Category Archives: London

Ruth Geraghty née Chignell.

4th February 1924 – 14th December 2008

Mick here writing this post.

My mother Ruth Geraghty (née Chignell) would have been 100 years old on 4th February 2024.

Ruth Geraghty

Ruth was born in Hessle near Hull in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Her mother was Katie Chignell (née Netherwood) and her father Philip Chignell.

Philip was the organist and choirmaster at All Saints Parish Church in Hessle and had spent all his life in working as a musician. He started aged nine as a choirboy at St Georges Chapel school in Windsor during Queen Victoria’s reign and took part in many Royal occasions including the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. He became an organist at various churches around the country before settling in Hessle in 1901. Philip and Katie met in 1911 while they were both taking part as singers in a six month long World Tour as members of the Sheffield Choir. This tour took them round the world by ship and train, starting in Liverpool in March, across the Atlantic to Canada and the USA. Then across the Pacific to Hawaii and onto New Zealand. Australia and Tasmania followed and then South Africa before returning to Plymouth in October.  They married in 1912. They were a very musical couple and produced a very musical family. They settled at Philip’s home at number 19 The Weir in Hessle.

Stephen Katie Philip Ruth

John Chignell was born first in 1916 followed by Henry (1918) and Stephen(1922). Ruth was the youngest and the only girl in the family. She went to the local primary school in Hessle then onto the Boulevard School in Hull. At this time Ruth and her friend Marian took an interest in bell ringing and with one or more of their brothers would tour the local area on bicycles visiting various bell towers and taking part. Days out with friends were common. She had by now picked up the nickname Trigo.

She even had a narrowboat named after her!
Ruth and Stephen Cycling

Ruth was at the Boulevard in 1939 aged 15. When war broke out the school was to be evacuated to Scarborough. The day for evacuation came and she said her goodbyes to her parents and brothers in the morning and headed off to school and the unknown. By mid afternoon she was back at 19 The Weir. She refused to be evacuated, finished with school that day and came home to be with her family.

In the back garden of 19 The Weir

One by one her brothers all went off to war. John and Henry within the first few weeks and Stephen a couple of years later when he became old enough. But Ruth stayed in Hessle for the duration. She was a big comfort to her parents who had the great worry of Henry being posted as missing and then becoming a POW in Germany. John and Stephen were both posted overseas at times and were also a concern to the family back in Hessle. Ruth was often to be found helping in various local canteens which had been set up to try to boost the morale of visiting military personnel in the area. She was also a keen violinist and many evenings would be spent playing violin sonatas, her on the violin and her father on the piano. She would also be found singing in her father’s choir at All Saints Church.

Ruth and Henry

Hessle is only about 4 miles from Hull and its docks. Hull took a pounding during the blitz and Hessle took a number of direct hits. But 19 The Weir and its occupants survived.  

During the war Ruth had started “seeing” local lad Peter Geraghty. ( Peter was from Hessle and was a bomber pilot at RAF Pocklington. Ruth must have heard planes flying over Hessle and wondered about “Her Peter” in one of the bombers heading to Germany and war.

Peter Geraghty

In 1945 Henry had returned home from POW camp after a five year absence. Ruth had gone to meet him off the last train into Hessle that day having not seen her big brother for all those years.  Her other two brothers also returned home and the family was once again complete.

Ruth had taken up a secretarial post at an insurance company in Hull, but I suspect her heart wasn’t in it. Married life beckoned, Ruth and Peter got married in May 1947.

17th May 1947

By then Peter had become a commercial airline pilot with British European Airways (BEA) based at Northolt Airport just outside London so they set up home there. Daughter Christine was born in May 1948, followed by Marion in 1950 and Anne in 1952. So a busy time for Ruth looking after a young family. But she still found time for music and was selected to join the Royal Choral Society as a soprano. She performed in many concerts at the Albert Hall under the conductor Sir Malcom Sargent.

Sir Malcolm Sargent conducting. Ruth behind to his right

Ruth and Peter moved to Ealing in West London in 1953, at the same time as BEA moved from Northolt to Heathrow. A bigger house was required and there was a good new primary school, St Gregory’s, in Ealing for the children.

I came along in 1958 followed by my little sister Kathryn in 1966. Ruth had become a Brown Owl in one of the local Brownie packs. My sisters had all been Brownies and it was common for me, a four year old boy, to don a brown jumper and go to a Brownie meeting and take part. I suspect there were child care issues!

