumping Into You Here! 18th May

Priors Hardwick Bridge 123 to Claydon Top Bridge 144

Our neighbours for the night

As we sat in bed with the view out across the sheep field opposite the first boat came past at 7:30. A panel on the side of the boat said Finesse No 2, this was NB Gra, not the second boat Finesse had built, the number a choice of the owners, maybe the second Cowpar Finesse had built. We waved but no-one saw us, I sent a message to Laura on the Ladies of Finesse group to say hello. They’d been aiming to get to the locks before the masses, they were wise.

Soaking up the rays

We got ourselves ready for the off and crept through bridge 123, here along another length of armco were two moored boats, we’d not been on our own, but it had felt it last night.

A hazy morning

We pootled our way along the summit pound the high hedge obliterating any view to the north and rolling ridge and furrowed fields to the south. A misty morning with sheep grazing. As the sun showed itself it became warm, so much so we were down to tshirts, then a cloud would come over and jumpers were required again.

How many boats all in a line?

As we came towards the big boot of the navigation so did another boat from the opposite direction. The lady on her phone nodded to us as she passed. Then another boat came round the bend, followed by a third. The chap at the helm warned us of a fourth boat a short distance behind. Mick held us just before the bend, no point meeting at the bend if we were forewarned. Sure enough round it came. Anyone else? No. NB Gra had been right to be off early as they were now being followed by at least four more boats, there’d be a queue at Marston Doles Top Lock and nowhere to pull in.

Round the boot we tried to remember what the mounds of HS2 earth had looked like in August last year. Plenty of diggers were around then as they were today. A large area looked to have had a membrane laid and then covered with hardcore and sand. Is this the base for an embankment or will there be a lake here?

Another boat passed us as we came towards where HS2 will cross the canal. The temporary bridge has traffic lights at both sides and signs give towpath walkers a diversion to follow. To the north the bridge support is being welded together, catching up with that on the south side. I wonder how it will look when next we pass? Don’t know when that will be, suspect it won’t be this year. Will Bridge 128 remain alongside? Are the things clipped onto the off side armco monitors to keep an eye on the canal?

To the south

The usually popular mooring overlooking the radio mast was empty, is this where all the boats had come from this morning? Or is this no longer a good place to moor due to HS2?

To the north

As we pootled along a few more boats came towards us whilst I wove ends in on last weeks pair of socks. These are having a bit more added to them and I needed confirmation from Clare that I was getting it right, her being a pianist an all! Thankfully I was and I wouldn’t have to carefully snip away any mistakes. The job is a time consuming one, but hopefully the recipient will appreciate it.

Approaching Fenny Compton we pulled into the first available mooring, it’s normally chocka around here. Mick headed into the village to post a card and to buy our Saturday newspaper. I elected to stay on board, there were some secret things Tilly and I needed to do! Lunch and we were on our way again, more miles of the summit needed to be ticked off today, well all of them really!

Tunneless tunnel

Thankfully the traffic had calmed down somewhat as we headed towards Fenny Compton Tunnel, no longer a tunnel just a cutting, but very narrow at times. We got through before a hire boat appeared ahead of us, good timing.

The old railway bridge

The railway runs alongside the canal, however out of view. As we approached the now dismantled railway bridge that used to cross the canal it sounded like a train was on it’s way about to cross over head. It sounded like a ghost train was running from Stratford to Towcester and would crash into the canal because the bridge was missing! How many times had this ghost train crashed?!

The first bridge lufted

Not far on was the first iconic Oxford Canal lift bridge, Bridge 144, usually left open. Soon followed by a right hand bend and a boat heading towards us. Oh Blimey! Mick tried taking an avoidance course, the other boat did it’s best to go into reverse, but did not change course for the turn. Both boats slowed, but contact was unavoidable. Just a Bumph! from a bow fender onto our gunnel. No harm done and we could both be on our way after a ‘Sorry!’ and ‘Fancy bumping into you here!’

Finding some shade on the roof

Slow progress past the long term moorings and then we kept our fingers crossed for a mooring before the top of Claydon. The first spot, only long enough for one boat was occupied and as we rounded the next bend we started to count the number of moored boats. Half a boat length of armco had our name on it, there may have been space further up, but it looked like there were a couple of git gaps so nothing would be long enough for us. Nappy pin at the bow spikes at the stern, then the doors were opened for Tilly to head off and explore.

See ya!

As Tilly came and went and Mick snoozed on the sofa I got round to a job that’s been needing to be done for a while. About this time last year my agent said that she would be cutting back on her work and reducing her client base to just a couple of designers. She would look after me for the contracts already on her books, panto, but anything else that came in she wouldn’t represent me. I was welcome to find a new agent, but as I only do a couple of shows a year, I suspect no-one would really be interested in taking me on, after all I wouldn’t earn them much money!

So I shall look after my own contracts from now on, should any shows come my way! What I have lost though is an internet presence, my biog and some photos were on my agents website, that doesn’t exist anymore. It was time for me to rectify that. So for those eagle eyed readers (I know someone has already spotted it) I have added a page to the blog with my biog and a few photos. When I find myself with a bit more time I’ll add a link to more photos, an online folio.

0 locks, 9.1 miles, 2 many boats, 1st Saturday paper in a while, 1 tunneless tunnel, 1 ghost train, 1 lufted lift bridge, 1 Bumph, 1 boat tagged on the end, 0 key for the locked rooms in the house! 1 head returning to normal.

How Illuminating. 7th March

Sykehouse Junction

As we were getting ourselves sorted with a cuppa in bed this morning we both could hear a droning noise. What was it? I went on for ages, then it just stopped. Ahh of course, Exol Pride on a run up to Rotherham! We’ve normally checked Ship Tracker to see where she might be when we’re in the area, then listen in on the VHF radio, but we’d been lax about it. She must have come in off the Ouse last night or early this morning.

