Category Archives: Films

One Shot Wonder. 5th February


Time to dig out the model making and paint box from under the dinette. With cushions off the corner of the dinette, top of the seat lifted and the freezer pulled out I could access the boxes below. As soon as there was any gap Tilly made sure she filled it and had a good explore.

I just need to check down here some more

Asking her to vacate such interesting places doesn’t work, but closing the door or putting the lid on for a few seconds usually works. The wood covering the storage has two large holes cut in it to aid air circulation, they are also used as hand holds. They are just about the right size for our mini cat to come through too!

I think I’ve grown a touch

With my boxes out I was able to start on the next part of my design for The Garden. The auditorium layout. The Lawrence Batley Cellar Theatre has no fixed seating, they have different ways of laying the room out for performances, none of which quite meet our criteria. 60 seats with good sight lines to the floor, a playing area of 4.5 to 5m, wheelchair access for both performer and audience.

I then could start to draw up the basic set using pre-made fencing panels and a gate. I’m hoping this will keep the build costs to a minimum. Everything was looking like it fitted perfectly, but then I checked fencing posts dimensions, each an inch smaller. I decided to see what happens when it’s built.

Auditorium and fence details

By now it was time to high tail it to the cinema. The prices around here vary quite a bit. The Odeon Luxe £12.50 another £15 each, we opted for the dated Odeon at New Street £5 each if you don’t book in advance. With a late afternoon showing we hoped we wouldn’t be fighting for a seat.

How few people work in cinemas these days? You buy or collect your ticket from a screen and printer. Two people were on the concessions stand, 1 checking tickets, a cleaner and someone to keep an eye on the projectors. 5! It also seems almost impossible to see what films are on. If you know what film you want to see it’s easy, but if you just fancy going to the pictures, does anything take our fancy? Well that’s a hard one.

Today however we knew what we wanted to see, 1917.

Set, obviously in 1917 during WW1, two young British soldiers are tasked with delivering a message calling off an attack doomed to fail soon after the Germans had retreated to the Hindenburg Line. The retreating forces had cut the phone lines so the only way to get the message was by foot.

Co-written and directed by Sam Mendes, the film is based on an account his grandfather told him. Filming took place last year over three months, the film to be shot in what appears to be one continuous long shot. I was aware of the long shots before seeing the film and was amazed when the first shot just kept coming and coming and coming, in and out of dug outs along trenches, up over the top. To start with I was watching out for where a shot might end and the next one start, but the story of these two young soldiers took over.

The camera work is amazing, how did they get the camera up over obstacles, across mud that the actors were slipping and sliding in along trenches amongst hundreds of soldiers and it all to be seemless. If you are interested here’s a link to how it was done.

Two credits at the end surprised us, a Midwife and Weather Consultant. There is a baby hence the midwife. The weather also played an important part. With filming as if one continuous shot there had to be constant weather for continuity. With the camera able to swing to an angle no lights could be used, so natural light became even more important.

The cast is made up of well known British actors, the bigger names having higher ranks in the army, but far smaller roles in the film than Dean Charles Chapman and George MacKay who play the two messengers. What a performance by MacKay. No wonder it’s getting lots of awards, highly recommended.

New fountains in front of The Rep

On our way back to the boat we popped into Tesco for some broccoli to accompany our meal, but then realised it was already quite late and mackerel bake takes getting on for an hour in the oven. So instead we took our head of broccoli for a Nandos, we know how to show greens a good time!

0 locks, 0 miles, 60 seats, 1 small off cut, 1 smiling man, 2 x 3ft, 1 x 6ft, 1 x 3ft x 6ft gate, £5 each, 4 annoying teens, 1917, 1 landline cut, 1 extraordinary length to deliver a letter, 61 plasterers, 60 carpenters, ????? computer animators (we lost count), 1 midwife, 1 Dr weather, 1 familiar face in the background, 1 broccoli head wined and dinned, 0 cats harmed in the taking of photos.

It’s Beginning …… 19th December

Gibraltar Bridge to Bascote Aqueduct

With rain forecast for the afternoon we wanted to be on our way whilst it was still dry. Ten locks lay ahead of us, would we beat the weather?


We pootled past moored boats, many with decorations up. One boat in the summer has a mass of bears sat in it’s hatch, but understandably now it’s winter the hatch was firmly closed. However sat in the wheelhouse was the largest bear, which might actually have been an orangutan, wearing a Santa outfit including a beard. A shame the glass wasn’t clear for the photo.

We’d considered stopping at Kate Boats for a new bottle of gas, but there was no sign of life and the thought of carrying a full gas bottle over another boats bow was not appealing, it’ll have to wait.

