Category Archives: Family History

Mystery Tickets. 13th February

BUMingham

Since being around Birmingham we’ve been hoping to be able to go to the Symphony Hall. Mick tried to get a cheap ticket whilst I was in Vienna, but the cheapest one for that nights performance was around £45, not cheap in our book!

Occasionally we’ve given the website a glance. A couple of days ago Mick noticed tickets priced at £13 for Schuberts symphony in C major. Where were these tickets? Well they were ‘Mystery tickets’ so we wouldn’t find out until we picked them up which we could do from a couple of hours before the performance.

We jumped at the chance. Firstly we both wanted to go to the Symphony Hall having heard great things about the acoustics (thank you Dimitrios from NB Galene) and secondly because of something Mick’s Grandfather wrote on the 7th September 1943 in a letter to his brothers and sisters.

Philip Chignell was the organist at All Saints Church, Hessle near Hull during the Second World War. From 1939 to 1946 he wrote 128 ‘BS’ letters a copy of each he filed away. In 1989 Marion (Mick’s sister) decided that they should be seen by more than just the family as they were a record of life in Hessle during the war. She edited and collated the letters into a book “From Our Home Correspondent”.

Schubert’s ‘Great’ Symphony was obviously one of his favourites.

‘I am given to understand that in the day of resurrection everybody will be playing golden harps and there will be no call for organists. Well. They can have their golden harps, I don’t want anything to do with a harp. I intend to go in for a bass trombone. I shall be able to play it straight away and I shall immediately put in a request for Schubert’s Symphony in C. What a joy that would be. I can see myself, clothed in white, of course, and playing that bass trombone and ‘jiggers’ to your golden harp. I prefer brass, it gives out a stronger tone than anything made of gold.’

Philip Chignell, B.S.106 7th September 1943

So we crossed over the bridge and walked into the ICC where numerous people were quaffing bubbles at an evening do with What Car Magazine at the conference centre. We weren’t invited up the escalator but joined the shuffling masses heading into the Hall on the other side of the building.

Crossing the bridge to the ICC

Our Mystery Tickets were for row S in the stalls between seats of around £37 and £44. These were cheap tickets but not cheap seats.

The first half was Berg’s Violin Concerto, 27. The soloist Leila Josefowicz had had to pull out due to illness at short notice, so instead we had Ilya Gringolts. I suppose in such situations it’s a little bit like if an actor is taken ill and there is no understudy, people wrack their brains as to who played the part not so long ago and give them a call hoping that they are free and remember the lines.

Plenty of leg room, just not so much elbow room

The concerto was okay, I was never going to totally enjoy it as Berg was taught by Schoenberg, the twelve tone row master, have to say I’m not a fan. But at least this was mixed with more freer tonal passages.

At the interval we made sure we hunted out some chilled medication before returning to our seats. With several empty seats further along our row, we moved to a more central position giving everyone more arm room. Here we could relax more and listen out for those bass trombones!

Quite a colossal room.

Schubert did not disappoint, neither did the brass section. Juanjo Mena conducted accompanied by the chap in front of Mick, although he was very subtle about it. More tuneful and less discordant we both enjoyed it very much. I could understand Philips urge for the trombone.

One thing I did wonder though. All the men of the orchestra wore white tie and tails, most of the ladies wore black trousers and tops only one long frock was in view. Should their dress code be more universal? Either formal or less so for all sexes.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 stand in, £13 mystery tickets, 2 conductors, 3 trombones, 2 chocolate medications, 1 very good evening.

Antipodean Visitors. 27th January

Pelsall Junction

Mooring at Pelsall wasn’t just so that Tilly could have a run around and for me to do some work, it was also for us to be close to the road network.

A beautiful morning

With visitors due Oleanna had a tidy and a sweep through this morning. Then to encourage Tilly to have some outdoor time I finally got round to washing the port side windows. The cratch window is the best, I get to lie on the top by the horns and watch the cloth and newspaper go back and forth until the outside can be seen clearly again.