Tilly was keen to be out again, we didn’t have any plans to move today, well maybe to the other side of the junction as we wanted to be Billy No Mates. But there wasn’t any need in the end as our neighbours moved off just after we’d had breakfast, so Tilly was awarded another 7 hours to go with her original 1.

Look into my eyes. You will get out of bed and let me out!

My current pair of sockathon socks have been giving me some trouble. I’ve tried several techniques of colour work, but I’ve been over complicating everything. A simpler approach was needed and it now being Thursday and I’d not turned the first heel, I needed to catch up. The next job on the list of boat jobs for me was to give Oleanna a damn good wash, she is filthy as ever after being tied up in Goole for months. But I decided that this should wait until we were closer to a water point, so I got on with knitting, soon frogging back to the toe yet again.

Old tap soon to be replaced

Meanwhile Mick got on with his boat jobs. time to sort the galley tap out. Water off he attempted to remove the ends of the taps to replace the cartridges. One side came off fairly easily, the other one was not going to budge an inch. Good job we’d bought a whole new tap. I emptied the under sink cupboard, the least I could do. A check over the instructions and comparing tap for tap. The new tap seemed to have extra bits compared to the old one. Finesse possibly had left some things off as there is less space under a boats sink than in a house. Mick soon had everything plumbed back in and working again. No river of water running over the worktop anymore.

New tap. More shiny things

The amount of space under our galley units is vast, having lifted the inspection hatch under the sink we got to see just how much air there is down there. Quite a few people remove their cupboard plinths and replace them with drawers, useful for tin or bottle storage, maybe an extension to the shed? We could think about this, but as our cupboards are not made from standard kitchen carcases and were made to my requested measurements I think the plinth is part of the main structure and not just clipped on. Further investigation will be done, when Mick isn’t lying on the floor with his head in a cupboard.

Empty cupboard with lots of air beneath

Throughout the day I’ve received several emails from a producer I’d worked with on a tour of ‘Bouncers’. He’d been thinning out his store and was wanting to either sell on or give away seven DJs, the costumes from the show, but he couldn’t find any labels with sizes. Could I remember what we’d bought. Well no, it was twelve years ago and all my records are back in the house, if I still have them. I got in touch with my friend Sian who’d done some alterations on them, she made a guess at sizes, but her main comment was ‘Who would want those after how ever many sweaty shows?!’ Finally my phone stopped pinging and the producer went away.

Another job Mick ticked off was installing lights in cupboards. He’s always wanted these, they were on the wish list back in 2012 when we visited Stillwater Narrowboats. Somehow when Finesse built Oleanna the lights dropped off the list. Then they reappeared on Christmas lists. I attempted to buy them but they never arrived. The following year my brother tried again, they never arrived. Mick spotted some in B&M last September, but they had vanished by the time Christmas shopping was being done. So finally he gave up hoping someone would buy them for him and ordered them himself.

How illuminating

One went in The Shed, two in the corner pull out cupboard. I can actually see where everything is in there now! One might have gone in the electrics cupboard. All very good and he’s pleased he now has them.

By the end of the day my sock was progressing well, it’s just taking twice as long to knit as the others I’ve done recently. I was planning on doing a few more pairs similarly, but I may simplify them a touch. There’s more to them than I’m willing to show you right now as that would be unfair on the person they are for.

Pair 10 coming along

Another episode of Traitors USA. Well so far it’s the same tasks as the UK first series which is a touch disappointing. But Alan Cummings outfits and his demeanour more than make up for it.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 big blue boat, 1 The Boat, 1 light in the shed, 2 in the pan drawer, 1 new tap, 8 hours! 1 sock nearly up to the heel, 1 boat still very dirty.

Panto Postcard 3, 2023

The door back to work
The stagger through
One line, that’s better
Time to give this chap some colour
Andrew in hospital a couple of days ago
The end!
Tom’s legs will have to do as SHE has deserted us!
A touch of plumbing happening

Finally a big Thank you for the donations to my sock knitting. Progress is much slower this week than last, but I am managing to do at least 30 minutes a day, just £60 short of my new target for the year.

Firmware and Footwear. 5th April


Last Fridays post was filled with woolly goodies. Two more Independent dyers had sent me some yarn for my sockathon. What kindness! The two parcels together most probably had enough yarn for 14 pairs of socks. Thank you so much to Jem (Under The Olive Tree) and Beth (Beehive Yarns) for your generous and wonderful support.

I had a day out to Leeds to visit the Hello Stranger Yorkshire exhibition. Lots of photos from shows over the last four years and how the pandemic was coped with and how the industry has changed since. Designers were invited to add their details to a map of Yorkshire. One colour string showed where Yorkshire designers lived, the other where people from outside Yorkshire have worked. As I fitted into both categories and neither I decided to have both colours of string on my label.

I made sure my return to the station included the wonderful markets and the Exchange. Must remember all that fish when we pass through Leeds in a few weeks time!

Saturday morning started with me casting on the first pair of socks. These were to be knitted in yarn that I had bought for the challenge, matching the logo colours of @dementia-uk. In the post that morning I received a card from their Fundraising Officer wishing me luck, what a lovely touch, especially hand written, my sister-in-law would approve.

So far I’ve managed to knit a sock a day, that’s an average of 8 hours clicking a day. I go to stretch my legs each day so that my natural posture doesn’t take to being a seated one. The occasional move from one chair to another also helps. Podcasts are listened to when I’m going round in circles and we’ve taken to watching an episode of Downton Abbey each day, starting from the very beginning. We may have to up to two episodes a day as there are 50 in total. Blimey some of those servants are really really horrible!

Mick has been seeking out new insurance quotes for Oleanna. For some reason our renewal quote from GJW had gone up whilst reports on social media suggest other peoples have gone down. Craftinsure are by far the cheapest for both contents and the boat, however some things are not covered such as laptops. Why are they so much cheaper? How are they so much cheaper? Do they pay out without hassle if you need to claim? All questions Mick is seeking the answers to before we commit ourselves to a new policy.

