Category Archives: Family History

Like Giggling Teenagers. 22nd September

Bristol Floating Harbour

Torrential rain woke me at 3am hammering on the roof trying to get in. I checked all the windows were closed and climbed back into bed. By 3:30 the outside world had calmed down so sleeping could continue.

Saturday paper on a Sunday

No alarm clock, we had a lie in and enjoyed a cuppa and the Saturday newspaper in bed. It’s been a while.

A quick tidy and brush up, another load of washing and we were ready.

Two giggling 52 year old teenagers walked down the side of the boat. I knew exactly who they were.

Rachael, Charlotte and Pip

Charlotte and Rachael two of my old school friends from York. Charlotte is a teacher and lives in Bristol and Rachael runs a plant nursery near Malvern. These two ladies were Goths back in the 80’s. They wore black head to toe and had spiky hair, where as I wore all red and occasionally crimped my hair.

They had a good look round Oleanna and met Tilly, although she’d rather have gone out! Then we headed to Wetherspoons for some lunch and a drink. There was lots to catch up on, poor Mick coped very well.

Old friends

I last saw Charlotte at my 40.5 birthday party. We used to keep in touch until we moved onto the boat, then Charlotte moved house several times around Bristol and we lost touch. I luckily found her on Whatsap a couple of weeks ago. Rachael on the other hand I hadn’t seen since we left school. She went off to train as a Stage Manager, performed in a circus act and lived on a coach in Sheffield for a while. She then worked at Askam Bryan, an agricultural college near York, and now designs gardens for people.

Several life times have passed, we caught up on gossip of friends all across the globe. It was a very lovely afternoon with them. We hope to all meet up again when we reach Birmingham at the beginning of next year.

THE Green boat that’s made the headlines recently

There was still enough daylight to go for a walk and help wear off the lunchtime drinking. So Mick and I decided to walk round the harbour to see what else there was to see.

Some of the harbour

By the 1760’s Bristol had become such a popular port for cargo ships it was struggling to accommodate all the ships. In 1765 the idea of a floating none tidal harbour was put forward by engineer John Smeaton. But no progress was made until 1790 and by 1802 William Jessop was engaged to come up a scheme. He put together various ideas from earlier proposals.

Colourful

The River Avon was dammed at Rownham and at the bottom of Totterdown Hill, near Temple Meads, impounding all the water of the Avon and Frome between these points. A weir at Netham controlled the level of the Harbour water, channelling water along a Feeder Canal and allowing excess to spill back into the tidal river Avon. A half tide basin was constructed with locks to the river and the harbour.

Curved lock gates

We walked down to the River Avon past Junction Lock, Cumberland Basin (the half tide basin) to Entrance Lock which takes vessels down onto the tidal river.

Blimey it’s high up

Standing between the lock and the weir we could look down the valley towards the River Severn, Clifton Suspension Bridge sitting high above everything. Lines of coloured houses brightened up the greying skies.

Spot the ball

A pool under the Plimsole Swing Bridge was playing host to teams playing Canoe Polo, highly energetic and wet.

Mick controlling the harbour level

At Underfall Yard there is a museum where models demonstrate how the level of the floating harbour is kept constant and how they scour out the silt that collects. Notice boards around the harbour warn you of days and times that this process takes place.

4 fingers and a thumb
Pretty boat

Plenty of boats are moored up, some with all the services and other with little other than a ladder to gain access to your boat. Past the Harbour Masters building and along the south side of the harbour.

The sun managed to come out

A clock tower on a 1920’s building glowed in the late sunshine against the bright blue sky. Down the side of the building at the end of an alleyway an alarm box had been put to artistic purpose.

A Banksy

Banksy in 2014 painted his version of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earing. This is called the Girl with a Pierced Ear. The spatters and dribbles make this piece, we did wonder if the central heating flue had been added after the girl was painted or before.

Broken down sign
No sign of Wallace

Signs of the Bristol Old Vic Scenic Workshop and Aardman Animation. Theatre and Wallace and Gromit close neighbours.

Peeking over the fence

We’d considered visiting the SS Great Britain, now it was too late in the day and the £17 entrance fee put us off. Instead we looked at the stern through the fence for free, not quite the same as going round, but considerably cheaper!

There is a bit of road in there somewhere

From here railway lines criss and cross what was the docks.

Electric cranes all lined up

Four electric cranes still stand at the waters edge, the only remainers of the 40 that had existed in the 1950s. What a different place this would have been 70 years ago. No museums cafes and bars then.

Mirror ball

We crossed back over to the north bank on Prince Street Bridge then over Peros Bridge and towards Millenium Square. Here cascading water sculptures reminded us of Sheffield station.

The biggest mirror ball gave me opportunities to take our photos before we looked at the electric generating tree. Below this you can charge your phone whilst enjoying the aroma of the rosemary bushes as a statue of Cary Grant watches you. Millenium Parade brought us back to the boat for some play time with Tilly.

