Category Archives: Narrowboat Life

Tense. 14th July

Ballot Box Bridge

There was only one thing for it today, we had to stay put. Last night the TV signal had been checked and double checked. We really would have had to move on if the signal was patchy, but luckily it was fine.

Reception good

Boats started coming past fairly early, the first being NB Lottie Jane heading in towards London. Our New Zealand friends Clare and Graeme had introduced us in Manchester, sadly we were still having our morning cuppa in bed as they passed. A while later one of the boats that had been in Paddington cruised past at quite a speed, at least if Lottie Jane had booked one space would have become available.

Sharing my studio

Soon after breakfast I set myself up for a day of model making, hopping that today I would put my finishing touches to my panto model. Mick turned the radio on, followed by the TV, there was an important cricket match that needed to be watched. Today because England were in the final of the World Cup it was to be shown on terrestrial TV, a first in a long time.

Bloomin bicycles

10 hours! Those trees out there may have thought that they had disguised themselves, but I could see straight through the ivy. Plenty of climbing, pouncing and bicycle avoidance today. My back legs were in need of a good stretch and they certainly got it.


With the commentary from the Test Match Special team keeping us company for much of the day, the delay of around five seconds before the TV caught up was handy, apart from when they went to adverts. Blimey it was tense, time after time. How close could one match be!

Boozer complete

We celebrated with a glass of Crabbies each as I did my best to finish my model. By 9pm the last bit of dressing was added, security boxes repainted, the list of model jobs was all ticked off. Just the long list of Tech Drawings to work through now. Thank goodness we had a good portion of Paella left to eat cold as soon as I’d finished.

0 locks, 0 miles, 0 steps off the boat for me, 1 load washing, 10 hours, 8 taken, 1 tenser than tense ending to the match, 1 shade of pink which became yellow, 1 model completed, 20 rows of knitting.

Bubble Failure. 13th July

Paddington Basin to Ballot Box Bridge

Our time here was up, well at midday it would be. Check-out time is at midday and check-in at 1pm, not that there is anybody to check in with. Some people have opted to stay for longer in the basin, once their booked mooring has elapsed they keep their eyes peeled across the way. As soon as a space becomes available they move over to the hospital side, giving themselves more time, but this time for free.

Duck weed encroaching

We could easily stay for longer, loads more people we could catch up with. It’s been great to see those we’ve seen, but we both were looking forward to heading out of town away from the constant hum of the buildings around us and into the cool of some countryside.

Goodbye Paddington, Thank you

It looked like there was nobody on board the boat behind us, but as soon as we’d pulled away a chap appeared out the back, time for them to nudge up and be able to use bow and stern. We moved on down to the end of the basin and winded, turning our back on central London.

When we’d returned to Oleanna last night we’d been surprised at the amount of duck weed that had reached the basin, yes there had been numerous boats moving through the bubble barriers, but the amount was more than you’d expect to be pushed through on bows of boats.

Pushing through Little Venice

The bubbles were working at the first barrier, maybe too much duck weed had now crossed and it was multiplying at a rate of knots. Ahead of us was a green lagoon that had been Little Venice. Hardly any water visible anywhere. People queued for the trip boats, students threw bread in for the ducks off Rembrandt Gardens as we pushed our way across.

Nice garden

At the services there are two taps. The first one was in use and as we got closer to Westbourne Terrace Bridge we could see two boats there. No option for us but to wait today our tank was down to 1/8th and the next tap would be past where we wanted to pull up for the day. We pulled up to wait in the bridge hole, hoping no wide beam would want to pass.

Hen do
Masses of mushy peas

Go boats came past, the narrowboats through the bridge swapped positions, one leaving, the other sounding like it had a very empty tank. After quite a wait the boat just behind us moved off and we wee able to pull back. Oleanna’s length too much to tuck into the gap so her bow stuck out in the bridge hole. A while later a work boat approached, wider than a narrowboat, would it fit through? I pulled the bow as far over as I could and there was just about an inch spare, phew! The bubble barrier here wasn’t working, the amount of duck weed on the move explained the green lagoon.

A touch of pruning
Slipping away from the services with the help of Custodian of the Bins

As soon as the other boat had finished filling on the other side of the bridge we pulled Oleanna through so that we’d be out of the way, one lady asked if we’d broken down! Coal Boat Indus came past, so Mick flagged him down for a bottle of gas which turned out cheaper than in Uxbridge. Bottles were swapped as the dog on the roof helped cut back the overhanging tree.

As we continued to fill we emptied the yellow water and the next boat wanting the tap breasted up against us. once full we crept out from the inside and headed outwards, a mile along realising we’d gained a boat hook on our roof. I could have walked back to return it, but he was likely to have moved off, three directions he could have gone, it seemed pointless.