Oleanna on a sunny day

The days, weeks and months are ticking away. Time to visit Oleanna and give her engine a run, check her over and now that we have a date we need to be back on the boat for, give notice on our mooring. Mick took the train down to Goole an easy and familiar ride now, whilst I sat on the sofa knitting.

The daffodils at Oleanna’s stern are long past their best and the scraped paintwork turning orange on the gunnels shows that she hasn’t moved anywhere for sometime. Hopefully there will be time to give things a good rub down and repaint before too long.

Clear view to NB Ivy

Mick sent me a photo looking out through the new window in the pram cover. A vast improvement from the old one which not only had holes in it but had become a touch white making the view a bit foggy. The boat opposite our bow has had a change of name, a very wise change by Lisa.

Mick ran the engine and went to see Laird and also had a catch up with Alastair. Sadly Viking Marina are out of diesel at the moment, so the tank still hasn’t had a fill. Then it was time for Mick to plug the laptop into Oleanna’s brain and give the inverter a firmware update. This new version means we can control the charging of the lithium batteries more, especially when the temperatures are really low which lithium’s do not appreciate.

Daffodils and gunnels past their best!

With everything locked up, Mick headed back to the station with the intention of being back in Scarborough to eat with me before I headed out for the evening. Sadly there were problems on the tracks. A vehicle had run through both barriers of a level crossing at Gilberdyke. This meant all trains had to run slowly and that Mick’s train which normally would have continued on to Scarborough stopped in Hull.

The chandelier at The Bike and Boot

The next train northwards followed a slow train and by the time it had reached Bridlington it itself had been cancelled as the train behind had just about caught it up! In all it took Mick four hours to return to Scarborough by which time I’d cast on the toe of sock 5 and decided to give myself an evening off. Spent at the Bike and Boot with old female friends I used to work with at the SJT. It was very nice to see every one in the flesh, many I’ve only seen on zoom get togethers over the last few years and those have gradually petered out.

The Chippy model box waiting for me to be creative

Another parcel has arrived at the house. The empty model box for Chippy Panto, all ready for me to start designing. It made sense for it to come here, rather than us trying to guess where to get it sent to in a months time.

For those wanting to know what panto will be this year, I can now confirm it will be ‘Cinderella’. But not just any old Cinderella, this one will be set in Latin America! So the music will most certainly be toe tapping. Sadly the budget won’t stretch to a visit to South America for research purposes, the internet will have to do!

The Sockothan continues and if I continue at the current rate then I should manage to beat last years pairs by several! Thank you so much to those near and far (Hello Canada!) who have sponsored me. Thank you also to those who’ve requested socks. All socks on my list are guaranteed to be knitted in April so make sure you’ve made your donation on the JustGiving website. I may be opening the challenge up for more sock requests in a weeks time, so if you feel you missed out first time around you’d best keep an eye on the blog.


So much yarn, 5 socks, 5 days, £100 cheaper, 2 barriers, 1 notice given, 1 inverter updated, 8 hours each, 67% of target, 1 evening off, 6 old friends, 1 slightly numb bum, 2 circular needles, 9 years of boat ownership!

Restoring Power. Catch up 4th March

The weather forecast next week looks to be cold. What’s new? Well it’s going to be colder than it already is up on the north east coast. Goole looks like it will have below freezing temperatures. When we left Oleanna we’d left her with everything sorted for such a cold spell, she was plugged in with the thermostat ready to kick the heating on should things get really chilly, the advantage of our Aldi boiler being able to run off electric when hooked up.

Daffodils are coming!

However in the last couple of weeks Oleanna has been turned round by Alastair ready for when he has time to do jobs on her. Mick left him with some keys and the camera on board had broadcast movement a few days after his last visit, so we knew she’d been winded. She’d been unplugged from the mains, turned around for easier access, then plugged back in again, Oleanna has two hook up points to make this easy. However inside there is a switch you need to flick to select which end of the boat you are hooked up to, Alastair didn’t know about this. So for a couple of weeks Oleanna has been living off free solar, but should the heating need to come on it wouldn’t work. Someone needed to flick the switch.

Mick caught the train down to Goole a now familiar journey and if you break your ticket in Filey it’s cheaper. Oleanna was given the once over checking she was ready for minus temperatures and the switch was flicked to accept power at the stern. A catch up with Al from NB Summer Wind was had and a chat with Alastair.

The alternator chap he’d had in mind to refurbish our faulty one is no more. Another company said that unless it was something special/historic then it wouldn’t be worth doing! Well they obviously didn’t want the job. We’ll be scouting around in Scarborough to see if anyone here can help us instead.

Topping up the diesel didn’t happen again as Laird had just run out as Mick arrived. Hopefully next time.

The other job today was to meet up with Sean from SPL Covers, who just happened to be at the marina on another job. Our covers are in need of some tlc, too much use. The pram cover front window has had a hole in it for a couple of years and this year it has made a few friends. These happen when it gets folded down for cruising, a crease happening in the same place time and time again has taken it’s toll. The window has also gone quite opaque too, so this will be replaced.

The cratch cover zip that failed early last year will also be replaced. I tacked it together last spring so it was about time it was replaced. Mick checked to see if SPL could clean them too, however that would likely take several weeks to happen and we’d rather the covers were back on Oleanna as soon as they can be to help keep the weather off.

A productive visit.

Admiring the view on high

Meanwhile on land.

Last week was production week for #unit21 in Huddersfield. The upgraded set went in easily but as the temperature of the set increased we found a problem with the fabric it was covered in. When the flattage arrived in the cold it was very baggy saggy. But as it warmed up in the theatre it tightens up making things look wonderfully smooth. However the upgrade to the set involved slitting the fabric to insert LED lights and perspex to create fake neon. In hindsight the original covering of the flats and upgrade should have been done in a warm environment when the fabric was taught, not an easy thing when workshops tend to be chilly places! This is also the first time either Graham or myself have used Ripstop on a set.