Energy tree
Rosemary phone charger

The cruiser that had been moored near us had left, so we decided to give the other boat left on the moorings a bit more space. We pushed over to the next pontoon, which was one of the wobbliest I’ve ever tried walking on, more like a fairground ride than somewhere safe to tie up to. The wind blew Oleanna away as I clung onto the centre line, Mick waiting for me to pass it back to tie us up. I stayed put trying to keep my balance until we were tied up, reducing the number of sides I could fall off to one.

Cary Grant apparently

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 old friends, 2 much to catch up on, 3 burgers, 1 quinoa salad, 1 portion of halloumi fries, 1 Punk IPA, 1 Swift 1, 1 wine, 1 coffee, 5 mile walk, 4 cranes, £17!! 1 tide out, 1 more day without friends, 1 boat almost blown away, 40ft of wobbliest wobblyness.

Terraced Houses, Bath Style. 18th September

Dundas Aqueduct to Walcot Visitor Moorings

Sun

Before we set off I rinsed down the gunnel, today looked like the weather would be good, so if there happened to be a suitable mooring in Bath then I’d be one step ahead. Tilly got fresh litter and we emptied the yellow water, then we were ready to cruise. Straight across the aqueduct.

Dundas Aqueduct

Out from the shade of the trees and into the bight sunshine. It’s a shame that the walls on the aqueduct are so high as it restricts your view down the valley. A few photographers were milling about, was there a steam train due?

Fresh Produce for sale

We turned right and continued on our way towards Bath. The views across the valley stunning with bright blue sky, that cyclist yesterday had been right, it is the best bit. At Millbrook Swingbridge there is a little hut where you can buy jams, eggs, apples and tomatoes. We don’t eat that much jam so I refrained from any purchase, but I’ll see what’s available on the way back.

A hire boat had just come through Bathampton Swing Bridge and closed it behind them, we could see there was another following it. Their crew got off and cross to open the bridge so we waited to see if we’d be waved through, we were and continued on our way.

An interesting 1hr mooring not long enough for a very long boat

The canal starts now to become more urban, but in a very stony way. More and more Bath stone. We paused at Bathampton Bridge to dispose of rubbish, discovering there was glass recycling here meant another trip to the boat. Then we were on our way again.

Cat Health and Safety
says NO

By 11:45 we approached the first stretch of 48hr moorings. There were a couple of gaps so we chose the one nearest the city. We pulled in then checked our surroundings. A wall bordered the towpath, over it a 25ft drop to the railway. Tilly would have no difficulty getting onto the wall, but we felt that the buddleia bushes would tempt her to climb them. If she fell, there would be noway she’d be able to climb back up. Health and Safety verdict, NO shore leave today, we’d see what places were like further on.

Cleveland House Tunnel

Tilly being locked in meant we’d be able to go out exploring instead. A walk down the canal had us walk through two short tunnels each reminiscent in shape of the Macclesfield Canal bridges. Beckford Road and Cleveland House Tunnels, each has a head carved on them. A lady and man trying to look at each other round a slight bend and through a couple of footbridges. The next stretch of towpath is under major work. The bank is being reinforced with armco, back filled , then the raised towpath will be improved with a 6ft wide path.

Relaxing by the locks

We walked down the locks, several hire boats negotiating their way with the help of some volunteers and one lock was having a fresh coat of paint. A group had made themselves comfy on the grass by a lock, with chairs and an ice cream each.

That’s much better

Where was the chilled medication? It was in a hut a little further on, so we treated our selves to a salted caramel each which we enjoyed on our walk to the river.

Bath

Bath Weir is only as Bath could make it, curved steps with the water flowing over in ordered lines. Above the lock a trip boat takes you up to Bathampton, we watched as one of them winded in what space there was between the wall and weir, good job there wasn’t much fresh on the river today.

I’ve not been inside, maybe one day
Bricks!!!

Meandering around the streets we came across the New Theatre Royal, I’ve not been but my shows have. Street signs painted or carved into the walls worn with time. A chap sat in a doorway asked if we were from Canada, Ontario in particular. Mick stopped to chat, I walked on, both of us seeing an opportunist wanting a hefty tip. He soon realised he wouldn’t be getting anything from two Brits who live on a boat.

The Royal Crescent

We walked up through the Georgian Garden and onto Georgian Avenue, then on up to The Royal Crescent. I was last here in 1975 at the age of 8.

My Dad’s photo of somewhere in Bath
My photo

I remembered the crescent, the uniformity and going into a house that was laid out how it would have been in Georgian times. The only thing is I’d remembered it being at the other end of the crescent from where it is today.

Yellow door
Green beard

What a gorgeous day to take the view in. Neither of us felt the need to pay to go round No 1, we just walked from one end to the other. Each terraced house almost identical. One had a cream door, one a pale yellow door, another scaffolding (which spoilt the curve somewhat) and another had a very bushy beard. If this is the only sight seeing we get to do in Bath that is fine.

Chicken in a basket, now those were the days!

I don’t need to relive the chicken in a basket and my Dad getting covered in pigeon poo.