No boat here anymore

The boat that used to be moored by Calias Lane is no more. Here the towpath used to be full of interesting stuff, the boat almost melding into it all. Late last year there was a fire on board and the owner, Malcolm, was quite badly injured, the boat almost certainly a right off. Now there is no sign of where the boat used to be and winter mooring signs sit along the stretch, all lonely as nobody has taken C&RT up on this location.

Hovering reindeer

Father Christmas peered out through portholes and at The Boat Inn two reindeer levitated by the outside tables.

Approaching the top of the flight

Looking over our shoulders we’d both thought we were being followed, someone to share the locks with, we’d wait at the top lock to see if they arrived. The top lock was in our favour and I soon spotted a boat coming up the lock below, so we entered the lock and dropped down.

One coming up

The lady working the boat up came for a chat. They’d been planning to moor in Leamington Spa for Christmas but had changed their minds as there was no diesel to be had, so they were hoping they’d make it to Banbury in time. There was time to suggest good places to moor in Banbury as they’d not been before and we were warned that a pound lower down the locks had almost been empty when they got to it.

Going down

As their boat passed I recognised it. We had crossed the Ribble link with the boat a couple of years ago, friends of NB Quaintrelle. However I hadn’t remembered the lady having a Scottish accent and the couple on board had been younger. It appears the boat changed owners a year or so ago.


Much of the flight was in our favour and the levels were only a touch low, but as we were bringing a lock full of water down with us this didn’t concern us. One lock had a bottom paddle left open a touch so the chamber had drained. The boat that had been following never showed itself so we descended solo.

Tree and reindeer

With last nights rain, and most probably the last two months worth, the towpath was filled with puddles and was a quagmire in places. The grassy banks more like brown ski slopes, my waterproof trousers now need a good wash. The temperature today had risen so as we worked our way down layers were removed.

Edging removed
New mortar

Was this the bridge where a widebeam got stuck in June this year? They got jammed in a bridge as they headed up the locks. The Grand Union was originally built for narrowboats but in the 1930’s the locks were widened so they could take two narrowboats. Most widebeams fit, but the one earlier in the year didn’t, coping stones had to be removed.


We spotted familiar boats, overtaking Kate Saffin who was moored up on the off side, NB Jameson moored before the last lock of the day where new houses are going up. The builders returning from a break came and watched as the water emptied out from the lock.

New houses

I walked on to where we’ve moored before away from the road and where there are rings. On our own we tied up and let Tilly out. I wonder if she recognises places, she’s certainly been here a few times before.

At around 2pm the heavens opened, thank goodness we weren’t battling our way down the locks in it. Tilly wasn’t too pleased with it either!

During the afternoon and evening I got very close to finishing my last sock before Christmas whilst we watched The Importance of Being Earnest. Hopefully I’ll be able to get it in the last 1st class post tomorrow.

10 locks, 2.47 miles, 1 awol email, 3 familiar boats, 1 muddy cat, 14 rows left, 0 cratch lights yet, 1 Queens speech with possible ramifications for us, 1 afternoon of rain.

Filling The Roof. 18th December

Napton to nearly Gibraltar Bridge 20, Grand Union

Even though my sour dough starter seems to have faultered again I had a big jar of discard ready to be used, so this morning I had a go at some sour dough pancakes. These can either be started the night before or a little while before you want to cook them. Leaving them over night develops the flavour, but as my discard is a touch dubious I just mixed the mixture this morning.

It would only go to waste otherwise!

With a plate on top of the stove I cooked a half portion of the the recipe and kept them warm under a t towel until I’d finished the batter up. Verdict, very nice. Just wonder what they’d be like with proper discarded starter.

Tilly had been allowed out this morning, she was being kept busy. I was just about to go out and do my mad cat woman shouting when she appeared, Mick opened the hatch and we were three again. Time to move on.

Last narrow lock for a while

Down the last narrow lock we pulled in and disposed of all the rubbish we’d been accumulating. With no recycling bins until the new year everything ended up in the big skip at the service block. People say where there are no recycling bins the rubbish still gets sorted rather than going to landfill, I hope so.

We then pushed across to the water point and topped the tank up, the washing machine had been run this morning, so it took a little bit of time to fill. With the boat moored on the port side we emptied the yellow water into our container for disposal, the towpath won’t be on the right side for a while so best to make use of it now.

Napton Windmill

Last year we did these chores on Christmas Eve along with quite a few other boats, but today we had everything to ourselves. The sun was out and we pushed on to Napton Junction. The original plan had us continuing straight on here, but today we turned right for the first time, into Wigrams Turn Marina.