Slow going past all the moored boats not helped by the thick layer of weed. We had to wait for a line of work boats to be nudged out of the way for us to pass, a weed collector and a couple of skips fighting a loosing battle.

Boat after boat after boat

The moorings at Ladbrooke Grove Sainsburys were full, we’d hope to pull in to do some shopping and then have lunch before continuing on our way, but no chance. Happily a short distance around the bend a suitable gap showed itself, so we moored and headed off with our bags, the shopping list reducing to supplies for the next couple of days, we’ll do a bigger shop at Bulls Bridge.

How dare they! They’d moved the outside and there were trees! Yet I wasn’t allowed out. They came back, sat around, and then carried on. Didn’t they know it was getting late!

Stop washing Herbie!

The weed stayed with us to about a mile before we moored. A length of towpath empty opposite the golf club on Horsenden Hill was appealing, but this length is closed at the moment due to the towpath being resurfaced.

We pulled up around the next bend more or less where we’d left a week ago. The shouting from inside Oleanna so SO LOUD, Tilly was excited! Within seconds she disappeared into the nature reserve, showing her face a couple of times and returning for a late Ding Ding.

Straight through there out of sight

Our evening meal got later and later. I’ve been wanting to make a quinoa crust quiche for a while and we’d stocked up on the ingredients today. The crust is made from cooked quinoa, ground almonds and Parmesan. The quantity of this seemed a touch too much, but I forced it all into the quiche tin.

Chicken, bacon, spinach, onion, feta, garlic, quinoa, parmesan, almond. Yummy!

The quantities in the recipe were cups, so I’d converted them, despite the amount of filling I had being a touch short I still had way too much! We’ll have spare chicken to eat for lunch for a while. Six eggs were needed for sticking factor, but I felt this was maybe a touch too many. So instead I used three with some creme fresh and a glug of milk. It smelt fantastic, but maybe the creme fresh had given off a touch too much moisture and I’d have been better using more eggs as the centre of the crust had more slop factor than crunch. However it tasted very good accompanied by some of the new potatoes Marion and John had given us.

0 lock, 7.69 miles, 1 wind, 1 left, 1 green lagoon, 2 familiar faces, 1 hour wait for water, £33 for gas, 1 load of washing, 2 boxes wine, 1 reduced shopping list, 1.75 hours of freedom, 1 HAPPY cat, 12 meals worth of quiche, 4 years of being an amputee, 1 TV tuned in for tomorrow.

Shiny Boat Central. Day 6

Paddington Basin

A cuppa in bed, then a shower and we were ready for the day. Bang on time another familiar face walked under the footbridge into the basin. My college friend Kathy coming for breakfast on her way to work.

Kathy and me through the hatch

Kathy has worked her way around the drama colleges of London through the last few years and now is head of Production Design at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, possibly the highest thought of design college in the country. Kathy was the first person I met when I moved to Croydon for college and our first day in the student house together we just didn’t stop talking. We don’t get many opportunities for a catch up nowadays, so it was great that we’d managed to find a couple of hours today.


We headed over to Kupp for breakfast, Kathy must have know where we’d be going as she matched the decor perfectly. Mick and I opted for poached eggs with bacon and hollandaise sauce, whilst Kathy had wild mushrooms spinach and a poached egg. It was all very tasty, my only criticism was that just because my gluten free bread was smaller than Mick’s sourdough slice shouldn’t mean that I got less sauce than him!

A touch more hollandaise would have been nice

We talked about friends, family, theatre and boats. During the week Kathy lives on board Dora May on the Thames, her mooring just down stream from Tower Bridge, a fantastic view from their wheel house. All too soon it was time for her to head to work. Hopefully she may come out and join us for a day when we’re on the Thames, but we’ll see, she’s a busy lady.

Some shopping was needed, so Mick headed off again into central London this time in hunt of some new clothes for himself and a stock up of tea for me from Whittards. I in the mean time did my best to finish scanning my Dad’s second diary. Not as many pages as the first one, but this one has the account of his journey by ship to India.

A sketch of India

I was determined to get the diary scanned today, the only thing distracting me was the GoBoats. Several of them had been hired out to teams all in matching fancy dress. Dalmations, Rabbits in hats, Blackbirds, Elfs. Each one set off from the next pontoon and just about all of them managed to collide with us. We may now have access both bow and stern but it does mean we are the first and most likely boat to get hit. No wonder the boats have had more and more padding added to them from when we first saw them.


