Thank you to all those offering support and advice to Tilly and myself. Nobody has applied to be new crew, so Mick and I haven’t been thrown off Oleanna, yet!
We used to have a very good shopping trolley Debbie until it failed. When we moved onto Oleanna there was nowhere to store one (a design flaw) so we’ve used a bike as a mule when doing big shops since. Saturdays shop wasn’t big and I suspect my calf would have gone ‘ping’ anyway, it seems to do it at least once a winter even when walking on the flat.
The levels ahead of us on the Oxford Canal seem to be improving, down on the Thames every reach is still on red boards. However I can confirm that the river is starting to drop. Not much, but it’s a start.
Our washing drawer became very full when I returned from Chippy so today we went boating, backwards, to the lock. Other than pushing over to College Cruisers the other day this is the first trip I’ve been on for a month. Well when I say trip, I didn’t actually travel on Oleanna at all.
A slow hobble to the lock where the bottom paddle was raised but the top one was down, so I reversed their positions and raised the level of water to the canal level. This took the same amount of time for me to walk from one end of the lock to the other where I pushed the gate open and waited for Mick to reverse Oleanna into the lock.
A helpful passerby mentioned to Mick that there was quite a current on the Thames right now, he put their mind at rest and said we were only going for water. Once the hose pipes were connected together and the tank filling the washing machine was put on with a second load. As there was no pressure to move off we waited for the machine to fill for it’s last rinse and topped the tank up to full before we left.
Whilst sitting in the lock two C&RT ladies walked up with windlasses in their hands. They had come to check the levels. Today the sixth brick was showing again below the lock and the height of the canal was just about back to it’s normal level. We were asked to leave all the paddles closed when we left the lock which we did before pootleing back to our mooring.
The trip computer had been set for our journey, so when it was turned off and played the magic music Tilly was very excited. Head nudges to make me open the back door for her, but when it was opened and the view was identical to this morning! Will someone please wake me up when they actually manage to move the outside to a different one!
During the afternoon I prepared to do my accounts. This involved returning my work bag of brushes to the shelf under the boiler, removing the back steps and reorganising the wine cellar and sweeping up. By the time I’d finished it was too late in the day to start, maybe tomorrow.
1 lock visited, 0.28 miles, 0.16 in reverse, 0.12 forwards yet we returned to the same place? 2nd big load washing, 2 identical outsides, 1 less canine, 1 full water tank, 0 accounts, 2nd sock started, 0.25 miles hobbled, 2nd Morse episode, 6 panto show reports, 1 swallowed coin!
Well we are still here in Jericho. C&RT have given us permission to stay put until the river levels drop meaning we’d be able to cruise past Thrupp. There is plenty of space here in Jericho and only the occasional hire boat is seen moving. This weekend two boats went out from College Cruisers, one had planned to get to Banbury and back in a weekend, a cruise of about 30hrs, so they wouldn’t be doing that even if the Cherwell was behaving. The other boat just came to moor in front of us and was used as a base for the weekend, very wise.
Last Friday we’d planned to go and watch the Lantern Parade that kick starts Oxford Light Festival, but the rain put us off, our stove was more appealing to us than getting soaked.
Saturday we went for a wander to do some shopping as supplies were down. First stop was Osney Bridge to look at the river. Mick chose well when he decided to make a dash for it off the Thames a couple of weeks ago, he managed to catch the river at it’s lowest in around a month.
Two weeks ago a blue boat that had been moored on the canal had moved down to East Street. In Mick’s photos it had been clinging on, today it was on a list with an extra rope attached to the weir protection. How had they got the rope there? Maybe they had used the engine to force their way upstream! Here are a couple of links to videos I took. Link1Link 2 I am so glad that is not us.
The usual market at Gloucester Green was full of international food stalls, no fruit or veg on sale for us. We walked on to Broad Street where the Christmas market for the Light Festival was located.
Nothing took our fancy, but a cheery chap waved at passers by. This is where last year we got to see a lady with a hot air balloon, we planned to come back after dark to see what was on.
Through the covered market where previous lanterns hang above the shoppers. An Alice in Wonderland theme with the Cheshire Cat and Dormouse in a teapot. The market felt very Christmasy and a bakers had cakes iced ready for six weeks time. On sale were gluten free cakes, but at the price they were charging I was very glad that I’m not partial to fruit cake.
