Category Archives: Narrowboat Life

The Menace. 15th February


Dennis to us is an inconvenience, to others a very serious worry. Whilst others around the country today have been preparing for their houses to flood for the second time this month, boat owners are wondering if their homes will remain floating and the army are out extending incomplete flood defences, we can’t head off to where we’d planned. Well we could but Dennis has brought stronger winds and more rain than Ciara last weekend.

So today was a perfect day to head to the Library for me. I stood in line on the escalators behind some Japanese tourists who were obviously there for the views, following them up to Level 2. Here I headed in a different direction, I was actually going to use the library for what it was intended, reading!!!

Up into the library

Last night I’d had a look on the internet to check that the book I wanted was held by the library and was on the shelves. I was in luck, they had two copies. The website also gave me the Level of the library and the Dewey Number. When I was at school I was a librarian, a good way of not having to go outside when it was raining, so I understood how to find the book I was after.

822.9 AYC

A few of the 84 plays Alan has written

A line of Ayckbourn scripts ready for the reading. I picked up the play I was after and took a seat in the window looking in the approximate direction of the Farmers Bridge flight. Outside it was miserable, inside a touch damp along the way from my seat where a line of buckets caught drips.

A couple of weeks ago I’d been asked if I thought one of Sir Alan’s plays would fit on the stage in Vienna. Other designers have said the stage is too small as the said play requires quite a few doors, a balcony and a bathroom to be in view. If you know your Ayckbourn then you may be able to narrow the play down. A few more clues, a dominatrix, 2 wives and time travel.

I’m not alone in my opinion of Schoenberg!

I’ve seen the play at the SJT after I finished working there full time and it was in rehearsals for it’s London premiere when I was asked to go along to meet Alan in 1995, he was getting a bit twitchy about all the new staff coming to work at the new theatre. So I was aware of the basic story and how it had been staged in the round, today I took notes and got to know the play better, hearing the actresses I’d seen in Scarborough speaking the words in my head.


First thoughts, maybe it’ll fit. But I’ll need to get a scale rule out and look at their plans before I add my verdict to those given previously and I’m sure I know one of those designers, so I’m not holding my breath.

Our plan for today had been to head out along the new main line, hang a right at Smethwick Junction, up the three locks, then a left at Spon Lane followed by another left and up the six Oldbury Locks to find a mooring at Tat Bank so that we could go to the theatre this evening. But due to the Menace we caught the number 13 bus instead, which only took around half an hour and dropped us off at the end of Engine Street.

Titford Pump House during storm Dennis

At the far end a group of cars then a C&RT sign signalled that we were in the right place. Through the car park we then wondered where to go. A large door was open as the rain came at us sideways, but this was the C&RT services. We tried up some stairs, no joy there. Then a group of people came who looked like they knew where they were heading, the far end of the building, Titford Pump House.

Tonight we had come to see Alarum Theatre Company and their show Acts of Abandon. Alarum is made up of Kate Saffin a playwright, performer and amongst may other things a doyen of waterless toilets (composting toilets) and Heather Wastie, a poet, song writer and performer. Back in 2017 they toured their Idle Women show around the network with NB Tench recreating the journeys of the women who worked the boats did during WW2.

Tonights show had limited numbers (about 50) so we’d had to reserve our place during the week, this was due to the size of the room inside the pump house. This is where the Birmingham Canal Navigation Society meets, it used to house an old beam engine but now an electric pump does the job of pumping water back up the flight. We hope to get here during daylight hours soon and when it isn’t blowing a hoolie to be able to look round properly.


‘The Muck and Shovel Brigade‘ is a mixture of poetry, song and the history of the Droitwich Canals. How an act of parliament closed the navigation and a team of volunteers dug the canal back into life again after it had been abandoned. A programme is essential so that you can join in with the songs.

After a glass of wine in the interval, Kate took to the stage to recount the tale of ‘The Mary Rose, a boat of ill-repute’. A one woman show she plays all the parts from the two ladies who move onto an old work boat in Wolvercote on the Oxford Canal to the local landowners, police and punters following WW2. No-one had got round to repealing an 18th Century law that allowed a brothel to be on a boat. Armed with her trusty tea chest and an armful of costumes Kate tells a lively tale.