Ruth and Kathryn

Ruth continued with her musical life. She joined the Ealing Symphony Orchestra playing in the first violins and took part in many of their concerts. There were many evenings at our house when three other musicians would arrive and a string quartet would take place in our front room. All of us children were encouraged to take part in musical activities and we had outings to various concerts and musical events in London. At school I had taken up the bassoon and the piano. I played bassoon in the Ealing Junior Music School and I also obtained music O Level when the time came.

Ruth Marion Kathryn Peter

Ruth continued to take a big part in the local Girl Guiding movement taking Brownie packs on holiday and Guides on camps. She became a District Commissioner for the Ealing and Hanwell District.

District Commissioner
Anne Mick and Marion in the Chester Gardens back garden

Family life continued. Ruth organised many family summer holidays, often with her brother Henry’s family sometimes on the South coast. Henry and his wife Gill had a caravan and they would set up in a caravan park, whilst we had a holiday home somewhere nearby. Henry and Gill had four children and with all of us we made a good holiday party.

Henry Ruth Gill Peter
Mick Kath and Christine in the front garden

In 1977 Peter retired from British Airways. Three of their five children had moved out from the family home and on to further education and careers. Life quietened down a little. Peter was a keen golf player and Ruth occasionally would play a round with him. They would also go on holidays to watch amateur golf tournaments around the country. Peter had a lifetime concessionary travel benefit with British Airways so there were overseas holidays to Africa, Canada and Europe. But Peter wasn’t a great one for flying as a passenger so UK holidays were more common.

Peter and Ruth on the Equator

Ruth enjoyed train travel very much. Once a year she would arrange with her brothers to meet up in Llandudno where they had spent childhood holidays with their Grandma.

Outside her maternal Grandmother’s house near Llandudno

In about 1985 Ruth and I each purchased a British Rail All Line Rail Rover. Over the course of a week we travelled from London to Thurso in the very north of Scotland, over to the Kyle of Lochalsh, onto the ferry over to Skye, another ferry to Malaig and down to Glasgow. Over to Hull via the Settle to Carlisle line. Ruth always enjoyed visiting Hull and Hessle and there were still many family members. Then we travelled to Llandudno, Shrewsbury, Llanelli, Bristol, Exmouth and Plymouth before heading back to London.

Ruth on the Settle to Carlisle line

In 1967, when I was aged 9, Ruth and I had a day out on the Underground on the very first day of operation of the brand new Victoria Line. Very exciting!

Ruth continued her violin playing with the Ealing Symphony Orchestra and her Girl Guiding District Commissioner duties. She became a Governor of St Gregory’s School where all her children had attended, here she also helped with teaching the violin and music in general.

Playing the Violin

She also helped out at other schools. Youngest daughter Kathryn was at secondary school and relates the following story: Cardinal Wiseman’s production of Oliver! There was no school orchestra, so they hired in some kind of military band. God knows where from. Anyway, Mum wanted to play, so she was a guest 1st violin with them for the show, and I imagine enjoyed herself enormously.

Henry Ruth John Stephen in the 1980s

I moved out from home to pastures new in 1981 followed by Kath later in the 1980s so the nest was empty after 40 years. They stayed on in the big house at 8 Chester Gardens for another ten years or so, then moved to a very nice two bedroom flat nearby.

8 Chester Gardens
Retiring from the Ealing Symphony Orchestra 27/11/2000.

By now Peter was suffering from Parkinsons disease and life slowed down a lot. But Ruth still managed to get out a bit. She took part in meetings of the local Trefoil Guild, consisting mainly of retired Guide leaders and Commissioners. There was a school nearby and every afternoon in the summer Ruth and Peter would head out to get ice creams from the van parked at the school gate. Ruth had a sweet tooth!

Parkinsons took its hold on Peter and he passed away in 2002 aged 80. Ruth had also by then contracted the same disease but carried on in the flat on her own for a few years.

Surrounded by her Stuff
On the balcony

But eventually she succumbed to Parkinsons and moved into, a care home nearby. Peter’s BA pension contributed handsomely to the costs.

She had many visitors while at Downhirst, both family and friends and much reminiscing was carried out. The staff looked after her well, but I’m sure she missed Peter and her active life. She never complained about her lot and stoically carried on being cheerful right to the end.

