Category Archives: Pantomime

Self Catering. 3rd April

Lockdown Mooring 2

Time to wake my sourdough starter up this morning. I let it warm up when out of the fridge and then gave it a feed popping it on the proving shelf, high up to do it’s stuff. It bubbled up, but not as far as it has done in the past, so I may need to keep feeding it for a couple of days before it’s really good for baking again. A shame really as I was keen to get a loaf baked so that a hefty hint could be put in for a cooked breakfast one morning soon, poached eggs so need to be on a slice of toast! At least it will give me time to work out which recipe to try next as I now have no sorghum flour.

Mid morning an email I’d been hoping for popped into my Inbox. Will, the producer at Chipping Norton was getting in touch regarding this years panto, Rapunzel. If the health of the world improves over the next few months they will be forging ahead with panto. Would I be interested in designing it? A different contract to normal due to the virus and uncertainty as to whether the show will be able to go ahead which is totally understandable. They are hoping that by August they will be able to make a decision, if they give it a green light then it will be full steam ahead.

Rapunzel at Chippy

I have said that as soon as a script is ready I’d like to make a start, even if it doesn’t go ahead. Something creative to keep my mind busy would be appreciated. Anyway I’d only be able to get so far with it before needing model making materials, cereal boxes are just a bit too flimsy.

Heading to pick up the shopping

Mid afternoon it was time for Mick to head off and pick up our shopping, blimey I’d forgotten how bright his cycling coat was! Off he headed down the towpath to join the A51 towards Sainsburys. I took advantage of having an empty table and stuck the model for The Garden together and took photos.

Just the right amount

It looked like we’d got the amount of shopping just about right for the Brompton bag and a rucksack. All our shopping had been put in plastic bags, I think this is standard practice at the moment due to coronavirus. A shame that whilst other pollutants decrease in use that plastic bags are making a come back.

I was ready to disinfect things that needed to come inside. Other items were left in a bag on the stern under the pram cover, they’ll stay there for three days before being brought in. Having the pram cover is great at the moment, we can leave anything out there for long enough should anything have been picked up on coats or shopping.

Tilly Tumbles on the towpath

My sister-in-law Jac called and we had a long catch up about her escape from Australia last weekend. Getting a flight home had been one problem, but because she has an Australian passport she also needed a form to be filled in by the equivalent of our Home Office for her to be allowed to board the plane to come back to England. This took quite a bit of doing and it was just as well it arrived back just in time as her passport was double checked at the airport.

Cute cat

She’s settled back at home now. There were no guidelines for quarantine from the government on her return, so she’s not being kept in the garden room for two weeks. Instead she’s been thrown into the mass of extra accountancy needed by the company she works for to claim things from the government. She’s not sure how long her work will continue for but at the moment there is plenty to keep her busy.

with Murder in her eyes

The London Leckenbys were looking forward to an Indian take away this evening. That is the downside of being out in the sticks on a boat, no take aways and no chips. This of course is good for us, but boy would I like some nice chips! Tilly on the other hand doesn’t need to have her food delivered, as she’s moved into catering for herself. Today I have witnessed the devouring of two small friends who’d been invited home for dingding! They were just an appetiser as she still insisted on us feeding her!

Courgette and Greens pilaff

This evening after we’d eaten, we headed to the National Theatre to enjoy One Man Two Guvnors via YouTube. A very funny adaptation by Richard Bean of The Servant of Two Masters by Goldoni, set in the 60’s. James Corden certainly earns his keep. It is still available to view until next Thursday. The only down side was an interval of only 30 seconds, far too short to get a glass of wine and some chilled medication, never mind a dash to the loo! However there is always the pause button.

Our view this evening

0 locks, 0 miles, 4 miles by bike, 4 plastic bags, 0 boxes of wine this time, 1 model totally finished, 6 moving boats, 1 returning boat, 1 new panto, 4 fingers crossed, 0 chicken left, 2 self catered meals, 1 play, 2 sides split.

Heads Above Water. 27th March

Lockdown Mooring 1 to Lockdown Mooring 2, Cornes Bridge 96.

Back on the 16th March just about every theatre in the land closed it’s doors to the public, by the 17th all venues were dark, only a ghost light left lit in the middle of many a stage. Since then theatre companies have been doing all sorts of things, many adding online material that can be accessed for free.