Heather and Kate at the end of tonights show

A very fun evening in an historic setting during Storm Dennis. If you fancy seeing the show then head to Tipton Green Methodist Church Hall on the 25th February after you’ve had your pancakes. They will be touring the show more, but in small chunks.

If we’d have gone by boat we’d have stayed for a drink but with one bus back an hour we headed to the bus stop and waited in the rain. Back at Sheepcote Street Bridge the level looked like it had come up, but Tilly had been keeping an eye on everything and all was well on board.

0 locks, 1 spotted in the dark, 0 miles, 822.9, 46th play, 4 doors, 1 bathroom, 1 balcony, 3 times, 2 buses, 2 shows, 1 tea chest, 1 windlass, 1 squeeze box, 1 glass of wine, 50 including 2 dogs.

What I’d come to read, Communicating Doors

Over Budget. 12th February


A tidy up today, rationalising my work things. This always happens when we’re expecting visitors. Our friend Ali was in Birmingham for a few hours today, but the window of opportunity to meet up ended up being too short, so sadly we didn’t get chance for a catch up. On the plus side Oleanna is tidy again. We hope all is well with your Mum today Ali.

New socks

During the evenings I’ve been knitting some new socks for my esty shop. The yarn I used to use is no longer available, so I needed to knit up some new examples, which will all be for sale. With some daylight I wove all the ends in and took some photos. Hopefully over the next couple of days I’ll get them listed in my shop. I especially like the Kingfisher pair.

Mismatched stripes
Bold stripes

During the afternoon I made a start on costume drawings for The Garden. Drawn out in pencil, then the outlines inked in. I’m hoping to get them coloured up soon as right now is the prefect time to pick up some winter coats in charity shops, but I’ll need the thumbs up from Amy the Director first.

Sketch costume drawings

Mick did a trip to the bins and came back with a suggestion. The Malt House at Old Turn Junction is a Green King pub and at Christmas Kath, one of Mick’s sisters, gave us a gift card for the chain so that we could have a night out on her. A very thoughtful present that would only fill our bellies and not take up space in Oleanna.

With smarter clothes on we crossed bridge after bridge and made our way to the pub. We’ve been in once before with Bridget and Storm a couple of years ago. As ever the choice for me was between Hunters chicken, Tikka Massala or Ham egg and jacket potato. Well that was the official gluten free options. A jacket potato instead of chips means their deep fat friars are used for onion rings or things that contain gluten as well as chips. Luckily for me that isn’t a problem, so I had a couple more options.

Happy man with burger and a pint

Mick chose a Loaded Burger and I had chicken and chips without the bread and butter or curry sauce, this was okay but a touch bland even if they gave me extra chips to make up for it. A glass of wine and a pint of Abbott Ale went down very nicely, Mick however wasn’t allowed a second pint as Oleanna is still moored with tyre fenders at the moment and he might miss judge getting back on board!

We went slightly over budget, so after our food and the one drink we headed back to keep Tilly company with another glass of wine and a game of pawball.

0 locks, 0 miles, 0 visitors, -1 cataract, 3.5 pairs socks, 11 costume sketches drawn and inked, 1 wine, 1 pint beer, 1 burger, 0.5 chicken, 1 mound of chips, 1 Happy Christmas meal, 17p over budget!

All Hail The Haily Snowed. 11th February


With a gas bottle empty we’d thought about cruising out to Alvechurch to get it replaced and give Tilly some much needed countryside. How I fondly remember trees! But when we woke and checked the forecast for the day we changed our minds. 20mph winds, nowhere near as strong as on Sunday, but still not that easy to handle a narrowboat in.

I used to climb trees, now I just dream of them

After breakfast we made ready to move, one thing that couldn’t wait was water. Mick tried calling Sherborne Wharf a couple of times but nobody was answering. However when we looked out we could see a widebeam moored at the services, someone must be there. So we pushed off (well we didn’t need to push much as the wind did most of it for us) and headed through Sheepcote Street Bridge, pulling in behind the green widebeam.

The Polo boat

The BCN is narrow, so what is a widebeam doing in these parts?. Well it’s the office for the new development on Icknield Port Loop and they’d come for a pump out and top up of diesel.