A stock up of my tea from Whittards. The lady was a bit brusk when I asked for my tea and didn’t have any containers to fill. I’d come on the off chance they had some as last year they only had old stock. But for future reference they will fill your own containers and give you 50p off. Now I bought 300grams of tea and was given a bag I could reuse, but I bet I’d only get 50p off not £1.50 if I brought three tea caddies to fill.
On the shelf of teas I spotted a caddy for loose leaf decaff. We’ve been looking for this all over. So we got some to try, it’s far more expensive than Yorkshire decaff in bags, but we’ll see if it tastes better.
The actors in Chippy had been going on about Vick’s First Defence and how good it was at keeping colds at bay. I’d been starting to come down with a post panto sniffy nose and headache, so we called into Boots to see if it was as good as the turns had made out.
A small shop at Sainsburys would do us for today, making it more manageable to carry back to the boat. With Mick having a bad back I insisted on carrying everything, just enough for one person. But as we approached the boat a recurring ‘ping’ in my calf happened. Three weeks ago this had occurred whilst changing buses, gradually things had improved. But now I was back to hobbling along not wanting to go too fast. This sadly meant we wouldn’t be venturing back into town to see any illuminations tonight, instead we caught up on some TV and I got on with some Christmas knitting.
Sunday, we had a trip out to the Co-op in Jericho, we know how to live! This is the nearest shop to us and stocked us up for a few more days, so no need to walk distances with shopping or having to take a bike as a mule. The Picture House in Jericho may entice us out if we are here much longer and The Old Bookbinders menu looked attractive.
I’d had enough walking for the day so we settled down to watch an episode of Morse, well we are in Oxford. Mick pulled a DVD out from the box set, the first episode The Dead of Jericho, how apt.
The Dead of Jericho was the first Morse to be aired and could not have been closer to where we are moored. The first death takes place in a house right next to the gates of College Cruisers, the second in the house opposite, 9 and 10 Canal Reach (the street is actually Combe Road). The post office we’d walked past earlier in the day was there and I strongly suspect The Old Bookbinders has changed since 1987, well I hope it has! In Morse it was more like a working mans club, today it boasts French cuisine.
0 Locks, 0 Miles, 3 bags coal, 1 gas bottle, 1 bored cat, 1 load washing, 0 lantern parade, 300 grams afternoon tea for the mornings, 100 grams decaff, 1 nose spray (which so far is doing the job), 1 bored cat, 3 for £10 co-op deal, 1 bad back, 1 owy leg, 1 Christmas sock started, 1 stew on the stove, 1 bored cat, 1st episode Morse, 1 tardis of a terraced house, 2 dead bodies, 210ft away!
About 97 sleeps ago Tom tied up this Jericho outside. He was relieved to tie this outside up as the Thames outside was all red and very very hard to catch. Since then he has moved the outside several times, sometimes forwards and sometimes backwards and sometimes backwards then forwards and sometimes forwards then backwards.
The first time he did this I got very excited. You see I get bored of an outside if we are there for too long. He filled Oleanna both front and back, got some more coal to keep me nice and warm and then he tied the outside up. I was chomping at the bit to explore the new outside, so rushed to the door to see what Tom had caught. There were new trees to climb, but the outside was still very narrow, he could have found a wider one!
I set off exploring and after a while headed back to Oleanna. I always follow my nose on such occasions so as not to get lost, new outsides can get a touch confusing but I’m used to it. I popped my head out between the bicycles and woofers to find that there was no Oleanna! What had happened?! Puzzled I checked my route, everything pointed to Oleanna, but she just wasn’t there.
What to do? I waited, and waited some more. Eventually Tom appeared, he said that Oleanna was in a different outside, how dare he move it with me inside it! But Tom swore that I had made a mistake and come to the wrong outside. There was still no boat where it should have been so I decided to see if he was right.
Four boats away! Somehow he’d swapped the outside.
Another time he busied himself. He tied up a lock, but it didn’t go up or down, we just sat there, for ages! He then tied us up again. Excited to head out to explore I dashed to the door and shouted to be let out. Within a matter of seconds I realised that this was the outside I’d been in the other day without Oleanna!
If he thinks he can just keep nudging the outside to keep me happy, conning me that it’s been moved!