From Thursday next week the National Theatre will be launching National Theatre at Home. One of their shows will be available on line for 7 days, starting with One Man Two Guvnors staring James Corden.

Animated Objects Theatre Company in Scarborough known for their large scale community projects and giant puppets have added various art projects for families to do at home, including building a biplane from a toilet roll and a cereal box. If you fancy having a go, just scroll down their website and Lee will show you how to do it.

Other theatres have launched campaigns to help raise funds so that when Coronavirus is all over they will be able to open their doors once again for people to join together in one room to enjoy live theatre. One such theatre is Chipping Norton, with it’s Heads Above Water campaign.

Chippy got in touch with performers and creatives who’ve worked there over the last few years and asked them if they could produce something to go on their social media for World Theatre Day, which was today. Now, I’m not a performer and would rather not have to appear in shot, but wanted to do something for the day. I make models, so that’s what I did. If you listen carefully you’ll hear Tilly’s bell.

This morning my little offering was all over their social media, along with Dames singing ditties or showing off their patent leather boots, King Rat threatening to raid fridges for Cheddar!

Today we needed to do some essential travelling. Our water tank was getting low and we also would need some shopping in the next couple of days. So much to Tilly’s distain there was no shore leave this morning, instead we pushed off and headed towards the lock where the new (to us) water point is.

We had an escort

Coming towards us was a boat, the chap at the tiller was well away with the fairies, I did consider shouting out to him but he spotted us just in time to avoid running into us. Once we’d passed all our neighbours we pulled in and started to fill with water.

Chiff Chaff

A load of washing was on the go and Tilly’s pooh box got a good clean and fresh litter. Mick walked down to the Chandlers to see if they might just have some milk, which they did, a touch more expensive than it would have been at a supermarket, but it was here and meant we could hold off going to the shops for a day longer.

Hello Blossom

The tap didn’t have that much pressure so the tank would take a while to fill. I gave my brother a call to see if there was any news on Jac and plane tickets. A day ago she’d managed to get hold of a ticket back to the UK from Melbourne which would be leaving Monday lunchtime. The first Andrew had known about this was in the middle of the night when he had an alert from his bank asking how money had been spent on Jac’s account in Melbourne when she’d also paid to watch something on TV in Hackney! She is however going to be checking with the flight centre every day to see if she can get a flight earlier.

Lockdown Mooring 1, narrow towpath

Tank full, it was time for us to reverse to the winding hole, where we turned, passed our mooring from the last week and headed back to Barbridge Junction. I popped up to the bow to see if anyone was coming, clear both ways I waved Mick onwards and we turned towards Nantwich.

Barbridge Junction

Our hope was to find a space near to Hurleston Junction where the towpath is wider, then we might be able to sort the boat covers and do some jobs on Oleanna without constantly avoiding walkers. But as we got near three boats were tucked in before the junction and once through Bridge 97 the 2 day visitor moorings were just about full.

Loads of boats

A printed C&RT poster stood on a pole at the end to try to discourage towpath use. A chap busied himself cutting wood on his workbench. NB Mountbatten and Jellicoe were breasted up awaiting the locks up onto the Llangollen to reopen. Several dogs ran about enjoying themselves. We could have slotted in, but decided to see if another mooring on our map might be free.

Men still at work at the locks

We pootled onwards, the next spot occupied. A week ago there’d been half as many boats on this stretch. A short distance on we tried pulling in, the Shropie shelf keeping us a touch too far out for our tyre fenders. Through the next bridge and we tried again. We were in luck, here was better too due to fewer trees so the solar panels could earn their keep better.

Who thought the Shropie shelf would pay off

A late lunch and only a few hours for Tilly on the towpath. Here the path is wider and we have the added advantage of an extra 18 inches of Shropie shelf to help with our buffer zone.

Walking with Tilly

The sour dough pizza dough seemed to work quite well, it’s not as sour smelling as my old starter was. A large oven tray was covered with the dough and baked for 10 minutes before I added the toppings.

Sour dough pizza

Tuna, red onion, sweetcorn (with added peas!) and plenty of cheese. It turned out rather well a touch more bready than previous versions.

A Shropie sunset

0 locks, 3.62 miles, 0.3 in reverse, 1 wind, 1 left, 1 straight, 1 full water tank, 1 clean pooh box, 2 pints milk, 1 sister-in-law booked to come home, 11 boats moving including us, 18 inches extra buffer, 1 walk with Tilly, 1 game of stone, 1 very large pizza with leftovers, 1 little film, 1 coal boat first up Hurleston Locks.