Once the chap was finished with them we got some more coal, topped up on water from the tap with good pressure, bought a new bottle of gas and disposed of our yellow water. Blimey it was chilly out there, just how are the roses going to fare?

Winding the old fashioned way

We moved along retracing the now familiar route to Monument Road Bridge where the wind assisted us in winding, then back round Oozells Street Loop to return to our mooring. We waved at NB Waterway Routes, you never know Paul might have been watching as we passed.

Hello Paul

The wind was now really quite blustery, at times more so than it had been with Ciara, there was also the occasional flurry of snow. So for the remainder of the day Tilly was confined to quarters. I might be wanting some boot polish if the snow continues.

Sideways trees

The afternoon was spent doing some work. Sideways trees were made for my model and extra layers to help change the seasons. I’m thinking that the greenery on the sideways trees might be quilted fabric, which has different fabrics added over the top.

My main concern is the method by which the seasons are added and taken away. This will be done by the actors and needs to be simple so that we don’t end up watching two people carefully placing rings on hooks for five minutes and then later removing them for ten minutes. My actors are great at acting, but having learning disabilities makes some tasks take a long time. But I’ll discuss this with Amy the Director who knows peoples strengths better than me and this is what a white card model is for. Only one piece left to make and the model will be finished, just the costume designs to do now.

Camouflage netting for Autumn

During the day C&RT stoppage notices have been coming in. Also the boating Facebook groups have been filled with photos of the storm damage caused by Ciara. The Pennine waterways have been hit badly as they were during the Boxing Day storms in 2015. Some boats have been left high and dry once the waters receded. In other places there has been damage to the canal infrastructure. Footage of the Figure of Three Locks on the Calder and Hebble shows huge mounds of detritus above the top gates and where the bywash normally is has been totally washed away.

Then the penny dropped with me. Figure of Three Locks is east of Huddersfield and west of Wakefield, making the only currently navigable route into Huddersfield the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. My show in the summer is in Huddersfield, then a week later in York. We’d planned on mooring in Huddersfield for the production week and then cruising to York. Right now to do this we’d need to go back through Standedge Tunnel and cross the Pennines by the Leeds Liverpool Canal. As much as this would be a lovely cruise to York it would take us far too long (109.5 hours) in the window between shows!

Of course things may change between now and the summer. So we will be keeping a close eye on the stoppage notices over then next few months. Currently it looks like I’ll be commuting to work.

0 locks, 0.68 miles, 2 bags coal, 1 straight, 1 wind, 1 right, 1 left, 1 full water tank, 1 empty wee tank, 1 gas bottle, 4 snowy moments, 2 soups, 4 sideways trees, 1 penny dropped, 109.5hrs instead of 27hrs, 2 boaters waiting to see what happens, 4 days till the next named storm!

3000! 10th February


Mick had his eyes tested a couple of weeks ago and today it was my turn. We always go to Boots, hoping that there will be some link to previous tests, but their systems still haven’t been sorted so that they can compare digital photos of the back of your eyes with previous ones. Certainly at the High Street branch of Boots they look like they keep everyone’s details on cards in a long line of filing cabinets.

I had all the normal tests, had difficulty with the periphery vision test as I did last time and had to redo it. The usual comment about high blood pressure came up, apparently I have wiggly veins in my eye which suggests this. The optician wanted me to get this checked out ASAP along with referring me through my GP for another test.


This is one of those moments as a boater that you don’t fit into the normal sized and shaped box. So you spend sometime explaining.

My GP is in Scarborough, I’m not likely to be there until the summer, maybe, unless I need to go there. My address is London, this is a correspondence address and I may not go there until December. I have also got a medical address in Scarborough, but my GP seems to have been able to work with my London address recently. I however do not live in any of these places as I live on a boat and constantly move around the country. I am currently in Birmingham, I refrained from calling it BUMingham as I didn’t want to cause offence.

Naturally I really don’t want to head all the way to Scarborough for my GP to do a blood pressure test which was likely to be normal, as it has been before. This was quite an easy one to solve as this Boots has all sorts of clinics in its basement, one being a Walk-in Centre. So I promised to go there. The referral, well we’ll have to wait and see. She asked where I might be next week, suggesting I may get an appointment in Birmingham, bingo! However when this happened to Mick a couple of years ago in Chester his refferal didn’t come through for weeks by which time we’d made it to Gloucester. So we’ll wait and see what happens with that.