She’s been home a couple of times from her Chippy outside. She’d stay for a couple of human sleeps and then go again, leaving me with Con Tom. But the other day She came home saying that she was back now. About time too, now we could get moving things properly!
They pushed one side of outside to the other side. They swapped a big red bottle and got more coal, we’d need more now that She was home. She then played ball with a woofer right in front of my window, have to say it did a good job of catching the big ball. Then they pushed the outside away, brilliant! We were on our way again.
Backwards, why backwards! The outside was tied up. Hang on! It was the other outside four boats away. Even though She was there it was still the same narrow busy towpath with nowhere new to explore. I’ve exhausted this Jericho, but they don’t seem to care.
Tom rang C&RT to ask if we could keep this outside for a bit longer. Apparently a nice lady said yes, YES!!!! This She is not nice and is not concerned with my welfare in the slightest. This She is meant to send us on our way to new outsides and be angry with us for not moving enough.
Now my crew are wearing out. Tom says he stepped too much when there wasn’t a step in Liverpool and now has a bad back. Today She insisted on carrying the shopping home and when they got close to the boat her leg went ping! She now hobbles around and would rather sit down. She’s also got a funny thing that she sticks up her nose to stop a ‘post panto cold’ or something.
So I am officially now looking for new crew. Ones who can move the outside every couple of days. Ones who can find wide outsides and keep the boat warm inside whilst I explore. Ones who can lift bags of coal. Ones who can walk properly. Ones that don’t squirt things up their nose. Ones who replenish the Dreamies stock. Ones that are not cripples. If you are interested please contact me via this blog.
Whilst I’ve been away working life of course has continued on Oleanna. Last week Mick had a couple of trips to London. His first excursion was to Ealing, where he grew up. He said it was so that he could go to Morrisons for some peanut butter (their’s is made purely from peanuts and is our favourite) but he also had a look round. The ABC (Old Empire) has been demolished, the front facade left in place, now covered for protection whilst a new development is going on behind. Here there is planned to be 200 new homes an eight screen cinema, shops and restaurants. link
He also had a trip over to east London to pick up our post, returning with three shoe boxes. Once the contents were removed Tilly tried the slipper box out for size. Quite a nice fit, I am reserving judgement though until I’ve tried the other two out.
Last weekend Mick headed up to Liverpool for a night to celebrate John’s (his brother-in-law) 70th birthday.
There were drinks over looking the Mersey from Panoramic 34 followed by a meal at Radison Blu Hotel.
Then a trip on the Mersey Ferry which was followed by drinks at The Philharmonic where Mick would have taken photos of the toilets but they were in use.
Then an evening at The Philharmonic Hall where the choir numbering 150 were accompanied by the Philharmonic Orchestra playing British Classics, Britten, Vaughan Williams and some Elgar. A very good evening was had by all.
In the morning there was a tour of the Williamson Tunnels. Joseph Williamson was an eccentric, who in the early 19th Century refused to give money to the poor but instead employed them to dig holes and tunnels for no known purpose. The tunnels had been filled in with Victorian rubbish which volunteers have cleared out and cleaned up. The extent of the tunnels is unknown.
On Monday morning the level of the Oxford Canal had dropped since I’d returned home, the small weir by Isis Lock not overflowing as much, perhaps levels were starting to lower. But by Tuesday the water was on it’s way back up. Mick headed down to Isis Lock to fill with water and do some washing, there is a tap there for the permanent moorers and sitting in the lock you can access it, lets face it nobody would be coming up off the river! The sixth brick below the lock was showing.
On Thursday morning the levels were looking a touch higher, the canal overflowing the lock gates into the river too. Oleanna was rising on the canal and with the amount of rain over the last few days Mick preferred to stay on Oleanna for the evening rather than heading out to Chippy for Press Night. Being on board, should the levels rise anymore he’d be able to do something about it. There was already a plan to nudge up to the hire boats opposite should the mill stream top the towpath. Being tied up to them would mean Oleanna wouldn’t be able to end up sitting on the towpath.
Mick had a chat with a fellow from the Environment Agency, the level of the canal was caused by run off in Oxford and not from the river. So the canal should start to lower once the rain stopped. The river would need quite a lot more water to come over the towpath as the whole of Port Meadow was currently being filled with water, a useful flood plain.