A new boat arrived for the pontoon, having to hold back under the footbridge as there was no space. Who was overstaying? Yesterday a not so shiny boat had pulled in and the chap carried his bike along the gunnel and disappeared, he was an obvious choice, but being shiny isn’t a prerequisite for mooring here, anyone who books and pays can.

There followed a bit of complex boat moving. The central boat moved out, the one on the inside then pulled out and moored on the Hospital side (they were the ones), before the boat from the outside moved into the inside, the central boat moved back into position followed by the new boat onto the outside of the pontoon. Everyone was happy now.

Mick returned with a stash of my tea, showered and put a new polo shirt, far less creased than normal but with tell tale signs of it being new. I still had 20 pages left to scan, we decided to be slightly late to our next engagement so that I could finish.

Ziggy keeping an eye on us all

Across London to Homerton, here I’d spied a stockists for Charlie and Ivy oils and bread dippers. One of these I use on lamb and veg kebabs and I’m having to cobble together my own version, which isn’t quite the same, the lack of juniper lets my version down. We hunted the shelves of Eat 17, but nothing from the range was to be found.

At my brothers they have been joined by Jac’s Mum over from Australia for six weeks. Not bad doing that journey in her mid 80’s. Helen is as inquisitive as her daughter, just with a Scottish accent. We were asked endlessly about life on the boat, my favourite question being ‘What do you eat?’


A lovely evening with them as ever and Andrew cooked a wonderful paella on the barbecue, packed with fish chicken and prawns.

Lemon Tart

Helen had made a lemon tart, the crust having been made with corn flour for me, very tasty it was. A good evening to mark our last in London.

Helen, Mick, Pip, Jac, Andrew, Josh behind the camera

0 locks, 0 miles, 4 tubes, 2 buses, 1 overground, 1 best friend with a beaming smile, 5 poached eggs, 2 hours to catch up, 157 pages scanned, 0 juniper balsamic dipper, 1 huge paella, 1 slightly nutty Scottish Australian, 2 diaries handed over, 1 slow journey home, 1 fruit cake of a cat, it’s time for Tilly to have some shore leave.

Shiny Boat Central. Day 1

Paddington Basin

My favourite bear in blue flock

One boat pulled out from the pontoon at 8am this morning, the boat next to them pulled across so as to reduce the amount of footfall directly outside their window. The first GoBoat filled with Japanese tourists went past at just gone 9am, no popping of presecco corks on that boat. The world was waking up around us.

A bit more rain overnight

The yellow water tank needed sorting and thanks to Tilly the boat floor really needed a wash this morning! We had a good tidy up and then Mick headed back to Little Venice on a bike with recycling and the yellow water for disposal. The custodian of the bins was still on duty. With fewer feet about the place I gave Oleanna’s cabin floor a good wash down.

The forecast had been for lower temperatures today, but it still seemed quite warm. To make sure we didn’t get hypothermia I popped the oven on for a couple of hours to roast a couple of small chickens.


Kath and Sean arrived for Sunday lunch. We haven’t seen Sean for some time, he’s been working when we’ve arranged a meet up. Today, as the weather this last week has been so good, he had a day off. He is a sound engineer and has been working at Wimbledon, no rain meant no play today so he had a day off.

Sean Kath and Mick about to dive in

We had a lovely afternoon with them, chatting and eating. The handy M&S next door meant that we could have some ice cream with our strawberries and raspberries despite not having a working freezer at the moment.

A Pride green wall garden

After filling our bellies we had a walk up to Little Venice before returning to the boat. Kath and Sean had come by car so that they could pick up a couple of boxes of Geraghty history we’d brought back from the house. They had been fortunate as the nearest parking space to our mooring had been available and free on Sundays, so there wasn’t far to stagger with the boxes.

Mid afternoon our nearest neighbour pulled out, Motor Boat Willow. For two years they worked at Bollington Wharf on the Macclesfield but when they had a baby earlier this year they decided to head south. Tilly now has a better view out of the windows, but there is no longer Thea the cat to stare at.

Bye Bye Willow

The title of todays blog? Several boats have come down into the basin today, most of them local boats looking for their next mooring. One such boat spotted the two free spaces on the pontoon and was starting to reverse back into one of them, he then saw the sign. As he moved his boat away he said to Mick ‘Shiny Boat Central!’ Followed by how nice it was to see such boats in Paddington. Just before dark another boat arrived and pulled in to an available space,they looked shiny too!

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 boats gone, 1 boat arrived, 2 chickens, 2 visitors, 2 boxes removed, 0 toe stubbings now, 4 lovely hours, 1 sunny day, 1 bored cat.