So as the set warmed the fabric tightened starting to distort the slots the lights were in. Clamps and cable ties stopped the movement, but the fabric carried on doing it’s thing. Thankfully the atmospheric lighting doesn’t show any of our problems up after a touch of colouring in with a Sharpie was done.

The actors did a couple of run throughs for technical purposes, then a full dress rehearsal where one of our new Led strips decided it didn’t want to do green, the main colour required. So sadly on photos we have a rouge strip and on press night it and it’s partner were unplugged.

The show was very well received and there were plenty of familiar faces in the audience, including Vanessa Brooks who used to be the Artistic Director at Dark Horse, also Pete Massey who used to work at the SJT in Scarborough. It was great to be able to have a catch up with him and Rach his wife after the show.

#unit21 is now on tour for the next few weeks. The Lowry in Salford 3rd 4th March, Chroma-Q in Leeds 10th March, The Junction Goole 15th 16th March, Storyhouse Chester 23rd 24th March.

Decorating of the back bedroom has started. Well the decorating bit hasn’t yet started, it’s more the demolition stage. I’d hoped to be able to remove the cornice and ceiling rose that would never have been in such a bedroom, but they have turned out to be plaster and very well attached. With my back still making me cautious they can stay for a while longer, the last thing I want to do is be patching up a ceiling.

Blistering paint

Lots of patching up and some paint stripping to do, interesting how some new Eco friendly paint stripper has and hasn’t worked even with being left overnight to work it’s magic.

A new sewing machine has been invested in along with a cordless drill that matches the sander I got at Christmas, so we now have three batteries between tools.

Tide’s out

Estimates for new windows have been coming in, all very expensive. The funding we’d applied for from the council to help insulate the house we were told a few weeks ago had run out, but yesterday we had a phone call suggesting there are now more funds available. We’ll have to see what happens on that front.

Our cruising plans for the year have had to be slightly altered. Two offers of work and an invite from my cousins will see us heading down south rather than staying in the north. It will be good to see family members at something other than a funeral and I think I was 18 when I last spent any time with my cousins kids. Hopefully there will still be enough of the summer to return northwards to accomplish our original plans of cruising the River Weaver. The life jackets have had their annual service, left inflated in a room over night well away from any cat claws.

#unit21 socks

Pip’s Sockathon 2023 will take place during April this year. A charity has been selected, a conversation with their Community Fundraising Executive has been had, so I’d best get my needles ready. There are still some things to sort for it but there will be more news on that front very very soon.

A Sunny Scarborough Sunday walk

So for now that is all our news. Stay warm everyone, I can safely say it is far warmer on a boat than in our house!

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 wind captured on camera, 1 boat unhooked, 1 boat rehooked, 1 new sewing machine, 1 drill, 2 batteries makes 3, 1 red strip, 9 ensemble, 2 job offers, 1 workshop, 1 family get together, 1 brown bin, £30 curry for 2, 1 soda bread, 1 bored cat, 4 troublesome doors, 1 job made longer, 1 room stripped back, 36k or 26k? 1 charity, 10 pairs maybe this year, 1 vanity project, 174 x110, 1 blind, 2 covers at the menders.

Don’t Let The Cat Out! 4th February

King’s Marina to Cromwell Lock

Tilly keeping an eye out for cats!

Since arriving back in Scarborough it’s taken Tilly a while to settle down. She knows where she is, but the house makes odd noises, different from those on Oleanna. Add into the mix our lodger Claire making noises in the morning and singing in the evening, it all makes for a nervous cat. Over the last couple of days Tilly has ventured outside into the static world the house is surrounded by. She obviously remembers the local cats and is constantly looking out for Alan, Betty and Shoes. I have tried to explain to her that none of them live here anymore! But still she looks. The annoying thing for us humans though is that we thought the runny cat pooh would have ceased since Shoes moved away, however it is still lurking in the grass!

I managed to borrow a sewing machine from my friends Dawn and Lee at Animated Objects, so all the costume alterations have been finished. A few small house jobs have been done and I’ve been baking.

I made some fresh curd cheese and a batch of Yorkshire Curd Tarts to use up the pastry left over from mince pies. The slightly orange pastry was rather nice with the curds. Then yesterday I made a loaf of cheese and spring onion gluten free soda bread using up half the buttermilk I’d been left with from the curd cheese. We had to try a bit with our dinner last night as it smelt so good. Very very tasty. A definite recipe I’ll be doing again, there is still enough buttermilk left (now in the freezer) for another loaf.

Snowdrops everywhere in Scarbados

Now that Maud’s Swing Bridge on the Stainforth and Keadby Canal is left open to boat traffic we needed to identify a window of opportunity to move Oleanna up to Goole. I have work commitments over the next few weeks and we wanted to give Tilly a chance to settle down in the house before we’d be leaving her for several days. We estimated the journey would take us a minimum of four days.

Mick checked the tide times, then the weather. Our first window looked good. A couple of days ago he called Cromwell to check on tide times for Sunday. Then a call to Keadby to check times there too. Both locks were booked.

Time to work out how to get back to Newark. The railway line out of Scarborough has been closed for much of this week due to engineering works, strikes and the poor service on Transpennine Express made us look at the buses to York, The Coastliner. These run every hour and currently a single fare being £2, it would be a bargain.

Going over Ouse Bridge in York

So this morning we were up early, breakfasted, a few items packed, soda bread and my work things in case we are held up on route. We caught the 9:10 which was pretty busy already and by the time it arrived in Malton it was chocka, I think we even passed hopeful passengers at a bus stop on our way into York. We hopped off at the station and had a half hour wait for the next train to Newark Northgate arriving a little after midday.