She passed away on 14th December 2008 aged 84 and is still much missed. We took her ashes back to Hessle and scattered them on the Foreshore in the shaddow of the Humber Bridge. A suitable resting place for her.

Thanks to Anne, Kath, Marion and John for help with the photos.

Panto Postcard 3, 2023

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

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

2022 Back To Exploring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fast forward to 6:15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So our vital statistics for 2022 according to Canalplan are

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

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

731.7 engine hours

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

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

Windy. 26th September

Paddington Basin

Having bought membership to the Imperial War Museum when we visited Duxford earlier in the year it would be silly not to make use of it. As we were now on Plan B we could make use of the bookings we’d already made. 10:30 the Churchill War Rooms and in the afternoon HMS Belfast.

An austere doorway into the underground world

The entrance to the War Rooms is located on Horse Guards Road opposite St James’s Park. Here a line stood waiting to be allowed entrance, we spotted a second empty line for members or those with a booking, we were both of those so stood at the front of the queue and waited to be let in.

Alarm system

Down the steps we went under the Treasury building. Handsets with commentary were handed out and we set forth to explore the underground world from which Churchill had run the British campaign in WW2.

Conditions above ground

Corridors painted cream stretched off, had they originally been white but had years of chain smoking turned cream? Fans were used to move air round, an early air conditioning unit may have helped, but it must have been horrible down there. Those who worked down here worked twelve hour shifts rarely seeing daylight, they were oblivious to what was going on above their heads. A sign in a corridor would inform them of the conditions ‘Fine and Warm’ today, but if it said ‘Windy’ London was having a ruff time of it.

The rooms were gradually expanded though the war, taking over more basement rooms. Wooden posts were added to reinforce them, steel girders and then a thick slab of concrete was used, one staircase was totally filled in for safety (it took 3 months to drill through it make a corridor for the museum), still it may not have been enough should the building have had a direct hit.

Map rooms with coloured telephones, conference rooms. Sleeping quarters for many were on the floor below in bunk beds. The higher up you got you’d have a room with a narrow single bed, higher up the pecking order you’d have a couple more inches of mattress and be given a section of rug for the floor of your room.

Three cookers

A kitchen for the cook to prepare Churchills three cooked meals a day, she may have had to move her preparation from one building to another to keep the man fed.

Charts of flying bombs, maps of where they landed. Many of the rooms were just left when their need was no more. When it was handed over to the Imperial War Museum in the 80’s inventories were done for each room. In a drawer in the map room was an envelope which contained three sugar lumps, a commanders secret stash.

Part way though the corridors you enter a vast room, where walls must have been removed to house the Churchill Museum. Here the history of Churchill is arranged starting with his war time speeches. If you stood over a small glass square in the floor you could hear one of his historic speeches. Very clever as the next speech was only a few feet away. I had been wondering why people had stopped in their tracks and were stood staring into thin air.

Churchills political history was laid out in modern museum form, how such places have changed in the last ten years. Interactive screens where you can paint one of his landscapes, animations totting up his war time air miles around the world (over 100,000) and a list of his favourite things.

A collection of his hats, a plum coloured velvet siren suit, his medals stretching out in one long cabinet. This is a man who when not a politician headed off to war stricken parts of the world.

Excuse the fuzzy photos everything is behind glass

His room is one of the last on display. A comfortable single bed, maps on the walls, telephones, ashtrays. He apparently only slept in this bed for three nights, but he did have kips every now and again, Nana Naps. During these a signal was put out and silence rang through the corridors of the basement until he was awake again, even the typewriters were silent.

A key for every door on a door

We stopped off part way at the cafe. A very poor selection of things I could eat, just flapjack bars from a jar. However it was interesting to see the coloured in large scale maps of London showing bomb damage.

Too right

Well worth a visit, we didn’t take it all in and if we are back in London within our years membership we may return to read the displays we edited out today. By the time we left it was far too late to take in HMS Belfast as well. That will have to be for another time.

Quite a gravely beach

We walked down Horse Guards past the end of Downing Street to The Mall. Union Jacks flying the hole length to Buckingham Palace where the flag remains at half mast.

Buck House

Whilst we’d been underground we’d received email confirmation that our booking in Paddington Basin had been cancelled and the refund was to be processed. Mick tried giving them a call to explain that our change in circumstances had changed again and that we were using our booking after all. But as the call was not answered and went to answerphone he had to leave a message. At least we have informed them.