A smilier version

Last Lock To London. 5th July

Uxbridge Lock to nearly Ballot Box Bridge, Paddington Arm, Grand Union Canal

Yellow hose to water his garden

After watching a chap lower a pump into the canal, presumably to water his garden (bet he doesn’t have an extraction licence) we pushed off and rounded the bend to Uxbridge Lock. We dropped down and then turned into Denham Marine, for once we didn’t have to wait in line the mooring was empty.

79p, yes please!

Here is possibly the cheapest diesel in London, if you spend over £15 you can also fill with water. The tap now has a lock on it, so you can’t hog the service mooring just for water. The tank was topped up to the top but we refrained buying a bottle of gas, the price a shock after the cheap ones in Stoke. We’ll hopefully see a coal boat at some point and we’d rather give them the money.

Last Lock to London Town

A couple more miles and we had reached the last lock before London, Cowley Lock. We’d thought of emptying our yellow water tank here, but on seeing lots of people enjoying the sunshine with pints in hand we decided to wait until later. The yellow water has a touch of a wiff when it is pumped, also people just can’t help talking to Mick as he holds the hose spurting urine into our black container for disposal at the elsan.

Below the lock there was a handy space, we pulled in and had an early lunch. This is where I gave Oleanna half a wash a couple of years ago, a bird in flight had relieved itself all over her. I’ve recently been refraining from giving her a wash, hoping that a layer of dust would help us not to stand out too much amongst the London boats, very few are polished to within an inch of their lives. But most people can see through our thin disguise and make complementary comments.

Now which colour?

Over the next stretch I bobbed down below, only needed for navigational reasons now I could get on with some work. Now I have my paint colour charts again I decided to use them to select what colour I would use as my base for the panto portals and floor.


My helpful assistant decided to join in on the decision, however pink is not the right colour for the job.

Hello Houds

After a short while I could tell we were near Murderers Bridge. West Drayton is where we said goodbye to our first Second Mate, Houdini, in early 2015. We crossed the bridge with a full cat carrier and returned with it empty, cancer having gained another victim. So I always pass under here with a tear in my eye.

There were lots of boats like this on the Lee in 2014
That way

From below progress seemed to be very slow. Oleanna seemed to be in constant tick over, but where were the moored boats? There was only one boat, a big wide beam taking their time in front of us. On a long straight they pulled over to let us pass. Thank goodness we could have been there all night!

Look at that sky

No need to stop for water at Bulls Bridge so Mick swung the tiller out and Oleanna turned onto the Paddington Arm, straight ahead to London Town.

I managed to get a base coat on my model, then a first coat of green. I really hope I’ve chosen the right colour this time. A week ago it was all too bright and busy, so I thought a grey would be better. But earlier today grey didn’t seem jolly enough for a panto, I opted for in between, now i’m not so sure! I hate designers who can’t make their mind up!!

What is going on there?

We pootled along, passing numerous boats. In Southall nobody was feeding the swans, only one coot visible and the water point looks like it is now in use. Plenty of boats, piled high, their own shanty towns on water. I quite like them, but wonder how they see to move their boat.

Big development in Greenford

At 5pm we reached our chosen destination near Ballot Box Bridge. We’ve stopped here a few times now. Next to a nature reserve, a couple of hours away from Paddington, in Zone 4 and should you need it, a big Tescos a good walk away in the old Hoover building.

Zone 4 sunset

2 locks, 12.01 miles, 1 straight on, 1 left, 60 litres, 87.5 miles to ? 2nd colour, 3 portals, 1 floor, plus extra bits.

Oy! That’s Not Your Boat!! 4th July

Debham Bridge to Above Uxbridge Lock

NB Augustus came past us whilst we were having our cuppa in bed, there wasn’t enough time to get the covers rolled up and pushed out to join them for Denham Deep Lock, anyway I hadn’t finished my tea.

An hour later another boat came into view, we started to get ourselves ready when Mick spotted another boat behind them, they were obviously already sharing the locks, so no need to hurry. We pushed off and followed on behind them knowing we’d be the odd one at the back of the queue.

Heading in towards London

Chatting to the two boats ahead as they descended the lock, they both were heading into London, one to take their chances with the masses, the other has a booked mooring.

Filling Denham Deep Lock

With nobody coming from below we filled the chamber up, all 10ft 6″. A large group of students came up to the side of the lock to watch.

Please don’t get too close to the edge!

They just about filled the towpath side and I suggested that some of them move, just in case Mick knocked the bottom gate as he left, we didn’t want anybody tumbling into the canal or onto our roof. A chap sat on the off side closed the gate for us meaning we could be on our way.