Pontoon B at King’s Marina

We headed straight to the marina as the office would soon be closing. When we’d arrived, we’d imagined Oleanna would be stuck for several weeks, maybe even months, in the end it was only nine nights. Two bags of coal were bought and popped on the roof.

I then headed to buy supplies whilst Mick topped up the water tank and made ready for our departure. I hunted round Waitrose for yellow labels. We’d brought a few days worth of food with us, but needed another couple of days supplies along with milk and cereal. Two heavy bags later, including two boxes of wine, I could drop the gate fob back at the office.

Click photo for recipe

Lunch was had, soda bread, still pretty good even when cold. Then it was time to put our life jackets on and push off, reverse out from the pontoon and say goodbye to King’s Marina. Paula the marina manager came out to wave us goodbye and wish us a good journey. Thank you for accommodating us in your friendly marina.

Goodbye Pretty neighbours

Left. We headed towards Nether Lock where I climbed up a ladder to head to work the lock. The paddles were half raised, it was refilling itself. I turned the key of power and encouraged it to fill quicker, which worked, except the panel still had to work it’s way through all the button presses! It took quite a while before eventually the button moved the gates. Getting my phone out to take a photo of Oleanna coming into the lock, I lost grip and it bounced across the concrete, each time getting closer to the lock edge! Thankfully it stopped a foot short of me having to replace it, a shame the screen is now cracked.

Nether Lock

Back in April last year the levels had taken forEVER to equalise when emptying the lock to come in, I did it twice in one day, so today I was prepared for a long wait again. The lock did not disappoint! I had to press the button several times when it did nothing at all for it to get itself ready to open the gates. But we got there in the end. A helpful couple walking their dogs offered to finish working the lock for me, so that I could get back on. I turned them down, no way would I be climbing down the 12ft or so of lock ladder when below at the lock landing it would only be three foot of ladder.

We passed North Muskham, Muskham Ferry where a group from King’s Marina were enjoying a few pints having come down in ribs. They all waved us on our way.

Fishermen lined the banks. One young lad had caught a fish worthy of a photo, his mate catching one a quarter the size was still eager to have the photographic proof. Then a group of men in waders stood round weighing up the days catch, there must have been a match on by Cromwell Lock.

Muskham Ferry

Mick winded Oleanna to face upstream and bought us into the pontoon. Time to head to the bow to tie up. We don’t often cruise without Tilly on board. When opening a door it is automatic to check to see if she is waiting on the step inside. Don’t let the cat out! She’s never allowed out until we are moored up, yet she is so excited to be somewhere new, she charges to the other door before you can get there. Gentle persuasion is required to keep her away from an opening door, sometimes a ‘Grrrrr!’ is required to keep her eagerness in check, it works quite well. Doors are rarely left open, they always get closed behind you. At times trying to keep Tilly in is a pain, but today there was certainly one big hole without her on board. Hope her magic food bowl has opened up and that she’s cosy on our bed.

1 lock, 4.9 miles, £2 coastliner, 1 train, 1 Lincoln Cathedral in view, 0.5 loaf of soda bread gone, 2 boxes wine, 3 yellow stickers, 2 boaters back afloat, 1 feline boater stuck on dry land, 2 pork chops and 2 jacket potatoes.

Don’t Just Sit There Having A Bath! 24th January

Hazelford Lock

The decision to stay put today had been made last night. C&RT were working on Town Lock in Newark today with possible delays for two hours. That was if we could get there as yesterday we’d had reports that between the lock and the next bridge had been frozen.

Mick made a phone call to King’s Marina, were they iced up? What was their diesel price? There was ice still around the edges of the marina, but the central section had thawed. We’ll do a diesel price comparison with the other two marinas tomorrow.

On the outside

A sausage day for Tilly. Allowed out at breakfast time with two hours. The two hours was extended each time she returned. Something was certainly keeping her busy out there.

Simon from C&RT walked by during the morning, presumably continuing his checks at each lock. Then there was a chap walking his dog, most probably from the Dutch Barge Lily. Other than that island life was quiet, except the noise from the weir. No passing boats today.

Hand sewing still possible

Time for me to collect my thoughts a bits and pieces together for my next visit to Huddersfield this week. Name tags were sewn into the new overalls. A couple of spare chip trays were made in pink and purple. A new batch of felt badges were started, ready to be added to overalls. The large wheelie bag was dug out from under the bed and filled up with things to take. The back steps were taken out to access my paint brush bag and an edited few brushes and chalk line made it into things to take.

Badges in the making

Tilly returned to warm up three quarters of an hour before cat curfew. We tried to convince her that she should make the most of her shore leave as it will be the last for some time. But it fell on deaf pointy ears, Tilly preferring to have a bath in front of the stove instead.

Winter sunset

This evening we enjoyed the last, apart from a butties worth, of roast pork with red peppers and paprika. Yum.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 chaps, 1 woofer, 2 hours, 2 hours, 2 hours more! 3 overalls, 16 badges, 3 nice brushes, 1 small roller, 1 clean pot, 1 wheelie bag, 2 train journeys booked.

Bloomin Maud! 18th January


First there was ice. Then too much water. Now it’s a bridge!

Our plans may have to change. We’d been hoping to reach Yorkshire by now, but obviously the River Trent being in flood hasn’t helped that. All part of boating through the winter especially where rivers are concerned. Now as the river levels are dropping, gradually, we’ve been looking further ahead.

1.5m today down 28cm from yesterday

Vazon Sliding Bridge had problems in the heat last summer, since then the bridge is opened twice a day to boat traffic at 9am and 1pm, apart from when Network Rail are on strike. If the river hadn’t been in flood we’d have had a days wait before we could pass through.

When Mick had phoned to book passage in at Keadby the Lock Keeper mentioned that Maud’s Swing Bridge was also closed. A date for it to open unknown! Hmm. Here’s a link to the stoppage notice LINK. It has been closed since the 23rd November, the notice hasn’t had an update.