The No 6 bus took us from Trafalgar Square back to Edgeware Road where we perused M&S food hall for sad gits reductions. Back in Paddington we had one new neighbour NB Firecrest. Cheryl and Eric had been down to watch the flotilla on Saturday close to the Millennium Bridge. Thank you for the photos.

Hello! Do you remember me!?!

Food and a sit down with Tilly on my knee in front of the stove, a nice relaxing evening. Tomorrow we start to head west to pantoland.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2nd IWM site visited, 0 gf options, 2 cups of tea, 26 medals? 3 square meals a day, 0 time for HMS Belfast, 1 thing added to the next time list, 12 hour shifts, 1 evening in with Tilly.

If you fancy seeing more photos of the flotilla here are links to Scholar Gypsy’s blog

The last post has links to even more photos

The Morning After 25th September

Limehouse Basin to Paddington Basin

A bit of a lie in this morning was followed by Mick removing all the lights from Oleanna. I made my excuses from this as my knees have spent too much time over the last few days slightly twisted by standing on gunnels or kneeling and they need to have recovered by the time I start Panto painting. This morning Pam looked to be developing a black eye and had a bump on her head after her fall last night. She seemed jolly and was quite glad of having an excuse not to have to work the locks back up the Regents Canal.

Boats starting to leave

This morning Heather had decided to join us on the Tideway and she would chance getting in at Brentford with David. A fourth boat NB Thyme would be heading to Teddington with us, so everyone had a buddy. Locking time was confirmed as 11:30, just the final engine checks to be done.

Water swirling round to fill Limehouse Lock

A short while later Mick appeared from the engine bay. We had a puddle of coolant half an inch deep and the header tank was low. Yesterday we’d not overheated. It could be something simple to fix, but with Oleanna’s history of coolant leaks we weren’t sure. He checked the engine over. He tightened four jubilee clips on the hoses, they weren’t that loose.

Three in a lock

Should we go out onto the Tideway? Yes we’d be with other boats, after all the problem might now be solved. But on the other hand we’d be going out knowing that we might have a problem, be more apprehensive and know that we’d be relying on other boats to rescue us. That wouldn’t be right, and we wouldn’t enjoy the trip. So we aborted our chance of going under Tower Bridge for the third time in two days. A great shame, but we’d rather discover we didn’t have a problem anymore on the Regents Canal. Time to let Tilly know she could stand down and needn’t burrow into our pillows again.

Whilst Mick mopped up the engine bay I watched the three boats we should have been joining head back out onto the choppy waters of the tideway. The last boat out of the lock was NB Bleasdale, just as Heather completed the turn to face upstream she turned and waved. Not sure when our paths will cross next, but they will.

First lock today

Reverting to plan B we knew that our mooring in Paddington Basin hadn’t been cancelled and wouldn’t be until tomorrow, it would take us a while to get back up the locks and all the other boats heading that way had already left, we’d be on our own, we’d best get moving.

Not homemade gf pastry, but still yum

As we worked our way back up the Regents Canal the oven was put on, sausage rolls we’d intended for yesterday were baked between locks, cooled just enough by the time we’d risen Old Ford Lock and had a longer pound to eat them in.


Today we had a wide cruiser ahead of us for one lock who made use of an empty lock, they were heading along the Hertford Union so we’d be going different ways. We shared Acton’s Lock with a young couple, they were only heading to the next available mooring and stopped just after the lock possibly to use the services there.

Just about every lock was set against us. At nearly every lock we had a crowd of gongoozlers watching our every move. Occasionally someone would lend a hand with a gate and occasionally we had to ask people to move for their own safety.


For the first time we’ve passed the entrance to Victoria Park on a Sunday whilst the market has been on, today we didn’t really have the time or energy to stop for a nosy. The food smells were wonderful though, but my sausage rolls were just the ticket to keep us going.

City Road Lock

City Road Lock I had extra crew. A chap who works at the cafe there leapt into action, helping with gates, closing paddles, he even has his own windlass. Today he’d helped around twenty boats through, I wondered if he ever did any paid work at the cafe! This lock has yellow and red lines painted round it and signs all over the place. These suggest to boaters that if they consider members of the public to be in danger then to beep your horn five times at which the public will move away. These signs had been attached to the lock beams with cable ties, as I walked to get back onto Oleanna my foot caught on one. A trip hazard if ever there was one!