No new glasses required, but my next test will be in 12 months not 48.

With a letter in hand I walked straight over to the Walk-in Centre, filled out the form and sat down expecting to have quite a long wait. After about twenty minutes my name was called, pressure checked in all of five minutes. Verdict all normal as I thought. But better to be sure, just glad I hadn’t booked a train ticket to go to Scarborough.

The day has been blustery and wet. At times it has been trying to snow, but not succeeding.

Back at Oleanna, Tilly had been allowed out today, not that she’s that keen.

At 17:44 I wrapped up warm and headed out to sit in the pram cover. Oleanna was about to hit a milestone. At 17:45 the digital engine hours clicked/flashed from 2999.9 to 3000.0.


0 locks, 0 miles, 0 straights, 0 lefts, 0 reverses,1 needless alley, 2 tortuous eyes tested, 1 needless blood pressure test, 2 discs, 1 lucky dip referral, 1 sleety day, 2 late to work, 2 wishes of a speedy recovery for Paul, 3000 engine hours.

Sitting Out The Storm. 9th February


A wet and windy BUMingham

Mick did venture out today in full waterproofs. He was convinced that the level of the canal had risen so walked down with some rubbish to the bins and then onto the top of the Farmers Bridge flight to see if the water was flowing over the top of the gates.

The wind and rain for much of the day wasn’t as horrendous as we’d been expecting. The occasional squally shower and big gust of wind, but certainly nothing as rocky as we had last summer when we were moored in Marlow. That storm made me a touch seasick, but today was nothing of the sort. I think we had chosen our spot well.


Mick thought he’d chosen well for his little walk, a lull in the rain. But of course things can change very quickly and he was very glad he’d put all his waterproofs on when the heavens opened. The level was up but nowhere near going over the top gates.

Model bits

Tilly resigned herself to checking the insides of her eye lids for much of the day and I got on with some more model making. I made the main part of the set, I just need to think out how to change the seasons easily and how I want my sideways trees to look.

Snoozy day

Late afternoon the boat in front of us started up their engine, turned on some load music and proceeded to untie. The wind did seem to have calmed down somewhat, but still it was a strange time to be heading off just as it was getting dark. A few days ago they arrived just after a comment was made on a Facebook boating group about a boat coming up Farmers Bridge with the crew pissed and leaving gates open. Maybe it was a coincidence them arriving twenty minutes later, but maybe not.

Farmers Bridge top lock

They reversed out of their mooring in front if us. It was very obvious that they would hit us and it soon became very obvious that they would also hit the boat opposite us at the same time! We watched as they continued to reverse back to Old Turn Junction the wind helping them to wind even before they wanted to. A half hour later there was a comment on Facebook about a speeding boat going through Gas Street Basin. The boat across the way piped up, then someone else around the corner, then the boat even further ahead of us. Everyone was keeping an eye on social media. Hope the boat got to where they were hoping without causing too much upset, but what a day to be cruising!

Sunday tea, yum

We rounded off the day with roast chicken and watched the new episode of Endeavour. The scene of the murder was at Church Lock near Leighton Buzzard on the Grand Union Canal which is quite some distance away from Oxford where everything else was happening in the story. Also a boat was mentioned going through Braunston, then it arrived at a very rural Gas Street Basin just a day later! Some speedy boating there. Not sure they can use artistic licence as an excuse, but at least they were continuing on from Morse where the canals in Oxford were always broad ones.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 blowy day, 1 wet day, 3 huge rain showers late in the evening, 1 soggy Mick, 1 bored Tilly, 12ft of garden fence, 3ft gate, 60 seats, 1 roast chicken, 2 speedy boats, 2 bumps.

Sightings. 10th February


A few days ago we decided to ask about our recorded sightings for the last year. C&RT have number checkers who walk the towpaths and record the position of boats along the navigation. Your position is identified to a particular kilometer. This is so that they can check you are moving in accordance to the terms and conditions of your licence. As Continuous Cruisers we need to move every 14 days to a new place and be on a bona fide navigation, not just going back and forth in one area.


We’ve never worried about covering enough miles to satisfy our licence. Last year we covered 1199 miles and so far this year we’ve achieved 120, some boats struggle to cover 20 miles in a 12 month period. So at times we get referred to as Proper Continuous Cruisers.