The travellers were delayed, there had been a crash on the M1 and they had stopped to help. So the stern or Oleanna got a good sweep down and a rinse off with canal water, followed by the gunnel. If they were held up any longer I might of got round to the flithy roof and cabin sides.

A check on progress and they were almost with us, time to smarten up a touch and head for the pub. The Fingerpost Pub was boasting a new menu, food served daily 12-3pm, we’d not bothered to check. But they had let one of their two chefs go, so no food on Mondays or Tuesdays! We loitered in the car park, there were several more pubs in Pelsall to choose from.

The bridge over the canal had a car drive into it a while ago and there is a contraflow of traffic over it. Will the bridge be mended or will a planned new bridge be built to replace it? Locals are not in favour of a new improved bridge as this would attract lorries to the area, the old canal bridge would remain but for pedestrians. But for now the towpath is closed and traffic takes turns to cross.

There was waving from the car at the front of the queue! They had arrived.

Emma and Ted doing well despite jetlag

Emma my Bestestest friend and her son (my Godson) Ted are over for a visit from Sydney for a few weeks. They had originally been coming to visit Teds Grandmother in Ireland, but sadly she passed away before Christmas. This means they are now hurtling around trying to catch up with as many friends as they can. Last night (their first) they had enjoyed the hospitality of my brother, then we were their lunch date/pit stop whilst en-route to the Peak District to see Emma’s Aunt.

The Fingerpost

Time was ticking so after big hugs all round we hopped into the car and headed in to Pensall. We passed The Fingerpost which as it’s name suggests has fingers pointing in four directions.

The first pub we came to was the Old House At Home, a Marstons pub, the car park was busy so it looked hopeful. Yes they were still serving food, phew! We settled down for a good catch up and some okay pub food. Having said that the Yorkshire stack with cheesy mash looked interesting.

An okay pub for a chain

It’s been over six years since we saw last Ted, he turned 21 late last year, what a handsome tall young man he is. In between labouring for a building firm (in 40+C recently) he is studying law. Emma we last saw when Oleanna was still spanking new and we loitered around London to meet up with her nearly three years ago. Lots has happened in that time and we only just managed to scratch the surface, a late night drink with Emma on our own was really needed, but sadly not this time.

Me and my Godson

After a couple of hours we got a lift back to the boat, well to the other side of the canal where a footbridge crosses. This was a much better way to approach Oleanna, sitting on her mooring in the middle of the common, viewed from the top of the arched footbridge, very romantic.

They didn’t want to play with fish, but I did

Ted had a guided tour and met Tilly, who was quite sociable for a change. Well I knew he was important and wouldn’t be staying long. I think Emma was a touch relieved to see that we live a cosy life in winter with our stove burning 24/7.

Bestestest friend

Far too soon it was time for them to head further north. We waved them goodbye as they crossed back over the bridge to the car. The only way to get to spend more time with them is to visit Australia, we haven’t been for over a decade, maybe my next design fees should be saved up for a trip!

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 broken bridge, 1 tidy boat, 6 clean windows, 1 cat assistant, 1 bestestest friend, 6ft+ of Godson, 2 Aussies enjoying our clean air, 2 chilly Aussies, 2 Yorkshire Stacks, 1 Hunters chicken, 1 steak and kidney pie, 2 glasses of wine, 3.5 pints, 2.5 hours so not enough, 1 thumbs up from Huddersfield, 3 envelopes forgotten.

Advent 1st December.

Advent Sunday is (according to my God Mother Betty) my Official Birthday, my annual email from Betty arrived when we got to Banbury on Friday.

Betty and myself in 1968

When I was a child, Betty would join us on Advent Sunday for a meal. Her presents would be the first I received for Christmas and Birthday, getting on for four weeks early. They were the start of the present pile. The Christmas tree hadn’t even been thought about at that point, so another position was found for the presents to wait for the big day. The big day being both Christmas and my birthday.

Advent!