Islington Tunnel ahead

There is now a stretch of 14 day Eco Moorings near Camley Street Bridge, they don’t appear bookable on the C&RT website and they were very very full. At the bottom of the Camden Locks there was a boat coming down, I helped and chatted to the owner, they were having a bit of a cruising party to their next mooring an Eco mooring near Kings Cross.

As we rose in the lock I knew the top lock was being emptied, the middle lock managing to stay empty for us and the crew above taking their time doing everything! Sadly they’d left the wrong gate open on the top lock, I now knew why the volunteers don’t like using it. It opens over the steps and over the accompanying locks beam, so the beam is high up, but not high enough to crawl under once you’ve got it over the steps. All very awkward, but at least I kept an eye on where my feet were.

Now we just had to negotiate our way along through the zoo and Maida Hill Tunnel around all the Go Boats. This involved some zigzagging, being waved ahead of them at the tunnel and we managed to avoid them all.

Go Boats out on mass this afternoon

Little Venice we turned left and headed down into Paddington Basin where our not quite cancelled booked mooring sat waiting for us. Another three spaces available, it’s the first time we’ve ever seen room here.

Heading into the basin

We were tired and hungry, so despite having had pizza yesterday we headed to Pizza Express and filled up on a Classic pizza each. A longer day than if we’d have headed out onto the Tideway, but at least it looks like just tightening up the jubilee clips has done the trick.


12 locks, 9.24 miles, 1 straight on, 1 leak, 1 plan aborted, 8 sausage rolls, 1 happier cat, 0 shore leave still, 2 pizzas, 2 glasses of wine, 2 pretty pooped boaters.


Reflections Flotilla Part 2

A buoy outside Chelsea Harbour Marina to Limehouse Basin

*This post contains some slideshows. I’m not sure if these will work if you get the post emailed to you, so you may have to go to the website.*

Getting into position

It took a little while for us all to get into position as the flotilla started to move away downstream. In all the paperwork we’d been given about the event we’d not seen how far apart to the side boats should be. Infront and behind should be about 60ft, a boats length. As our huddle of boats moved into position we decided that maybe a similar distance to the sides would be good too.

Beam us up Scotty! Quite an artistic mistake!

It was dusk, you could just see peoples lights. I had my camera and fully charged phone on hand to take photos. I’m by no means a pro, the contrasting lighting along with being on the move meant there have been many a photo head straight to the bin. Add to the mix keeping an eye on the flotilla, checking which bridge arch we should be heading to and whether we’d be sharing it with neighbouring boat Panacea or not, listening to Flotilla Control instructions, this all made for one busy evening.


By the time we’d reached Battersea Road Bridge we’d all got into position. Already people lined the bridge above us.

Albert Bridge, wonderful in day light, now at dusk a spiders web of Victorian beauty. There waiting on the down stream side was Gloriana the Royal Row Barge. Neon rope light swaged along the gunnels and every long oar stood upright with a straight line of white light. No-one would miss her.

Illuminated Rowing

Flotilla Control called Gloriana into position in the flotilla. Safety gaps had been planned between certain sections to hopefully avoid bunching up. The flotilla was now complete. Motor powered boats in front, Gloriana in the middle followed by man powered boats.

Looking back upstream

Following our charts and the boat ahead. Hang on, shouldn’t we be going through the span to our port? This only happened at one bridge, we then kept to the plans we’d been given. Speed adjustments were required to try to keep in line, but then the boat ahead wouldn’t be going quite fast enough, so we’d slip behind our line. Safety boats moved along the sides, keeping an eye out. Our two red glow sticks were bent, broken and shaken in case we needed to draw attention to ourselves, thankfully they remained unused.

From the river we could see a line of people stood on each bank, just about every bridge too. I wondered if this had remained a Jubilee event would more people have had white glow sticks on the bridges. That would have been quite a sight.

Chelsea Bridge, Victoria Railway Bridge, Battersea Power Station with it’s changing coloured chimneys.

Vauxhall Bridge at 19:32. Lambeth Bridge 19:39

Houses of Parliament

Instructions came through to speed up, get closer, slow down as Flotilla Control required. Positions drifted, then came back. Messages from family about our position needed conveying along with everything else. Sheet of bridge profiles once passed under added to the discard pile on the stern locker lid.