During the day someone opened the paddles at both ends of Isis Lock to help drain off the excess as the weirs couldn’t keep up with the amount of water. So when Mick came to meet me at midnight he had a windlass in hand to lower a paddle.
Two weeks ago there had been a blue boat moored near Isis Lock on the canal, the following day it had disappeared. A walk over Osney Bridge to get one of our bikes serviced and Mick found the boat. Somehow they had got down the river, were facing upstream and had just managed to tie to the end of the railings there. Maybe they’d headed that way backwards as the flow along East Street at the moment is very strong. I’m so so glad Mick made the move when he did to get off the Thames.
1 lock gone into but not descended, 1 reverse, 2 moorings close together, 1 trip to Liverpool, 2 trips to London, 1 ferry, 0 panto, 1 cat not that impressed, 6 bricks, 2 paddles up, 1 big step up, £91 bike service.
Sunday was meant to be a day off to try to recharge the batteries. It started with forwarding lots of reference to Phil who was working at the theatre painting all the 2D dressing for the Boozer. This I didn’t mind as it was a two minute job whilst enjoying a cuppa in bed with Tilly keeping my toes warm. Then the emails started with questions and requests, easier to do straight away than thinking about them all day. Have to say I did get a touch hacked off when asked a question I’d already answered four days earlier!
But there was still time to enjoy a cooked breakfast and a home cooked Sunday roast of Lamb.
With the sun out we walked down to Isis Lock, the level below quite a bit higher than normal. At the junction with the Thames the flow was a lot stronger than the day before, Mick said if it had been like this then he wouldn’t have tried to move the boat. We walked up to Port Meadow along the narrow path and crossed over the foot bridge, a lovely stroll for a Sunday afternoon.
Monday came round a touch too quickly and I was back on the S3 to Chipping Norton, this had to stop and be rebooted as the driver was getting error codes flashing at him. Luckily a five minute break did the trick and we were back on our way.
A new props maker was starting today, Emma, so a hand over was required. Phil was still about for the day finishing off bits which we put in position to see how they looked, which was very good. I did feel my age when I had to explain about pre-decimalisation and £ s d. Poor Phil ended up having to repaint the prices in the boozer twice, the last time with d and not p.
Tuesday saw the return of Chris the carpenter and Gemma, Production Manager. Chris worked his way through a list of jobs that had been kept for him, someone who could cut a straight line in one go is an asset. The evening sessions had meant to have been for the Lighting Designer Mark to plot the lights, but he’d been held up on a show in London, this meant we could get on with jobs in full light and sound levels could be set.
Wednesday and it was time for everything to be put together, actors, costumes, lights, set, props, sound, scene changes. The advantage of the actors rehearsing on stage with the set is that most problems had already been ironed out. There were still notes to take, being able to see the set and props under stage lighting meant there were things to add or alter.
Two long days sitting in the dark, taking notes and then taking advantage of the actors breaks to get on with jobs. I had become known as Pippippinpippippin, as I was a stand in for Pippins in the scene changes. But on Thursday afternoon we were joined by them. This meant going back to the start of the show and teching each team of four into the show in turn. This does become somewhat tedious, but it’s important that each of the three teams knows what they are doing.
On Friday we finished teching the show with the main cast and spent the evening with the Pippins again. They are involved in the show much more than last year and have quite a few complicated songs and dances, so it was decided to postpone the dress rehearsal that normally happens on a Saturday morning and use the time cleaning up dances and scene changes instead.
Interviews for the local radio were recorded, I may get on air you never know.
My lists of jobs are getting shorter. The last couple of evenings I’ve spent trying to sort out the back cloth and portals that suffered so badly with damp in the workshop. Flameproofed sheets of timber are used in the construction of theatre sets, this got damp after I’d finished painting causing the salts to leach through onto the surface, fading colours and leaving a residue. Nothing for it but to repaint large chunks of the main set.
The other job that is taking it’s tole on everyone’s patience is installing LED tape around the portals. This takes time, let’s just say that some people are better at this than others. Staring at a lumpy mess you’ve created behind the tape, then disappearing into the toilet for half an hour doesn’t get the job done, but it does mean someone else ends up doing it!