Those two presents would be carefully studied, weighed, shaken gently and squeezed. There was never any idea what they were. They always turned out to be something quite quirky, a giant pencil to hold pencils (back in the 70’s this was quirky), a penny whistle are the two I remember the most. Oh and a really hard jigsaw, one side just lizard shaped pieces the other just a mass of baked beans. Now I just get an email from her, which is fine as she turns 90 this coming year.

Advent Sunday has since always involved a good meal. We quite often have a roast on a Sunday, how to make it a touch more special. We could have gone out and spent way more than twice as much as eating at home. I checked out the options in Banbury. The place I liked the look of most boasts about it’s honey glazed carrots and parsnips which is a serious no no for me.

Moved!

So on Saturday whilst out trying to get some Christmas shopping done I kept an eye open for a butchers. Normally there would be several butchers in a town the size of Banbury, maybe I wasn’t looking in the right place. Must admit I narrowly missed one by turning off Church Lane to go and have a browse in Books and Ink Bookshop, the rather fab bookshop we’d found last year.

Rounding the corner I quickly realised that the shop was no more. Relocating to Winchcombe which is closer to Gloucester than Banbury. Lucky Winchcombe, they will have a great book shop. Any books this Christmas will have to be bought via Waterstones, I’m trying my best to avoid spending money with Amazon this year and even though it means spending a touch more I’d like to support a bookshop where you can browse.

The town hall

There were a couple of craft fairs around, one in the town hall which meant I got to see inside the big function room with it’s high ceiling and portraits. The crafty things on sale were of better quality than the usual tat, but nothing took my fancy so I left empty handed.

In Castle Quays there is now a zero waste shop, Nothing but Footprints. This is another shop where you can buy dried food stuff without packaging. They also stock household cleaning products for refills along with shampoos and soaps.

A good selection at a quieter moment

A check on google for a butcher brought me to Steve Betts Butchers, the only shop in the centre. No wonder it was heaving. I ogled through the window like Tiny Tim trying to decided what hunk of meat to buy, then had a wander around.

Good thick Barnsley chops

A joint of pork, some gluten free sausages and some veg. Here I could pick up a couple of carrots, a shallot and not have to buy a whole bag or bowl of one type of veg all for £10.

Tilly climbing again

Mick headed off to do shopping on Sunday morning leaving Tilly and myself at home. Well Tilly spent most of the day coming and going, Spice Ball Park seems to be an alright outside. I started to collate information to do our accounts. The boat behind us moved on wards and was replaced later in the day by a boat from Cropredy.

Before
After

In the afternoon Mick had his Christmas towpath haircut, I just need to brave the hair dressers for mine now.

Rising already after one feed

My new sour dough starter has started to show some promise. After day two it is already starting to dome up in the centre of the bowl and was very bubbly under the surface. This, so far, is more successful than my first starter was.

I decided that I’d have a go at gluten free Yorkshire Puddings today. I’ve succeeded with them before, but wanted to try out a recipe which is made with corn flour, eggs and milk. They turned out the best I’ve made, but as the recipe says, they are not so good once they’ve cooled down. So I was glad I’d only done a third of the recipe.

Yorkshires

An apple and shallot added to the gravy whilst the pork cooked adding some extra flavour.

Our plates groaned under the weight of food. I think my Mum would have been proud, she was famed for her Yorkshires. Although I can feel her scorning me now for serving them with the meat and for cooking them in a teeny tiny muffin tin. I inherited her 1lb and 2lb bread tins which were only ever used for Yorkshire puddings which rose right up the sides leaving plenty of space for gravy. Those tins are in the roof space in Scarborough and have most probably lost their magic not having been used for over five years, there just wasn’t room for them on the boat.

Happy Advent everyone.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 butcher, 1st attempt at Christmas shopping, 1 favourite shop moved, Day 2 into 3, 1 candle, 1 calendar, grade 3, 6 not 4 yorkshires, 1.1 kg pork, 4 gluten free sausages, 2 green veg, 2 fat boaters, 1 tree climbed cat.

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.