Westminster Bridge. The London Eye. Hungerford Bridge at 19:50

Festival Pier and the South Bank19:52. Waterloo Bridge. Blackfriars Bridge and Rail Bridge 20:01. Here those wanting to stay warm lined the windows looking down at us.

Millennium Footbridge. Was that Andrew, Jac and Josh? Had they got the right bit of bridge?

Yep it was, Andrew shouted to us that they would now head to the pub. I messaged them back telling them to turn round and wait until Gloriana had passed at least.

Southwark Bridge at 20:09 Now we could see Tower Bridge, the towers lit up in blue. The progress of the flotilla slowed, it slowed some more. Cannon Street Bridge, London Bridge 20:15.

Our progress slowed right down, Gloriana a distance behind, a Dutch Barge a touch too close. Keep moving came the instructions.

HMS Belfast was lined with Sea cadets who as Gloriana approached all saluted as did the oarsmen on board.

Were we waiting for Tower Bridge to lift? All boats were finding their own space, we’d liked to have carried on moving but that meant those ahead of us should be doing the same and those ahead of them. We could see double deckers and pedestrians still crossing the bridge.

After what felt like an absolute age Tower Bridge started to lift. Normally it lifts enough to let tall ships and boats through, but today it would lift all the way up in full Royal Salute.

Boats started to move, everyone of us going under the central span. Years ago before we owned NB Lillyanne I gave Mick a birthday card of Tower Bridge saying that one day we’d be going under that central span. Here today as one of the 150 boats we were doing just that, bedecked with fairy lights and at night, we were doing it in style. 20:40

There was now a bit of confusion. What was to happen at the end of the flotilla had changed due to the Queen passing away. Some boats sounded their horns, others remained silent. As Gloriana passed through the bridge and lifted their oars in salute there were three cheers for the King, then over the radio came instructions to sound our horns. Everyone went for it still moving downstream at a steady pace. A last look back to the bridge. WoW!!!

Now what? The narrowboats remained in formation heading down stream. All boats wanting to return upstream were meant to continue downstream and reach a certain boat before turning and heading back upstream along the northern bank. It was nice to see the displays of lights on the cruisers that we’d been behind, some very pretty boats.

The stretch of water below Tower Bridge is normally lumpy bumpy but this evening it was quiet, the river was still closed to normal traffic whilst the flotilla dispersed. Andrew the leader of the narrowboat section said he had a time for the lock, we all continued downstream, now arranging ourselves into our locking groups, there’d be four lockings into Limehouse as only one boat was heading back up stream. I spotted a red light flashing in front of us on top of a pole, as I was pointing it out to Mick, Simon shouted from the boat behind, we adjusted course accordingly passing the light on the starboard side.

Now we had rowers catching up with us, heading downstream, they were going some! Three passed us before we reached Canary Wharf where we turned and followed the north bank back towards Limehouse. One boat swapped to the first locking as they were overheating. Six boats packed into the lock and rose the now 7ft up to the canal.

We were instructed to hold back away from the opening of the lock as the water being dropped from it would make quite a bit of turbulence. The river had now opened to normal traffic, Uber boats zooming from one stop to the next and a huge party boat heading up stream. All those people who’d not been aware of what had been happening upstream of them over the last couple of hours.

Then it was our turn to head into the safety of the lock. A repeat of on the way out, ropes round risers, round the T stud and wait for the surge.

During the day a couple of boats had arrived at Limehouse and moored up. With more narrowboats coming back in and less wall or pontoon to tie to boats were rafting up again. On the pontoon I spied a chap inside his boat, I gestured to see if it was okay to pull alongside. It was, after all it is London! We came in carefully. Pam from Flora Dora came over the stern of the boat to help us with our bow rope.

In the dark on a strange boat Pam hadn’t seen the step down to the boats back door. As I passed our rope towards her, her hands held out to take it she fell towards me and the gap between the boats. Thankfully she didn’t fall between them, but this did mean she bumped her head on our gunnel. Glasses, phone were safe but Pam needed a sit down and to be checked over. After five minutes of quiet her shock subsided.

A quick check on Tilly, I think her evening had been calmer than the afternoon. I wonder if she sat in the window for any of it? The Cruising Association was open for us to be able to have a drink and a buffet had been laid on. It felt like an absolute age since we’d had our pizzas. After all the days excitement we sipped our glasses of wine exhausted.