Over the railway

Sydney Gardens gave us a break from the traffic at standstill around the city. Ornate bridges stretching across the railway brought us back to the boat. We were back in time for me to do a bit more prepping on the gunnels, but after yesterdays exertions with the starboard side my body rebelled, preferring to sit down instead.

Same holiday, in Wells. A rare photo of the Leckenby’s all together. Andrew, Me with Fincks on my knee, Mum and Dad.

0 locks, 2 swing bridges, 4.44 miles, 25ft to sure death, 0 shore leave, 2nd space available, 5 miles walked, 1 tub, 1 cone, 30 terraced houses, 1kg porridge, 1 brick house, 1 git gap pulled back into and removed, 4 turkey schnitzels , 1 too many, 4 aching limbs, 1 blue ikea bag packed, 7 years.

Feed My Sheep And Filling The Bottom Drawer. 18th 19th August

Abingdon to Elvington to York to Thixendale to Abingdon

With a busy weekend ahead of us we were up early. The sound of Didcot Power Station demolition stopped us all in our tracks, the four explosions very audible at our mooring, like thunder almost overhead. As I finished off my breakfast I found footage of the towers collapsing on the internet. No sign of the wayward explosive case that flew into power cables causing an explosion, fire and some minor injuries.

The Norf, Drax Power Station

The magic food bowl was stocked up with two meals for Tilly and she was left in charge of Oleanna. Our hire car a Fiat 500 which did the job to get us up to Yorkshire and back, just a shame it wasn’t that bit bigger which might have enabled us to purchase a long plank.

Holy Trinity, Elvington

Travelling early on a Sunday morning meant there were few hold ups on the motorways and we made Elvington, just outside York, in good time.

On the pulpit

A little spruce up and a snack before we joined the Harford family at the church to celebrate the christening of Austin and George, two grandsons of Mick’s best friend. Polly (mum of the two boys) lived with us after her mother passed away fifteen years ago whilst she finished her A levels in Scarborough.

George, Polly, Austin and Simon

It was lovely to see the family again and meet George who has just recently started to walk. After they had their hair wetted by the vicar we all walked down the hill to the village hall for drinks sandwiches and cake.

Cake
The Village Hall

Elvington played quite a part in my youth this is where my bestestest friend Emma lived, her Mum being my God Mum. I sometimes would stay with them whilst Mum and Dad were away, going to the village school and certainly partaking in parties in the village hall. This has grown since I was a child and today there was no Jim Hammond playing his guitar and singing songs in the main room.

A Rhino!!

With all the celebrations over we walked up to the River Derwent to have a look at Sutton Lock. The back of Elvington Hall looked how I remembered it, but with a new addition in the garden.

Then we stopped and had to look up. The sound of an old plane. A Spitfire, had this been arranged for Austin and George, their Dad is a fighter pilot in the RAF! We suspect it was more likely to do with something at Elvington airfield, the pilot came round a few times before heading off into the clouds.

Guillotine at one end
Knackered wooden gates the other

Sutton Lock has been disused for many years, the last boat to go through it was actually NB Waterway Routes. The top gate is a guillotine the bottom gates conventional wood. These sit open, the top gate well and truly shut.

Sheep

On the off side the custodian of the lock came to keep an eye on us, a very vocal sheep, he was doing a good job of keeping the grass down on that side of the lock, the towpath side very over grown.

Proms on the Green, in front of Granny Snowden’s cottage

We paused on our way back to the car to listen to a brass band performing on the village green, right outside Emma’s Granny’s cottage.

St William’s College and the Minster

Staying at the Travel Lodge on Layerthorpe had been a good plan, not too far to walk into York for some food at Wagamamas and say hello to the Minster. Then we walked a similar distance back out of town to see an old York friend of mine Nick and his parents. Over the last few years Nick has spent much of his time in China, teaching at a University along with creating ceramic artworks. For about three years we’ve not managed to coincide with his visits home so it was very good to have a catch up and hear of his plans, moving back to Europe. He still rents a flat in Amsterdam where most of his work is exhibited, how Brexit will affect his plans he has no idea. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of him now.

A Minster view, just

Monday morning and the hunt for breakfast started, Travel Lodge didn’t have any toast that I could eat and a cooked breakfast simply has to have some form of bread to catch your egg yolk. So we checked out and headed to Morrisons to see if they could do any better and pay half the price.

Morrisons breakfast

‘Sorry’, no gluten free bread available in the cafe. As I’m not going to suffer if the same toaster is used to toast some bread for me we asked if we could provide our own bread for them to toast. Bring your own bread. This was fine as long as I realised that the kitchen wasn’t a GF zone. Marvellous, I swapped my sausages for extra bacon as they were guaranteed to be pink sausages.

Looking back over the Vale of York from the Wolds

After breakfast it was time to wave goodbye to York. Hopefully we’ll manage to come by boat next summer. Instead of heading southwards we headed towards the east and the Wolds, to Thixendale. Here is where Jennie and Adam live high up on the hills on their farm. I used to work with Jennie at the SJT but she left about ten years ago to work for the family business, Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil. Now there is also the Charlie and Ivys brand.