Maud’s Bridge 2nd April 2022

Mick rang C&RT and worked his way though to the right part of the country and got to talk to a lady regarding the bridge. Apparently the bridge was struck by a vehicle back in November causing a lot of damage. It has been taking time for the drivers insurance company to sort things out and as yet the engineers haven’t come up with a method of mending the bridge. So at the moment there is no known date for it to open, it could be months! The lady was trying to get someone to do an update.

Poo bar bum!

A re-think is needed. Options.

  • We continue downstream and exit the River Trent at Keadby, then sit and wait for the bridge to open. Not a popular option.
  • We head downstream on the Trent and wait for a suitable day to head round Trent Falls. Not a popular route in the winter months.
  • We continue downstream and find somewhere to moor that isn’t in Yorkshire, but as close as we can get with good transport links. Maybe.
  • We stay put in Shadlow, easy access to transport. Maybe.
  • We turn around and once Stenson Lock reopens, with its new gates, we head up the west side of the country to cross the Pennines over into Yorkshire. A lengthy journey especially in winter, juggling it around work, stoppages and weather. Hmmm.

We’ve got some thinking to do. One option is looking the most likely at the moment.

Today I managed to work through the alterations on another pair of overalls. These were size XS, but still needed the arms and legs shortening. One pair left to do. Mick returned from Scarborough with a few bits I’ll be needing for #unit21 in the next few weeks.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 trains, 1 bus, 1 broken bridge, 1 river coming down, 5 options, 2 pairs overalls finished, 7.5 inches, 5.5 inches, 1 still to do.

Ash. 17th January


Improving. 1.78m today 36cm lower than yesterday

Brrrrr! Chilly morning. The levels are improving and with little precipitation in the forecast they should hopefully continue on downwards. This afternoon the flood gates at Newark opened up again, we just need levels at Cranfleet to improve some more then we can be on our way.

Photos of ice on the cut this morning appeared on facebook, thankfully we only have patches in the off side vegetation, here’s hoping it stays that way.

Tilly didn’t mind the cold fluffing up her coat to go off on the towpath. She scuttled along on low legs hoping to pounce on a friend, but they are a touch too quick for her around here.

A touch chilly under paw

Inside I stoked the fire, riddled the ash into the pan below. Time to empty it into our ashcan outside on the towpath. In the past we’ve heard lots of people going on about which coal to use, which one is better? Staying in over night, amount of heat and quantity of ash all factors people compare. ‘How do you find Excel this year? I find it produces more ash this winter.’ Etc.

Our normal coal tends to be Excel, although we have had quite a bit from coal merchants with no brand name other than smokeless, along with Taybright, Red etc. To be honest we’ve never really noticed the amount of ash varying between brands. Our ashpan gets emptied once a day to keep the stove operating as it should. Ash always goes into our ashcan, never in the hedgerow as coal ash is poisonous, never mind unsightly and can cause fires. Once cool the ashcan gets emptied into an old coal bag and disposed of in the rubbish bins. When we’re moored up our ashcan lives out on the towpath where any deadly fumes can dissipate rather than enter the boat.

The coal Mick bought from Wickes came in handy 10kg bags, easy to carry along the towpath and to move about. Boaters on Canal World Forum had said it was good, so as it was easy to collect when we had a van he bought several bags. Less CO2 and apparently less smoke.

80% less smoke compared to….?

What do we think of it? Well it seems to take longer to stop being smoky. It stays in overnight well, it gives good heat, but the ash! The ash!! The ASH!!!

Just how much ash can it produce? Masses! It’s easy for us to gauge as the ash pan needs emptying twice a day!

Mushrooms Pip Style

Whilst not emptying the ashpan I’ve made use of having the dinette table to myself, so after mushrooms on toast Pip style, I ironed vinyl numbers and lines onto the navy fabric I’d prepared yesterday.

Good news came from Scarborough this afternoon. Both our boilers are back up and running again, one hadn’t been working for a while, but thankfully it’s all good and safe just in time for our next lodger to move in. Mick has packed away the Christmas decorations and then spent some time making beds up.

Time to start alterations on some overalls for #unit21. I’m not a natural sewer so I take alterations slowly. Each pair need taking apart at the waist to loose or gain length or girth, tucks across the shoulders are also required. It seemed to take forever to get things marked out and trimmed, tacked back together to make sure they looked okay before spending fifteen minutes sewing them back together on the machine! 1 pair down 3.5 to go!

Yum num

Creamy salmon pasta tonight

0 locks, 0 miles, 9 numbers, 18 lines, 5 hours of podcasts, 2 fully working boilers, 1 river dropping, 1 cut just about ice free, 1 problematic bridge, 2 beds, 1 overall in bits, 3inches sleeves, 4.5 inches legs, 2.5 waist,1 dead stool, 2 catnip Dreamies remaining, 2 much blinking ASH!

2022 Back To Exploring

Time for the annual round, a long post so sit back, put your feet up and enjoy.

The New Year kicked off with winter maintenance in the house. Having two hallways proved time consuming refreshing the woodwork and patching up the worst of the wallpaper. But this was broken up with weekly walks to see the sea. I resumed work on the development showing of #unit21 for Dark Horse and a Christmas present of a cheese making kit proved very tasty in creating my first ever Yorkshire Curd Cheese Cake from scratch. I plan on having a second go at this soon!

In February work progressed in Huddersfield towards opening night, the floor painted, final costume fittings and then the set and lighting added. All while Mick serviced our life jackets and Tilly grew more and more bored of life in the house.

Once the show was opened we had a trip down to London to catch up with the London Leckenbys for a belated Christmas, on our way back we visited Oleanna. When ever we could we visited Blue Water Marina to do jobs and have a pack up lunch. The stove was reblacked, walls washed down and cupboards sorted through.

Then at the end of February, Mick and I left Tilly in charge of the house, we packed enough clothes and food for a couple of days boating and headed to Thorne to move Oleanna through Thorne Lock before a winter stoppage began. Blimey it was chilly out there, but wonderful to be back afloat and moving Oleanna to Goole. Now we were all set to move back onboard and have a few weeks of pootling about in Yorkshire.