Yesterday afternoon it looked like the lights were nearly there, the final strip just needed connecting before we left for the weekend. But three LED’s decided that they no longer wanted to play the game and stayed pink whilst those around them changed colour. Nothing for it but to start again on that half of the portal.
I managed to catch a bus back to Oxford at a reasonable time, the bus having to wade through water. My walk along the towpath back to Oleanna felt very narrow with the water on the mill stream higher than it had been last weekend. I was glad of a touch more land between the canal and the flowing water when I reached the boat.
Tilly was very happy to see me, Mick having left first thing to head up to Liverpool for the weekend. Of course she missed me. But I also missed having my morning Ding Ding that Tom had forgotten!
I encouraged the stove to flame back into life, fed Tilly and then myself. Chicken pasta with a few glasses of wine. Mick had been to London this week to pick up post. So now I have my new passport several months after it was applied for (it arrived three days after I applied for it), a new credit card, new E111 card, a waitrose card we’ve been waiting for since we moored in Newark a few years ago. We also have a new pair of boating shoes each and Mick has a second replacement pair of sheepskin slippers. What a lot of post!
Tilly chose what we were going to watch, somehow I don’t think she expected The Rock to be about chemical warheads on Alcatraz, a touch disappointing as there was little climbing involved,but I didn’t mind as it had Sean Connery in it. Not quite the girls night in I thought we’d have.
2 buses, 1 chippy, 1 painter, 1 new props maker, 0.5 backdrop repainted, 3 dogless collars, 3rd attempt with the LEDs, 12 Pippins, 2 pairs ears, 1 very dark room, 1 girls night in, 1st pasta in three weeks.
Hertford College Boat Club to College Cruisers, Oxford Canal
A very long week in Panto land, but a productive one.
Two buses got me back to Chippy by 11am on Monday. The cast take over the stage now for much of the day, but lunchtimes and the evenings it is free.
Monday we had a photo shoot for publicity photos for the show. We set up the Square setting as that was the most complete, actors donned their costumes and ‘set up’ photos were taken by Josh Tomalin.
The set being mainly sliders means that I can pull bits out to paint and then slot them back in whilst another scene is being rehearsed to dry without the possibility of actors getting covered in paint.
On Tuesday I took advantage of not being able to get to much on stage and sorted sending my model box out to Vienna. This took so long to fill out the forms on line. I could quite easily measure the box but weighing it was more problematical. The Front of House money scales came to my rescue, the box weighing 2kg which is £220 in £1 coins!
In the evening Jo (the props maker) and I tried out the Dames car on the front of the stage whilst the technicians and Mark (Lighting Designer) hung lanterns around us. By the end of the day there were working headlights and I’d managed to paint my panto anaglypta in the boozer.
Wednesday was a filming day. The panto has some sections which are shown on a projection screen. So these were filmed in front of green fabric so that suitable backgrounds can be added. Then footage for the car chase was looked at with the actors in the car. Lots of fun.
On Thursday I spent quite a bit of time getting dotty in the Bank of England Vault. I ended up getting carried away with the dots so had to paint every third one of them out. It being Halloween the actors had decided to spend the day in fancy dress. We had a strawberry, mustard, The Joker amongst other things.
Friday was a very messy day. A panto isn’t a panto without a slosh scene. Last year this was tame compared to this year.
A huge bowl of Smash was required, costumes are made with ease of cleaning in mind and a large tarpaulin covered the stage floor. Various consistencies of smash were tried out, thinner worked better and tended not to clog nostrils up quite so much. On the set side of things I am going to need to glaze a lot of it as there is no knowing where the smash will land.
In the evening I worked on the front edge of the stage, one last curve needed marking out. I was back to measuring and scaling up from my model, then joining the dots, followed by painting as good a curve as I could over mouldings. This involved adding a bit, loosing a bit, adding a bit etc whilst Mark and the chaps focused the lights on stage.
Saturday morning, time for a stagger through of the whole show for the actors and a chance for everyone else to watch and see what is missing and needed for the technical rehearsals next week.
This went well, a couple of scenes scripts were still in hands and we had to stop and start for scene changes, these will be worked out next week.
Once the actors and props were clear of the stage it was time to get to work. Mark had done his best to get most of the lights focused, but still needed a bit of dark time. Jon (Sound Designer) was also around positioning speakers and microphones, a lot of people when you need a clear stage to start painting the floor. But everyone was understanding and accommodating.