Kitchen envy

It’s been about three years since we’ve managed to get up to the farm to see them, my how things have changed up there. A wonderful new kitchen which is a barn conversion linking the oil business offices to the farm house. Outside the new windows works were on going with a toilet block and picnic area that will cater for when they do educational visits from schools to the farm, also useful when they have parties. A new patio would extend outside the kitchen windows.

Look, here comes the patio

Almost as soon as Jennie mentioned the patio Adam appeared with the chaps who work on the farm, laying sheets of wood over the grass. Next came a tractor with a big bucket on the front, they had come to lay the concrete for the patio! They might as well keep busy whilst waiting for the crops to be dry enough to harvest.

It was great to see them all and catch up on our respective news. If you should want a lovely outfit making for you Jennie is your woman, she’s starting to sew again amongst all the other things she does around the farm, oil business and holding the family together.

Fresh supplies

We topped up on oil and a few other bits, including a Raspberry and Beetroot dressing I fancied trying. Time to head south and leave Yorkshire behind. As we pulled out from the farm Gin the sheep dog rounded us up until we headed down the drive.

The trip back was far longer, several slowing to stand still moments, but we got back in the end. Much later than originally planned, Mick had a chat to the Lockie who said as it was nearly 6pm he’d let us stay for another night, £5 due on the morning.

A 5 litre bottle containing oil again, no longer just air

Tilly was happy to see us, her magic food bowl spotless. An hour of shore leave was extended by her into two. Our bottom drawer ( designed to hold 5L bottles of oil) is now restocked and tomorrow we’ll head onwards upstream.


Property Game

2 Bedroom Dutch Barge which could come with a mooring.

0 locks, 1 out of action, 0 miles, 4 explosions, 400 milesish by road, 2 boys with wet hair, 1 village, 1 spitfire, 1 sheep, 6 (?) boats stuck forever, 1 rhino, 1 giraffe, 1 manager only soy sauce bottle, 1 old friend, 1 bottle of wine, 1 Minster view, 2 BYO slices of bread to toast, 2 breakfasts, 1 farm, 2 sheep dogs, 5l oil, 1 lovely new kitchen, 1 bottle of dipper, 1 jar mayonnaise, 1 bottle dressing, 1 bottom drawer full again, 60th birthday party missed, Happy not quite yet Birthday Christine, hope you had a lovely day x

Yesterdays Answer

£1,250,000

Sorry Joa, I did say there was more to it, 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and 3 reception rooms in Reading

https://www.walmsley.co.uk/property-details/?id=9447

Look No Key Of Power. 8th August

Laleham to Windsor Racecourse Marina ish

Lock landing

Another morning without tea in bed and we were away and into the first lock of the day by 9:30am. After a couple of miles we were in Staines-on-Thames. Here we found a mooring by the road bridge so we’d be close enough to head to Sainsburys, but first it was a trip to an Opticians to get my glasses mended and then Hobbycraft. We hoiked ourselves up the high wall and walked through town.

Lino men

Staines seemed to be full of food outlets and chain restaurants along with barbers. Here is where Linoleum was invented by Fredrick Walton, who opened a factory in 1864. The factory grew and grew and by the 1930’s it covered 45 acres. Nearby where the factory once stood are two very dynamic chaps holding a roll of linoleum.

Boots did the job of a new screw in my glasses and Hobbycraft provided me with card for my next model. Once this was dropped off at Oleanna we crossed the river to do some shopping. Four heavy bags later we had an early lunch before pushing off again.

Soon we were passing under the M25 for the last time this year and pulling in behind a couple of cruisers at Bell Weir Lock. The river isn’t really made for narrowboats, the lock landings tending to be quite high. Here Oleanna’s gunnels slipped easily underneath, and before I could do anything about it the wooden edging of the landing managed to rub a mark on the front edge of the cabin side. B****cks! It’s not huge, just a real shame, we’ll be more wary in future.

This lock was on Self Service, a chap from the front cruiser worked it, emptying and filling as needed. Most Thames locks we’ve been through tend to fill from the top gates, but every now and then one fills from the sides. It’s quite hard to keep hold as the water forces you out from the sides of the lock towards the centre, good job we weren’t too close to a cruiser.

The lock cottage

The next reach takes you past Runnymede where King John sealed the Magna Carta in 1215. Set back from the river are memorials to J.F. Kennedy and the commonwealth Airforces. I had wondered about stopping and having a look around, but time was getting on and with a couple of days horrible weather on it’s way we wanted to be further along. Next time list. I’m actually going to have to start writing this list soon!

Royal milk cows
A rather nice cottage with possible mooring

Once up Old Windsor Lock and under Albert Bridge we were skirting our way around Home Park the private park and farm land of Windsor Castle. There is no mooring here even though it’s tempting, it is a criminal offence. We could see Royal cows and a pretty Cottage that sits beside a little bridge that would just allow a narrowboat through.