Back at the house we made it ready for the first of this years lodgers. Our boat Christmas tree was retired into the back garden where we hoped it would thrive, this of course was before we knew a drought was on it’s way! Tilly said goodbye to the dragon that lives up the chimney, left Seville and Valencia to look after the house before having to endure the car trip back to boat life.

After a few days sorting ourselves, including having one of Joan’s gluten free Chinese takeaways, we unplugged Oleanna and backed out from our mooring at Goole Marina (Boat House). We spent the next three weeks bobbing about between Pollington Lock, Doncaster and Goole. Maintenance jobs were ticked off the list.

Alistair did engine and weedhatch jobs, Frank joined us a couple of times to do carpentry jobs, our galley drawers no longer have a life of their own, the covers had a good scrub and a spray of Wet and Forget to help them keep clean.

In March I’d set myself a charity challenge, to knit as many pairs of socks in the month as I could. Nine pairs knitted for people in return for sponsorship, I also got a very generous donation of yarn from Lisa on NB Summer Wind.

Our plans had had to change as Thorne Lock still hadn’t closed, but was about to! Plans to visit York and West Yorkshire were abandoned, we’d bought ourselves a Gold Licence for the year so wanted to make the most of it. So on March 24th with all the jobs done we turned our backs on Goole and set off into the sunset to see where 2022 would take us, all three of us grinning from ear to ear.

We made our way to Keadby ready for our booked passage on the tidal River Trent, the fast route south. A phone call from a boating friend in need of support meant we’d be doing our best to make use of the spring tide to reach Cromwell in one go despite the weather forecast. We spent a couple of days doing what we could to help in Newark before we needed to be on the move again.

On upstream to The Trent and Mersey keeping up our cruising hours and Tilly hoping we’d stop with enough time for her to explore each day before cat curfew.

Up to Fradley then onto the Coventry Canal, we played leapfrog with NB Free Spirit for a couple of days.

Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, up the Curdworth Flight then a turn left onto a section of the Grand Union we’d not been on before at Star City. Up Garrison Locks, Typhoo Basin and then the Ashted Locks where we now have the measure of that Tunnel! A mooring space at the top of Farmers Bridge had our name on it. This was handy for a road trip to swap lodgers and for visits to the dentist. It also meant we were in shot when a group came to jump the top lock!

Fast forward to 6:15

Our route out of Bumingham saw us through Edgbaston Tunnel, down Lapworth followed by Hatton. A pause was needed for Tilly’s annual visit to a new vet, the one here the closest to the canal we’ve visited so far, also handy for The Cape of Good Hope!

At Napton we joined the Oxford Canal and headed for Braunston, pausing to stock up on goodies from the butcher. On the Grand Union we made our way up over the hill and started our descent down The Long Buckby flight back towards tidal waters.

On the 1st of May we turned left at Gayton Junction onto the Northampton Arm dropping down the flight to the River Nene. We’d only been this way once before and that was when we’d just bought Lillian (NB Lillyanne) back in 2014. We bought ourselves a second Abloy key, showed our Gold Licence to the chap at Northampton Marina and started our journey down stream, time to explore.

A decision was made to head down to Peterborough taking note of places we’d want to visit on our return journey. We worked our way through the guillotine locks, many button operated and others with the wheel of cardiovascular overload.

Tilly loved many of the moorings apart from those in Peterborough where crowds surrounded the boat and meant returning from shore leave was impossible for several hours.

In two weeks we reached the end of the river at the Dog in a Doublet Lock. Here the river becomes tidal, we’d save that trip for another time and turned back upstream to head for the Middle Level.

Here we wanted to explore all the drainage channels, but decided we’d do that on our return too. So we took the direct route and crossed the low lying waters in three days arriving at Salters Lode on Mick’s birthday. The levels out on the tidal stretch of the Great Ouse needing to be just right to get through the lock, turn and head upstream to Denver Sluice.

A lovely GOBA mooring was found on the River Wissey and eventually the sun came out for a birthday barbeque, we’d made it to the Great Ouse.

The remainder of May was spent exploring the River Wissey, Ely and The Little Ouse. Brandon Lock sits at the most easterly point on the connected navigable network for boats Oleanna’s size. Sadly a build up of silt stopped us from getting her bow into the lock, but we did get her as far east as was possible, ticking off the fourth point of the compass.

There was a trip to Hull Truck to meet old friends at a gala evening followed by a meet up with Micks family back in the Fens. At the end of the month we got to know Neil the seal at Ten Mile Bank moorings as he basked in the sun and took sunset dips in the river.

The Jubilee was seen in at Denver, we lit our guiding lights as a Lancaster Bomber flew overhead heading to see the Queen. The Relief Channel gave us a good mooring to be able to have a trip away to celebrate Dawn and Lee’s 50th Birthdays in Scarborough, we went as Wallace and Gromit and won an Oscar!

Another visit to Ely to see the Cathedral, Farmers market and meet up with Heather from NB Bleasdale, the first of many this summer. The River Lark was explored, the end of navigation reached with a handy mooring outside a pub.

We headed for the Cam, our paths crossing for the first time with Ken and Sue from NB Cleddau. Then onwards in to Cambridge where we visited colleges, ate chilled medication and had a day trip to Duxford so that Mick could sit in the pilots seat of a Trident 2, a seat his Dad had sat in on many a flight.

Oleanna squeezed along each of the three Lodes, Wicken, Burwell and Reach. Wicken Lode a magical place and a day visit to Anglesey Abbey with it’s wonderful gardens.

Then we headed onto the Old West a river with a very different feel than the Ely Ouse. A pause was needed when we reached Earith for us to have a tour of Heathers new to her boat GT. Once off the tidal water we were on a different Great Ouse again. Here St Ives, St Neots and Hemingford gave us sunsets, D shaped locks, huge meadows and wonderful towns and villages to explore.