The cavalry arrived in the shape of Phil, a scenic artist from Bristol. She has come to help out for a few days and was thrown in at the deep end helping me with the floor. We soon discovered what a small world it was from Skye to Hull to Bristol.
The heating was on full blast to help the paint dry. We gave first, second and to one particularly annoying shade of blue a forth coat of paint before we broke for something to eat at 9:15 leaving the paint to dry on it’s own. Half an hour later we were good to go with a coat of glaze. This was on and drying with twenty minutes to go before the last bus left Chipping Norton for Oxford. Much better than last year when I finished at 2am and couldn’t escape to the boat until 6am.
This morning, Saturday, when I’d turned my phone on I received a message from Mick. Yesterday he’d been up to Osney Lock to check on the flow above the lock, any possible moorings and if it would be possible to turn into Sheepwash Channel and then up onto the canal. More rain and strong winds were forecast for this morning, should he push on or stay put. The message said, ‘Just setting off now to beat the wind and rain.’
By the time I’d had a shower he’d negotiated his way past numerous rowers on the Thames to Osney Lock. Finishing breakfast he’d single handed Osney Lock. This involves a lot of walking round as the lock landings are on the offside and control panels on the towpath side.
The next stretch would be the hardest. The narrow channel meaning the flow would be strongest. Osney Bridge to negotiate and then the turn onto Sheepwash. Changing from going upstream to downstream with a right hand bend the currents couldn’t be predicted, there was even an Eddie there to confuse matters. Mick made the turn, passed the disused swing railway bridge and then turned onto the lock landing below Isis Lock. This was conveyed just as I reached the front doors of the theatre.
In the now pouring down rain he worked Oleanna up the narrow lock and at last he’d escaped the Thames. Two weeks later than originally planned, but safe back on the cut. No photos of this expedition as Mick was quite busy and it was raining somewhat.
2 locks, 2.31 miles, 1 right, 1 left, 1 red board, 3 buses, 1 car, almost 2 weeks in 1, 1 scenic cavalry, 1st glaze, 2nd tomorrow, 1 day off, 3 2 1mph, 1 boat escaped, 1 designer escaped, 1 lazy day planned, 1 escape pod to be put away!
Tea in bed with the Saturday newspaper, just what was needed along with an extra hours sleep.
The sun was out warming the lock cut and making it steam. At 8am we got the first rowing boat arrive and sit chatting for ages as we read the papers. Then as the world warmed up more people walked past on the towpath.
Mick spotted a Lock Keeper and was about to say we’d like to stay a while due to our engine overheating, but the Lockie beat him to it saying that the river was back on Red Boards again, so our stay for the time being will be free.
I checked the levels and sure enough this reach isn’t the only one to have gone red overnight. It’s interesting how often they update the conditions, a week ago there were four updates in a day, but today there had only been one in 24hrs.
We had a long discussion this morning, should we eat out at the pub across the way, or should we cook ourselves. The later meant having to go shopping, we chose this option as we knew we’d end up with a much better roast for half the price. Mick headed off on a bike to a big Sainsburys where most of Oxford seemed to be restocking their cupboards.
Tilly and I stayed put enjoying the sunshine, watching a chap row by standing up, bet that’s hard work going up stream. What a lovely day for doing just about nothing.
After lunch we went for a wander. Coming up the lock was a boat Mick recognised from Goring, the one with the cats on board. We chatted to the chap who moored behind us. They’d come through Abingdon this morning, fighting against the stream believing it to be on yellow boards, when they checked quarter of an hour later, it was on red. They battled their way upstream at about 1mph against the current. Serious hard work. Oleanna won’t be doing any of that!
We walked down to look at the reach below the lock, it was very high, higher than yesterday, just about to come over the lock landing. Back in mid August there had been at least two foot below the landing visible. The stream from the weir was very strong, I’m surprised the boat had managed to come past it.
A sunny slow quiet day ending with a nice roast chicken before I head back to Chippy tomorrow and paint my arms off for a second week. Here’s hoping the levels improve along with Oleanna’s engine.
0 locks, 0 miles, 1 bike ride, 1 lazy morning, 1 lazy afternoon, 1 lazy evening, 1 roast chicken,1 boat, 2 kids, 3 dogs, 5 cats that’s one very full boat behind us!