Wigrams Turn

There were plenty of people about, maybe live aboards or just folks preparing for a Christmas cruise. The service mooring was empty so we filled it. We’d guessed that it being run by the same company as at Cropredy the diesel price would be the same, but sadly no, 97p a litre, 11p more! Good job we only wanted a top up and four more bags of coal went on the roof. We are now stocked up for Christmas and hopefully into the New Year, the roof is a touch full and hard to see over!

Straight on to Christmas

We winded and then back at the junction we went straight on, onto the Grand Union. First thought was to stop above Calcutt Locks, but then we decided to go down them, the top one almost full.

Calcutt Top Lock

Back onto wide locks with their candlestick/bomb shaped paddle gears. Winding winding winding. Then that hard to describe fluttering noise, as the water lowers around the large openings of the paddle gear on the chamber sides, almost like Hannibal Lecter’s noise when he meets Clarice,

Just a
few apples

Down the three locks, then we sought out a length of Armco where Tilly could go out. On the off side a group of old boats are clustered, many with memorable names, Adamant the last one not in steam today. We pulled in and gave Tilly half an hour, she returned in good time, then was a touch miffed at the doors staying closed.

A good name

As the evening progressed the wind built up along with torrential rain, this of course coincided with the gas bottle running out. We knew it would as it always does just after you’ve been somewhere you could get a new one. We’re hoping for a lull in the rain tomorrow to get down the Stockton flight without getting too wet.

Payment to my brother for our postal service for the year. Lots of smoked fish from the Port of Lancaster Smokehouse.

4 locks, 1 narrow, 3 wide, 3.98 miles, 1 right, 1 wind, 1 straight on, 4 bags coal, 26.78 litres, 20 minutes, 1 sock finished, 1 toe.

Steak Secrets. 19th November


Studio 2 in Morse

Yesterday we watched the second ever Morse episode, well we are in Oxford! ‘The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn’. Parts of the story were filmed in Jericho on Walton Street, we’re getting good at spotting them. Barbara Flynn did however get out of her car close to the Oxford University Press and walk towards the city centre , the next shot had her walking in the opposite direction towards Studio 2 (The Picture House). This isn’t that uncommon and keeps boaters who are not going very far at the moment occupied.

Just still light when we came out

Today we decided to see what the interior of the Picture House was like and opted to see ‘Official Secrets’. This had a Silver Screen showing for which Mick got £4 off his ticket, I suspect I’d have got in cheaply if we hadn’t been honest when buying our tickets. With large comfy seats we settled down with about ten other people to watch the film. No adverts, other than for the cinema, which was a surprise, but a couple of trailers for films to come which we may keep our eyes open for.

Official Secrets tells the true story of whistleblower Katherine Gun who leaked a memo asking GCHQ to find out personal information on diplomats from smaller countries at the United Nations, so that they could be blackmailed into voting for the second UN resolution on the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Her actions changed the allegiance of The Observer newspaper who brought the story to the public’s attention despite the Americans claiming it to be a hoax memo. The film follows the story up to Katherine Gun’s court case for breaching the Official Secrets Act. We both thoroughly enjoyed the film with it’s great English cast including Janie Dee who I know from my Scarborough days.

The tiny house

On our way back to Oleanna we walked down to look at Combe Road where the first ever murder happened in Morse. The house most definitely is a tardis. No way would three people and a grand piano be able to fit into that little house.

With the stove on Oleanna re-light for the second time today, we suspect the chimney needs sweeping, we headed back out for some food at The Old Bookbinders. The pub had been recommended to us by several people and the menu was attractively French.

Warm and cosy we were greeted by a very French man who directed us to a back room sitting us by a radiator to warm up. The place was starting to fill up when we arrived and we were glad we hadn’t waited until later to eat. There was a Menu Du Jour which we had just arrived in time for (good value), but we both decided to chose things from the A La Carte Menu.

L’entrecote and burger

Mick chose Le Benicassim, a burger with everything including a fried egg that revealed it’s yolk through a hole in the top of the bun, it was very tasty. I opted for L’Entrecote Frites, steak and chips with a very nice salad and loads of garlic butter, the aroma will wear off in a couple of days I’m sure. My steak was cooked perfectly rare and had been left to rest before being served.


We followed on with a crepe for Mick, sadly these were not gluten free, so I had a creme brulee. Both were very tasty. With a large glass of wine and a pint of Tim Taylor Landlord our bill was just shy of £60. We don’t eat out much and have become used to pub food being only okay, so today was a treat. If you fancy a slice of France in the middle of Oxford we’d highly recommend the Old Bookbinders, which is nothing like it was back in 1987 when Morse visited.

It’s changed a bit since 1987

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 silver screening, 1 memo, 1 secret leaked, 1 courtcase, 2 times to light, 1 burger, 1 steak, 1 crepe, 1 brulee, 2 fat content boaters, 1 bored cat who just didn’t bother today.