Look no Key

Romney Lock was on Self Service and when we arrived we were on our own, time to push some buttons. Big signs suggested that the bollards on our starboard side had just been painted, so please use the other side. A boat was coming down, tied to the painted bollards, their ropes did look a touch darker than they should have been, so I suggested to Mick to use those on the port side.

Of course he didn’t hear me correctly, so he really didn’t understand why I wanted him to be over that side. He’d thoughtfully laid the bow rope on the starboard side roof for me to pick up and tie around a bollard and now it would be on the wrong side! A cruiser followed us in, I closed the gates and with the use of our new boat hook I was able to reach the rope and tie it.

Rising in a side filling lock

Then I was on button duty. No Key of Power required on the Thames to work locks, just fingers. I made sure I read the instructions and pressed the ‘Sluice’ light. This is all that is required until the water is level, then you have to hold the gates button. By now a trip boat had arrived above, I could see the staff running up and down trying to serve drinks before they had to be on lock duty. Mick untied and once the cruiser had gone past he pushed over to pick me up leaving the lock to the trip boat.

Windsor Bridge

Three years ago we stayed overnight in the lock cut here, but there are new signs to discourage this. My Aunt and Uncle lived in Eton during my childhood so I know Windsor quite well admittedly from the lower point of view of a child. Last time we’d walked round Eton, looked up at the flat, tried to find the fudge shop and ate mediocre fish and chips. The only thing I said I wanted to do was visit Queen Mary’s Dolls House, well I’ve had to look at lots of planes and buses recently! Checking on line later I discovered that the Dolls House is currently closed. I also discovered that it was designed by Edwin Lutyens and the garden designed by Gertrude Jekyll. I think I’m likely to appreciate it more than I did when I was 8, another thing for the Next time list.

Some space on the Brocas

Windsor Bridge is where we would rush out to stand to watch Concord fly over. My cousins both older and pilots would get Andrew and myself to listen out for the sonic boom, we never heard it, even if they said they did! Past all the swans that we used to go and feed with white sliced. Here we could have pulled in to moor, but decided to carry on a bit further and save our money as Eton College charge for you to moor on the Brocas. The only thing that had to be done was take the obligatory photo.

Some palace or other

Onwards to Boveney Lock where a wide beam and a cruiser sat waiting. The locks so far would have fitted all of us, but would we all squeeze into this one. The Lockie checked our length and then asked the widebeam to move further up leaving enough room for us and the cruiser to sit side by side at the back.

Squeezing in

Now we wanted somewhere to moor for the night. The first few spaces were all full and on the 24 hr mooring there were quite a few gaps but only suitable for cruisers or gits. Our Waterways Routes map had one more place to try just around the big bend. A life boat was occupying the first stretch, but then it was vacant. We pulled in and quickly decided that we’d have a barbecue before the weather turned.

Heading into the sun

So, the crew have been quite inconsiderate of late. Last time we were in this Thames outside I was still quite new to the outside moving. Now I’m a bit of an old paw at it all. She and Tom keep playing tricks on me. They move the outside, She walks through and then the outside stops, the rumbling stops too. This usually means they have tied the outside up for the day and I can go out to explore. But oh no! The rumbling starts again she comes back through and shows me that Tom is moving the outside again. How stupid is that? Letting it go. Then they go and do it all over again! And again!!

Not a bad mooring, if only the planes would go away

At least when they finally admitted that they had tied it up for good today it was a good outside. Plenty of pouncing possibilities, trees, a lot to explore. They decided to cook outside so I got even longer still in fact I got until they were getting bored of watching the big birdies flying over to Heathrow which is when it started to rain.


Property Game

4 bedroom bungalow with gardens out the back. Cash buyers only!

How much?

5 locks, 12.13 miles, 1 mended pair of glasses, 1 sheet black foamcor, 2 boxes wine, 4 full shopping bags, 4 longer arms, 1 very big step down, 1 cabin scar, 6 nights beach airbnb booked, 0 key of power needed, 1 wave to Aunt Nancy and Uncle Peter, 1 crashed drone, 3 a tight squeeze, 4 pork and apple burgers, 4 veg and halloumi kebabs, 2 cobs of corn, 1 royal courgette still, 20 second gaps between planes, 1 Mrs Tilly Stamp of Approval.

Here’s a different angle on this house on it’s island

Yesterdays Answer

https://www.knightfrank.co.uk/properties/residential/for-sale/pharaohs-island-shepperton-surrey-tw17/wbe180079

£2,250,000 A bargain. Sorry Jennie you were over a million out.

This house is only accessible by boat as it is on Pharoah’s Island. The island was purchased by the Treasury and given to Admiral Nelson after the battle of the Nile in 1798, most of the islands 23 homes have Egyptian names. Spinx was built in 1903 and has been owned by actors Janet Munro and Ian Hendry.