Flake Aroma. 17th February

BUMingham to Bridge 68, Worcester and Birmingham Canal, most definitely not BUMingham!

Pushing off

I’d made a promise to Tilly that today we would move the outside just for her, so that is what we did. There was a touch of rain in the air, and the air was still moving quite a lot at times but we kept my promise and moved.

That’s new

An earlyish start for us saw us going right at Old Turn Junction at around 9:30am. Passing under Broad Street Tunnel I noticed a new looking sign, ‘Black Sabbath Bridge’. Last summer a bench was unveiled for the 50th anniversary of Black Sabbath on the bridge/tunnel. We’ll have to have a look at the information board by the canal when we’re back again. As we approached The Mailbox the wind whipped up, blowing a right hoolie it was, we were glad we’d dressed suitably.

Worcester Bar
Edgbaston Tunnel

Onwards we forged along the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. Through Edgbaston Tunnel. Past the hydrogen boat where someone is having a go at developing zero carbon emission propulsion, pedal power.

Pedal power, future proof propulsion

The new footbridge by Selly Oak Sainsburys now has large columns of concrete on either side of the cut, wonder how long before the bridge spans the water?

New bridge coming along nicely

Then the smell of childhood. Cocoa. My childhood in York was filled with the smell of Matchmakers, a slightly minty chocolate smell. Today the air smelt of Flakes, Cadburys Flakes. It soon blew away as we neared the secure moorings on the off side. Plenty of boats here, one jolly chap said hello from the comfort of his pram cover as we passed on by.

Graffiti Tree

Behind the covers of the Toll House at Kings Norton we could hear people at work as we carried on straight past towards Wast Hill Tunnel.

Keeping close to us

We were being followed. Now most Herons you see on the canals get all upperty as you approach them and as you get close they fly off a hundred yards ahead to fish, only having to do the same again and again. Well today we met a Heron who had very different ideas. He obviously knows something that the others don’t as he followed us time and time again, waiting for us to pass and churn up any fish.

What’s going on here?

Approaching the water point there was a lady in a lot of high-vis yellow, she made a phone call and then walked towards us. The Policewoman asked us to pull in as they had a crime scene ahead, a length of police tape closed off the towpath.

Being right by a water point we would quite happily tie up and replenish the water tank as the washing machine had been put into use since we filled up yesterday. She explained that if we carried on we might compromise the crime scene. Mick replied, ‘We watch Vera, we know all about such things!’ She laughed.

Entering the crime scene

She knew what to do with pedestrians but hadn’t thought she’d have any boats coming past. Just as we stepped off to tie up she had a call back, we were good to go. Up ahead on Friday night a man had been assaulted, he had ‘significant facial injuries’ and then had been thrown into the canal where a passerby spotted his body on Saturday morning.

A tent with flood lights
More tape

Another Policewoman stood by a tent a touch further on and by Kings Norton Bridge there was a chap with some apparatus on a tripod, it could have been a 360 degree camera. The towpath slope up over the tunnel was being searched by a team of officers whilst plain clothed police stood by the canal. As we passed we were asked how long the tunnel was, ‘2493m’. I wonder if they were considering if the poor chap might have been pushed in at the other end of the tunnel?

Few boats moving for days and we have to meet one in a tunnel!

Once in the tunnel we pootled along, hang on, someone was coming! Just after half way we pulled right over and just about stopped, their tunnel light quite bright. The chap at the helm asked if we were alright as we’d stopped, we were and carried onwards as soon as they’d passed.

That’s a better view

No Police presence on the other side of the tunnel. We carried on a short distance and pulled in where Mick and Tilly had spent a night whilst I was in Vienna. Just as we were sorting out ropes the heavens opened and gusts of wind sent it sideways at us.

Inside, Tilly had already been surveying the outside and was sat waiting for me in the bathroom, SHOUTING!!!!!!

Four and a half hours!!! Bloomin brilliant!! But hang on. I’m not going out in that! Not for all the Dreamies in the world! The door closed, then opened again. It hadn’t changed! Several more attempts and eventually the outside was dry. See you!

STOP RAINING!!!

Today the C&RT National Council Elections results have been announced. Only one of the people we voted for has been elected, the others came very close, but at least we voted. Out of around 34,000 boats on the network only 2040 people voted in the elections, that is 6%. Congratulations to those who got elected, please report back in some form for those of us who are interested .