As the temperatures started to rise I needed to do some work. Cruising happened in the mornings, my Panto script and sketches were done in the shade of what trees we could find. White sheets were bought and we hoped for a mooring with shade for the really hot days that were to come. Tilly took to lying on the floor and we took to wearing wet t-shirts to help us to keep cool. Thankfully the hot blast only lasted a couple of days then the temperature dropped and we could continue to head upstream.

July 21st we reached the navigable limit of the River Great Ouse, having to reverse some distance to be able to turn round and return to Bedford for the River Festival.

Here we met up with Ken and Sue, Jennie and Chris from NB Tentatrice and Heather again. Plenty of things to see, do and hear. The boat parades, raft races, vintage cars, all sorts kept us busy for the two days.

Now at the end of July we alternated the days between cruising and my work. More beautiful days cruising and more wonderful sunsets, one day off to visit Cambridge for some more chilled medication and to see the Hockney exhibition.

August saw more hot days. Trips to London to celebrate birthdays, panto meetings, catch up with best friends and travellers over from Australia.

On the 15th August we crossed back from Denver Sluice to the Middle Level having really enjoyed our three months on the Great Ouse. Now water levels were a worry along with having enough time to reach Oxford for me to go to work in October. We made the decision to come back and explore the Middle Level another year, maybe we’ll cross The Wash to get there!

By the end of August our progress up stream on the River Nene slowed to a halt. First one lock broke then another two ahead of us. We’d recently been accepted to join the Reflections Flotilla on the Thames to mark the Queens Jubilee in a few weeks time, now that time was ticking away.

When we did get moving again we had to make up our cruising hours. With the news of the passing of the Queen we didn’t know if the flotilla would still be going ahead, we carried on at pace waiting for news. Back up the River Nene, turning onto the Grand Union, working our way southwards. The news came through that the flotilla would go ahead, but now in remembrance of the Queen.

With a couple of days to spare we squeezed into the Eco-Moorings by Islington Tunnel. Two days of catching up with family and more friends over from Australia before we joined boats heading along the Regents Canal towards Limehouse Basin. An afternoon of activity saw numerous narrowboats festooned with white lights.

On the 24th of September the Thames barrier was closed and we all headed out of Limehouse Lock up stream to Chelsea where we clung onto buoys until the early evening when the flotilla started to muster.

Getting on for 150 boats all displaying white lights got into formation and headed down stream. Crowds stood on the illuminated bridges and Tower Bridge opened up in a royal salute as we passed underneath. What a truly amazing day.

Now we had to head towards Banbury, back round the Regents Canal as a leak in the engine bay needed testing on the calm waters of the canal rather than the tideway. By the time we reached Brentford we were confident with Oleanna’s engine again. On the Thames Tilly got a birthday present of a night on a Cliveden Island. Sadly we got an unexpected present on our arrival in Oxford, a second red line on a covid test! Panto painting couldn’t be put off so we made our way gradually up the Oxford Canal keeping our distance from people at locks and taking maximum doses of paracetamol.

A week of painting in Banbury before I moved to Chipping Norton to stack up the hours over the next four weeks getting the 50th anniversary panto ready. Rendez Vousing with Oleanna at weekends in Banbury and Coventry kept me sane. Mick had to single hand across the summit of the Oxford Canal to avoid the first of the winter stoppages.

All three of us were back onboard by mid November, covid free and vaccinated. We took things slowly now, time to rest up, meet friends, gather family and pootle towards Christmas. Our 20th Anniversary was celebrated with a Chinese takeaway at Alvecote Marina, a planned stop which ended up being extended due to plummeting temperatures. The canal froze, there’d be no moving the outside for Tilly!

Temperatures lifted dramatically and the ice just about vanished in a couple of days, we could now be on our way to Christmas. Alrewas was a good place to spend the festive days, a very good butchers and a village with lots of character and humour.

Bookings in the New Year had been made for passage on the tidal River Trent for us to reach Yorkshire, but this would not be. The Trent had risen before Christmas, Cranfleet Flood Gates were shut ahead of us, so no New Year at Hazelford Lock. Instead our alternator played up and we sought out a mooring to hook up to and see in 2023.

This year we’d been wanting to explore again. This year we cruised miles of new water, made new friends, got too hot, got iced in, got stuck, got to be in the first illuminated flotilla on the Thames for 300 years. What a great year it has been.

So our vital statistics for 2022 according to Canalplan are

Total distance is 1249 miles, 6½ furlong and 555 locks . There were 88 moveable bridges of which 29 are usually left open; 156 small aqueducts or underbridges and 18 tunnels,  a total of 7 miles 2 ¼ furlongs underground and 8 major aqueducts.

This was made up of 227 miles, 1 1/2 furlongs of narrow canals; 363 miles, 2 furlongs of broad canals; 85 miles, 5 furlongs of commercial waterways; 269 miles, 1 furlong of small rivers; 234 miles, 7 1/4 furlongs of large rivers; 69 miles, 6 furlongs of tidal rivers; 176 narrow locks; 232 broad locks; 54 large locks; 2 locks on major waterways.

731.7 engine hours

1156.1 litres diesel, 5 (although we’ve got 1 empty now) gas bottles (used for central heating as well as cooking), 28.5 litres oil, 3 oil filters, 1 fuel filter, 2 air filters, 1 water pump, 2 new belts, 690kg coal, 1 overnight guest twice, 6 packs Dreamies (not enough!), 56 friends, a record breaking 41 Mrs Tilly stamps of approval (4 in one day!), 15 pairs socks, 2 shows designed, 9 lodgers, 2 lots gluten free puff pastry, 9 supermarket deliveries, 30 boxes of wine delivered, 2 lost unicorns.

Thank you all for joining us on our journey. Wonder where we’ll get to in 2023?