Our request was put in out of interest and returned a few days later, the last time we did one was when we were on NB Lillyanne in 2015.

Huddersfield Narrow

It’s interesting where you don’t get number checkers. In 2015 we had no sightings at all on the Huddersfield Narrow or Broad Canals (even though we’d booked to go through Standegde Tunnel), yet we got spotted twice in one day on the Erewash Canal.

Our report this time misses out our trip up the Stainforth and Keadby Canal even though we booked to go through Cromwell and Keadby Locks. No sightings either on our way to or from Sheffield, the flight into the city also has to be booked. We were then picked back up at Goole.


Periodic sightings on our way over the Rochdale Canal to late April, but then nothing until we reached Rugby at the beginning of June. From here there are sightings down into London and then Hanwell before we headed onto the River Wey and Thames which are not Canal and River Trust waters, so we disappeared for a couple of months.


On the Kennet and Avon we were spotted at regular intervals, three times whilst cruising. I don’t remember the notes on whether we were moored or cruising back in 2015. The number of sightings on the K&A wasn’t surprising as it’s a popular canal with mooring difficulties. There were rumours when we were there, that the local boaters know when the number checker will be round, so they move onto a 48 hr mooring shortly after the checker has been through. Their number is checked the following week and they push off early the next week before they get checked again. This enables them to stay in one place for two weeks and not just the 48 hrs!


The next sightings were once Mick got off the Thames in November and we were stranded between Oxford and Thrupp for a while due to flooding. Whilst we were there we talked to the local Enforcement Officer and our over stay was allowed.

No sightings during December and we’ve only been spotted twice since we’ve been in Birmingham.

All very interesting for us.

Shore Leave Cancelled. 9th February


Tilly’s last bit of freedom for a while

Over the last couple of days we’ve watched boats come and go. People have been choosing where to sit out storm Ciara. We decided to stay put. The lack of trees here is appealing although there is Tilly’s giant climbing frame outside. Here’s hoping the chaps have secured it very well!

The white card model for The Garden has been started and will be continued today. The theatre it’s in is a cellar which has a vaulted roof and maybe I’ve got a touch carried away recreating a suggestion of this. It may have been a waste of time as the pillars may end up just being covered by a black serge curtain, but it’s more fun to make.

Model box coming together

Ballet shoes have arrived in Huddersfield for the actors, six months before the show. All fit apart from one actor who despite having size 6 feet in width they are around size 5 and 4 in length. This of course means his shoes are a touch dangerous as they are a bit like flippers. He has two pairs of shoes in normal life which have been made for him. Our budget will not spread to custom made shoes, so after asking various of my Costume friends for advice a few wider fitting pairs will be ordered in smaller sizes and maybe a combination of pairs will work for him.

Stormy view

Yesterday evening the winds began to build. Mick had tied all the planks and poles to the roof and brought the life buoy into the cratch to save it blowing away. We were then reminded about our ash can as we heard it’s lid blowning across the towpath! Thank goodness it wasn’t blown into the cut. It is now stowed under the pram cover.

I think we’ll stay in today!

Overnight the wind has blustered us on and off. The gusts increasing this morning. On Thursday we’d been to stock up on water and diesel at The Distillery and when we’d returned I’d used the fair leads on the bow to help us achieve ‘outies’ as the bollards are a touch too close together here.

Retying in the storm

There was concern for the fair leads this morning. So Mick has been out to brave the gusts and rain to retie us straight to the bollards. He’s also added a spring line with the hope that this will stop us from bumping around all day.

Watching Ciara from behind the curtains

Unless anything else outdoors requires attention we shall all be staying inside for the day. Especially Tilly as we really don’t want her to get blown away.

Stay safe my friends, stay safe.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 boat remoored, 1 spring line, 1 model on it’s way, 2 pairs to make one, 3 years since broken ankle, 5 years since first contact from CID, 0 shore leave, 1 protesting cat, 1 flood siren sounding in Hebden Bridge, Aire and Calder closed, Calder Hebble closed, 1 boat under a tree on the Shroppie, 15 inches down on the Bridgewater level, 31 yellow 5 white reaches on the Thames yesterday, but will they survive the storm!