We were now looking for a mooring close to Uxbridge, one with cover would be ideal. Soon there was space in the shade and Mick pulled us in, both of us doing our best not to get nettled as we moored up.

Leaving Denham behind

An early lunch then Mick was off to make use of his 60+ oyster card. He headed across London back out to Hackney where my panto model was sat waiting at my brothers. Hopefully I’ll be able to get on with finishing everything so that as soon as we turn out onto the Thames I can concentrate on boating.

A bit of shade left

Tilly headed off and soon found gaps in the mesh alongside the towpath to be able to access the trees and find friends for the afternoon. This left me with the panto script and a spread sheet to compile a props list. It is way bigger than last years, but with fewer tricksy makes. A set builder also needed more information so some of my technical drawings had to be scanned and emailed off.

Feline temperature gauge ‘long’ = hot

The shade that we’d arrived to was short lived. I had about an hours worth before the sun crept along the cabin sides, this lasted well into the evening. Inside I was at least sheltered from the sun, but the temperature kept on rising. Tilly even had to return for spells to be a long cat on the floor.

Yum yum yum

When Mick returned we made use of the shade Oleanna was now creating and sat out to enjoy a barbeque, the towpath just wide enough. Sweet corn, followed by some chicken thighs marinated in ginger and garlic with a hint of chilli and veg and halloumi kebabs.

THAT is NOT your boat Tilly!!!!!

1 lock all 10ft 6″ of it, 1.17 miles, 1 shady mooring for an hour, 1 bright mooring for 7! 1 oven, 1 long cat, 4 tubes, 2 buses, 118 props, 4 kebabs, 3 thighs, 1 model back to be finished, 1 cat preffering a wider boat roof, 1 big hello again to Ali!

Crocodile For Sale. 3rd July

Black Jack Lock to Debham Bridge 182

What a blue sky

Today we had a lunch appointment, but before that we had a lock and about a mile to cruise.

For Sale

The lock cottage below Black Jacks Lock is for sale, I’m not sure if the asking price includes the crocodile or not, or will that be moving elsewhere. Hope the new owner gives us something as amusing to look at. Details of the house are here.

It still hasn’t eaten that arm!

Last night we did well to resist the walk up the hill to The Old Orchard, a very nice pub with great views and very good food. But we knew we’d be eating out today so refrained.

After about a mile we pulled in above Wide Water Lock, I had a quick shower and then we put on none boating clothes and walked into Denham. This is where an old colleague of Mick’s lives. Mick was Les’s apprentice way back in his GPO days. They have kept in touch through the years and getting on for five years ago Les and Maureen came to see us on Lillian when we passed through Uxbridge, bringing a very nice cake with them.

Maureen and Les

There was lots to catch up on whilst admiring their beautiful garden. Then we jumped in the car and headed round the corner to Denham Garden Village. This is a rather smart retirement village, with a spa and cafe bar. Denham Film Studios used to be on this site where films such as Brief Encounter and David Lean’s Great Expectations were made.

Pint of Pride

The cafe bar was very inviting and here we all opted for the carvery, which was one of the best roasts we’ve had (other than on Oleanna!) in a long while. Mick had his first pint of London Pride too as the conversation flowed on.

A quick spin around Denham Village itself, passing Robert Lindseys house and where John Mills used to live, a very pretty village. It was a shame that we had other things to do rather than have a walk. Les and Maureen dropped us back off at the lock and promised that they would visit us later in the year when we’re in Banbury.

Blue and green

The pound had dropped whilst we had been out. Our friends Sam and Becca had moored here when they were moving their boat back to London last year, we’d been a bit bemused when we heard that they were stuck, grounded. But now we understood, this pound needs to have the lock totally closed with all it’s paddles closed. Both top and bottom gates must leak and the pound above despite being about a mile long can drain overnight.

Doors = Gates Pond = Pound
Noisy gravel

We moved off, away from the gravel works on the other side of the hedge and made our way down the lock to find a shady place. Just past where there had been an HS2 protest camp a couple of years ago we found a length long enough and deep enough for us to pull into in the shade. A perfect place for a barbecue, but we were still too full from lunch.

I turned around and we were surrounded by teenages

Next we had to turn our attention to emails to do with our house in Scarborough. Tenants, who’d have them! It also looks like we’ll have to hold off buying boxes of wine for a while as one of the showers needs a new surround, that’s another months rent vanishing before we get it.

2 locks, 2.22 miles, 1 hungry crocodile, 2 old friends, 3 hours reminiscing about telephones, 2 glasses of wine, 2 pints Pride, 4 roast beefs, 4 hours shore leave, 2 many tenants opinions, 1 new toilet and shower, 2nd sleeve started, 2 slices of cheese on toast.