Twice As Big As The One On EasyJet. 3rd August

Pyrford Marina to Byfleet Cruising Club

The voice of Houdini woke us this morning, we were breakfasted and cruising far earlier than normal. Not far to go by boat this morning, just over a mile which brought us very close to the M25 and it’s constant rumble. We pulled in just after the Byfleet Cruising Club moorings on what we thought were visitor moorings. Our pack of info from the National Trust had suggested here as a mooring, but it seems that we might have pulled in on space meant for the cruising club. One chap asked if we were staying long and if it would be okay if we got breasted up to, (which it was as) another tried to make them sound a touch more friendly by inviting us to use all their facilities. We made sure that they knew we’d been pointed to the mooring by the NT.

Far away plane

We walked up to the busy main road which crosses the canal and then very soon afterwards the M25. Here we caught a 436 bus to Tescos. The route took us around the houses before it reached the huge store, another couple of stops and we thought we’d reached our destination. However we still had quite a walk, it did mean that we had chance to watch people zooming along a race track and on skid pans in shiny cars at Mercededs Benz World. All a bit too fast for us.

We were at Brooklands. The worlds first purpose built motor racing circuit which opened it’s 2.75 mile track in 1907. It is also the site of one of Britain’s first airfields which also became Britain’s largest aircraft manufacturing centre by 1918. Here they produced military aircraft such as the Wellington and civil airliners like the Viscount and VC-10. The first British Grand Prix was held here in 1926.

Part of the race track

The race track banks up around the site, roads now cut their way through it, Tescos at one end and Brooklands Museum at the other. In 1987 a trust was set up and a 30 acre site was ear marked for the museum where the heritage of Brooklands could be celebrated. The finishing straight of the race track is on the site and the northern half of the runway was still used occasionally until 2003, in 2004 it was sold off and is now Mercedes Benz World.

Brooklands clubhouse

Brooklands hosts collections of racing cars, motorbikes, aeroplanes and the London Bus Museum. We’d been warned that there was far too much to do in just one day so we decided to concentrate on the planes and buses.

Concord

Mick’s Dad flew with the RAF during WW2 and then with BEA on civil airliners. Because of this we headed straight out to see the planes. The first production Concorde sits in central position, you can pay extra to go on board, but we decided just to look from the outside. Her total flying hours 1,282hrs 9 minutes lags somewhat behind Oleannas 2,540hrs. It would have been nice to look inside the narrow plane, but we had far more important planes to look at.

Stepping down from the Sultan of Oman s VC-10

There are plenty of volunteers on hand, they range from men who know everything about how a plane worked and tell you all about it (so much so we could most probably service a VC10 now), to ones who tell you how the planes were used, to ones interested in your own connections to the planes,

Us reluctantly having our photo taken, I’ve had to zoom in quite a long way!

to one who insisted on taking our photo in front of a Hawker Harrier (it was easier just to let him do it), to one who was far more interested in hearing about our life on a narrowboat than telling us anything about the cockpit we manged to get sat in.

Twice as big
Toilet and bidet with ten times more space

There are two VC-10’s, one without wings or a tail. A family were looking round in front of us ‘That toilet’s twice as big as the ones on EasyJet!’ They were most probably right, I’d hate to have heard what they had to say about the toilet on the Sultan of Oman’s plane, it was half the size of Oleanna! There were also double beds with seat belts and everything covered in chrome green velour.

Seat belts on your bed

These planes are really quite big when you take all the seats out of them. The smell of the fixtures and fittings along with years of cigarette smoke that worked it’s way in behind all the panels was quite evocative.

Viscount

Mick’s Dad flew Vicker’s Viscounts and Vanguards and here we got chance to go on board. The Viscount was most probably the first plane Mick ever went on with it’s big oval windows.

Plenty of controls

On the Vanguard a team of old chaps who had been ground engineers at Heathrow chatted away to Mick. These fellows had most probably known his Dad, Mick found an old photo on his phone of him in uniform, but it was badly lit so hard to see his face properly. This plane had been used for cargo, all the windows covered up, horses had been transported to the Olympics in Barcelona. Up front we could sit in the cockpit, Mick taking the Captains seat, was this a seat his Dad had actually sat in? We’ll have to check with those who hold Peter’s log book.

Mick sat in a seat his Dad almost certainly sat in

Unfortunately the chap who was going to tell us all about the flight deck was more interested in our life and gave us absolutely no information even though we kept trying, he was also a touch deaf. What will happen in such places when all the old chaps who volunteer have passed away?

The best design

There are new modern exhibitions in the Aircraft Factory where Mick managed to design a plane suitable to carry cargo using a runway of 1km.

The Stratosphere Chamber door rolled out of the way

There’s also a Stratosphere Chamber where Barnes Wallis carried out experiments to do with temperature and pressure. There are rooms laid out as if in the 20’s when the circuit and airfield were busy.

Horse Drawn

After a sit down and some lunch we looked around the London Bus Museum. Here the collection starts with a horse bus built around 1890 and the collection of rescued vehicles brings you almost up to date. The plaque saying that the Routemaster was the last vehicle designed for London Transport is a bit out of date as the Boris bus now drives round London.

The displays and information boards are huge, matching the size of the buses a shame a few of them are hidden behind the buses.