WOW!! What a day! What an amazing day!!

1 lock twice, 15.95 miles, 9.5 hours on the tideway, 34 bridges gone under, 1 barrier closed, 12 narrowboats, 1 widebeam, 1 faulty radio, 1 borrowed tow line, 1 borrowed radio, 1 fully charged phone, 17 sheets of instructions, 1 dead body on the roof, 2 pizzas, 1 fluffed up Tilly, 1 very choppy ride, 1 dutch barge up the rear, 3 Leckenbys, 1 Cheryl, 2 many photos, 1 bridge in Royal Salute, 1st time under the centre span, 1 sponsored walk held up, 1st time in 300 years, 1 amazing afternoon and evening well worth the effort to get to London for, 2 privileged boaters and 1 cat.

1 very big thank you to all the boaters, friends and family who’ve allowed me to use their photos in the flotilla posts. Thank you.

Thames Barrier Closed

Reflections Flotilla Part 1. 24th September

Limehouse Basin to a buoy outside Chelsea Harbour Marina

Final preparations this morning. Fishing net, washing brush inside, everything else tied on the roof. Coal wrapped in a heat wave white sheet. Well deck emptied of everything other than the anchor, it’s chain and rope and a couple of fenders. All this as well as a full bucket of deposits were brought inside into the bathroom. Engine checks done, VHF radio and mobile phone fully charged.

The photos do get better!

Heather had been procrastinating about her lights so I headed over to lend a hand. I managed to put one layer of lights along both sides and some around her cratch before my knees said enough was enough of standing on gunnels. Heather spent time trying to fix rope light to her gunnels held in place by some strong magnets. This ended up being quite tricksy, using the hatch on the boat next door as Bleasdale was moved back and forth made it a little bit easier.

Last night we’d heard that David on NB Albert Victor would be heading back out onto the tideway on Sunday, heading to Brentford. We checked with him if he’d mind us buddying up, then we’d carry on to Teddington on our own, the fast route west, this had been our Plan A. Mick booked us in with the Lock Keeper and then proceeded to cancel our Plan B bookings, lock passage at Brentford and 2 nights in Paddington Basin. The mooring couldn’t be cancelled as the right people didn’t work at the weekend, but they would be informed on Monday morning, then hopefully we’d get our mooring fees back.

Time for a cuppa and to sit down with Tilly, both of us needing a reassuring ear rub. I don’t like it when the shower gets full, it means we’re about to go on a lumpy bumpy noisy fast outside! The thought of them makes me go all fat faced and ridge backed.

12:30. There would be three lockings out onto the Tideway this morning, the first with six boats, three full length and three shorter boats at the rear. The aim was for the lead boats to head up stream making good speed so as to secure moorings for the narrowboat and widebeam section of the flotilla, we’d been allocated several possible places to moor near Chelsea Harbour Marina, but these were also going to be used by the rest of the motor squadron, better to have steel against steel rather than trying to breast up against cruisers.

We were in the second lock with two other narrowboats, the third lock for WB Reflections. As we had a small hand held radio it was decided that we’d be the middle boat heading up stream as we’d not be able to hear everything that the others with beefier VHF radios would. The radio was tuned in to duel scan channels 14 and 8, 14 being VTS (Vessel Traffic Services) and 8 to talk to other boats.

With our bow rope passed around the riser in the lock then wrapped around our T stud, stern line passed round the riser at the stern, NB Dragonfly came in alongside and tied up to us. We were ready for the surge of the lock.

Canary Wharf just after we turned out from Limehouse

Only about two foot difference this morning. The Thames Barrier was having a routine test closure today and had started closing a couple of hours earlier, it would remain closed until just gone midnight. Leaving Limehouse we would still have a certain amount of push from what was left of the incoming tide until the river found it’s level, then there would only be what fresh water was coming downstream.


This however didn’t mean we’d have a calm start to our cruise up stream. The speedy trip boats can hammer along below Tower Bridge at great speeds as can the Uber Clippers all creating big washes that ricochet of the banks. Today it was so rough out there I got wet feet in the well deck before I moved back to the stern.

We tootled along upstream bumping around on the lumpy water in a line of three boats. Alan Ayckbourn’s London flat, Doris May on her mooring, Tower Bridge, then all the other bridges with people, cars, double deckers and trains crossing them.