Winding the blind

You can wind a destination blind and go on board a couple of the latter buses where turnstiles would allow you to buy your own ticket. I don’t remember these, maybe they didn’t exist in York.

Conductor
Our tickets

The opportunity to ride on an RT was not to be missed, sadly we didn’t get the front seat, but it was still good. Mick used to get these to school in Ealing and the conductor today took our £1 coins and turned the handle on his ticket machine to produce our tickets. The amount of windows you could open are far better than on a Boris bus, but the suspension could have been better.

No 65
Twin Rover a bit early to have been one of Mick’s

A hunt round the displays and we found the Bus 65 time table, an often used route and a Child’s Twin Rover ticket. Mick and his mate Tony Silver used to get these when they’d saved up enough pocket money to spend a Saturday on the buses, going from one end of a route to the other and then getting on the next bus and seeing where that got them.

A quick look at some of the cars before we left and walked our way down where the runway had been towards Tescos. A few items were purchased before we caught the bus back to Oleanna.

Advert on a bus

Tilly had had a busy day keeping an eye on our new neighbour. What a composed fluffy ginger cat. For a while we wondered if it was alive, then eventually it did a considered slow blink.

What a stare
Slow blink

0 locks, 1.31 miles, 3 buses, 4 tickets, 6 planes, 2 cockpits, 1 seat sat in, 18,300 planes built, 1st Grand Prix, 5s twin rover, 65, 165, 2 jacket potatoes, 1 bored cat, 1 confupuss neighbour, M25 to rock us to sleep just 200ft away.

With the sound turned up!

Leafing Through History. 25th July

Still under our trees

Our shady spot

It was warm when we woke and it was only going to get worse. Decision made we’d stay put for another day under our shady trees. We wouldn’t be moving for anyone.

Yesterday we’d not quite bought enough supplies to last us another day, so Mick hopped on a bike and returned to the shop with it’s aircon. I was quite jealous of this but then I didn’t have to endure the journey there in the sunshine.

Make it cooler please!

Our mooring doesn’t totally miss out on the sun, for about an hour the sun bakes hard down on the cabin sides and roof before some shade creeps back over us. In that hour we all melted just a touch.

Tilly had an hour or so out first thing, but then retired to the shade for a morning snooze. Life in the shade still necessitated having the doors open for and aft so we kept our fingers crossed that Tilly’s friends would be adamant not to return home with her. We were fortunate.

Receipts

I collated together information on the theatre in Vienna and then added up my expenses for Puss in Boots so far, printing off receipts I’d need from emails. I even considered doing our tax returns today, but quickly changed my mind.

Just a bit noisy

A day for not doing very much. Mick watched the cycling, then listened to the cricket. Day boats headed out, most returning with their crews dangling their feet in the river. One such boat appeared from under the railway bridge behind us, we could hear them coming! As soon as the bridges had been cleared there were numerous people stood on the cabin roof, the person at the tiller zigzagging their way along.

Let him past

A following day boat made a dash for it to overtake them. ‘RIGHT’ ‘No LEFT!!!’ more zigzagging as a collision was narrowly avoided. Would Oleanna end up being what stopped them? It was hard not to watch. Both of us realised that they appeared to be towing an inflatable boat, one not really big enough for the chaps in the river. The yellow inflatable and the two chaps were close to the stern, therefore very close to the turning prop!

Near collision

We shouted and shouted to them. A couple walked past and said ‘We lived on one for two years, you can always tell the holiday makers!’ We weren’t bothered about that or getting biffed. We were far more concerned that we could be calling for an ambulance any minute if nobody turned the engine off!

Is that a chap right up against the stern!

It took what felt like ages for anyone to hear us. Eventually one chap in the water managed to get someone to stop the prop turning, we’re not sure if it was just in neutral or off OFF. They drifted into the offside bank. Far too many voices needing to be heard most likely fuelled by alcohol and the sun. One chap got back on board quite easily, the other finding it hard to hoik himself out all the time being very aware of the prop, thankfully not moving. I think he was the only one on board who had an inkling of what could have happened. Our phones stayed in our pockets and they managed to avoid us as they headed off into the distance our quiet, calm mafting mooring returning to just us.

Back to the quite hot afternoon for grumpy ears

I decided to look through a folder I’d brought from the house. This was full of things my Mum had kept in a ‘Happy memories folder’. 1948 exam results for her year at Leeds School of Architecture. A letter from her sister thanking her and Dad for the bridesmaid present and how wonderful their wedding had been. Menu’s (she was a cook in later life) from dinner dances, they always seemed to have Turtle soups for starters. 21st Birthday cards. A few letters from my Dad, he lived in York and she in Bradford.

Tilly up high

There were programmes for Operas and plays in London collated in a ribbon. A note book listing things to do whilst in London. Then a letter from my Dad which predates her visit asking her if she’d like to see Carmen and visit the Tate when she is next in London. These all connected.

I so love his pencil sketches

Then a small pocket sketchbook, another item passed from father to son. Granddads drawings, very boring architectural details, very Banister Fletcher. But every now and then there were sketches my Dad had done. One of Shibden Hall 1945, where Gentleman Jack was based.

16th September 1945

The sketches coinciding with his second diary I’d scanned whilst in London.

My first illustrated connection to his diaries

16th September 1945, the day he and his mates took the train to Southampton where they boarded the ship that took them to India. This is the first connection in words and pictures, my Dad illustrating his own story.

The ship they sailed in to India (photo courtesy of the internet)

0 locks, 0 miles, 34 C in the pram cover (with the sides off today), 29.4 C inside, 20.1 C minimum inside, 1 very hot day, 1 shady spot saving us, 9 receipts, 12 pages of tech spec, 4 swimming woofers, 1 accident averted, 1 hot cat up in the canopy, 1 folder, 1948-51, 1 wonderful find of Fatso’s.

Shiny Boat Central. Day 6

Paddington Basin

A cuppa in bed, then a shower and we were ready for the day. Bang on time another familiar face walked under the footbridge into the basin. My college friend Kathy coming for breakfast on her way to work.

Kathy and me through the hatch

Kathy has worked her way around the drama colleges of London through the last few years and now is head of Production Design at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, possibly the highest thought of design college in the country. Kathy was the first person I met when I moved to Croydon for college and our first day in the student house together we just didn’t stop talking. We don’t get many opportunities for a catch up nowadays, so it was great that we’d managed to find a couple of hours today.

Yummy

We headed over to Kupp for breakfast, Kathy must have know where we’d be going as she matched the decor perfectly. Mick and I opted for poached eggs with bacon and hollandaise sauce, whilst Kathy had wild mushrooms spinach and a poached egg. It was all very tasty, my only criticism was that just because my gluten free bread was smaller than Mick’s sourdough slice shouldn’t mean that I got less sauce than him!

A touch more hollandaise would have been nice

We talked about friends, family, theatre and boats. During the week Kathy lives on board Dora May on the Thames, her mooring just down stream from Tower Bridge, a fantastic view from their wheel house. All too soon it was time for her to head to work. Hopefully she may come out and join us for a day when we’re on the Thames, but we’ll see, she’s a busy lady.

Some shopping was needed, so Mick headed off again into central London this time in hunt of some new clothes for himself and a stock up of tea for me from Whittards. I in the mean time did my best to finish scanning my Dad’s second diary. Not as many pages as the first one, but this one has the account of his journey by ship to India.

A sketch of India

I was determined to get the diary scanned today, the only thing distracting me was the GoBoats. Several of them had been hired out to teams all in matching fancy dress. Dalmations, Rabbits in hats, Blackbirds, Elfs. Each one set off from the next pontoon and just about all of them managed to collide with us. We may now have access both bow and stern but it does mean we are the first and most likely boat to get hit. No wonder the boats have had more and more padding added to them from when we first saw them.

Dalmations

A new boat arrived for the pontoon, having to hold back under the footbridge as there was no space. Who was overstaying? Yesterday a not so shiny boat had pulled in and the chap carried his bike along the gunnel and disappeared, he was an obvious choice, but being shiny isn’t a prerequisite for mooring here, anyone who books and pays can.

There followed a bit of complex boat moving. The central boat moved out, the one on the inside then pulled out and moored on the Hospital side (they were the ones), before the boat from the outside moved into the inside, the central boat moved back into position followed by the new boat onto the outside of the pontoon. Everyone was happy now.

Mick returned with a stash of my tea, showered and put a new polo shirt, far less creased than normal but with tell tale signs of it being new. I still had 20 pages left to scan, we decided to be slightly late to our next engagement so that I could finish.

Ziggy keeping an eye on us all

Across London to Homerton, here I’d spied a stockists for Charlie and Ivy oils and bread dippers. One of these I use on lamb and veg kebabs and I’m having to cobble together my own version, which isn’t quite the same, the lack of juniper lets my version down. We hunted the shelves of Eat 17, but nothing from the range was to be found.

At my brothers they have been joined by Jac’s Mum over from Australia for six weeks. Not bad doing that journey in her mid 80’s. Helen is as inquisitive as her daughter, just with a Scottish accent. We were asked endlessly about life on the boat, my favourite question being ‘What do you eat?’

Paella

A lovely evening with them as ever and Andrew cooked a wonderful paella on the barbecue, packed with fish chicken and prawns.

Lemon Tart

Helen had made a lemon tart, the crust having been made with corn flour for me, very tasty it was. A good evening to mark our last in London.

Helen, Mick, Pip, Jac, Andrew, Josh behind the camera

0 locks, 0 miles, 4 tubes, 2 buses, 1 overground, 1 best friend with a beaming smile, 5 poached eggs, 2 hours to catch up, 157 pages scanned, 0 juniper balsamic dipper, 1 huge paella, 1 slightly nutty Scottish Australian, 2 diaries handed over, 1 slow journey home, 1 fruit cake of a cat, it’s time for Tilly to have some shore leave.