0 locks, 8.47 miles, 2 straights, 1 right, 3 tunnels, 12 police, 1 graffiti tree, 1 load washing, 1 keen heron, 4.5 hours spent well, 1 white card finished, 1 set of costume designs finished, 2 panto award nominations, 1 photo from Frank, Thank you.

On Your Toes. 25th January

Pelsall Junction to Pelsall Junction

Yesterday they spent the whole day moving the outside, no chance for a snooze whilst they had tea and certainly no chance of a game of pen before they got up either! This morning however things returned to normal, for a while. Then they sprung out of bed put their outside clothes on and pushed it away!

No breakfast!! Well I don’t blame them, somehow an extra little biscuit had made it’s way into my bowl this morning and I was a touch dubious about it.

Keeping on my toes round here

The outside was spun round and retied. Time to head off and explore. ‘Six and a half hours!’ Except in this outside you have to keep very much on your toes. There are so many woofers walking their humans that I just can’t relax. They come from there, there, over there and some more from even there!

Nearly at the trees

I almost managed to get to the nearest trees once, but gave up in the end and just came to sit in my escape pod or on the back deck.

Tom went off to get a newspaper and She got on with numbers. Lots and lots of numbers. Well I thought there were lots, but apparently there used to a lot more of lots of numbers. At one point today She thought she’d lost lots of numbers, that wasn’t good. I tried helping find them but only got short shrift as I tried to jump in one of the cupboards where they might have been hiding.

Trying to stay out of the outside and out of the way

Eventually she found them, in the last place she looked. They’d been hiding in an envelope under the TV and they’d all already been accounted for!

Lots of numbers

When Tom came back he got short shrift too! He wanted to talk, but She was having none of it even if he had just bought a new ash can with a lid.

From one of the two hardware shops in Pelsall

He did something with a few numbers and said that would do. But She kept on with them for ages longer, apparently this is because of Aladdin. She then logged on to the Gateway and read lots, we were told to be quiet, I wasn’t making any noise anyway!

After a while she smiled again. ‘No Tax’. I don’t know why She’d spent so long She already knew that. They had a yummy tea of stirred vegetables and I just got to look at the funny little biscuit again and do my best to eat round it.

Happy faces now

0 locks, 100m that way, 1 wind, 100m this way, 4 spikes left waiting, 1 Saturday paper, 1 new ash can with lid, 2018/2019 tax return done, class 2 NI paid, 1 scaredy cat, 1 worming pill maturing in the bowl.

2019 Round Up.

Checking our vital statistics for a years worth of cruising takes a while. We have a trip computer which records almost all our journeys, sometimes it counts locks twice, sometimes it doesn’t quite catch where we reached before we wind. Before we used this method of recording our journeys I would use canal plan to work out our distances. This method can also miss out parts of our journey but it does give me more statistics. You know how I like numbers! How many bridges, how many narrow locks and what distances we travelled on different types of waterways. So inputting a years worth of cruising takes some time.

Anyhow, here is our round up of the year.

The New Year was seen in at Crick. From here we decided to head to Sheffield to have the last snagging jobs done on Oleanna, we were fortunate that the route north was open with no winter stoppages in our way until we reached Yorkshire. Once in the top chamber at Foxton it was going to be downhill all the way to Keadby.

Going down at Foxton

Sadly our blog started to loose it’s photos, which is a great shame. It was a problem shared by many bloggers who were all doing their best to get things working again. Have to say we ended up jumping ship from blogger to wordpress, but posts still lacked their photos when moved. We hope gradually to rectify this by replacing the missing photos, I miss them when looking back. But this will be a long job.

Waiting at Cromwell

During January we cruised down stream on the River Trent, the weather was getting colder the further north we got. Our route was clear but at Keadby the lock off the river was being dredged, so our journey was held up a touch. Then with February came cold nights and the canal at Keadby froze over. So we waited at Cromwell for things to improve.

First go at Gluten free puff pastry for cruising sausage rolls

Daylight hours and tides meant we split our tidal journey at Torksey. The early morning start from Torksey was very cold, so I was very glad I’d knitted us both balaclavas, we remained cosy cheeked for our journey.

Cosy heads

Our journey up towards Sheffield meant we coincided with the bicentenary of the opening of the canal and a very unseasonably warm weekend. The chaps at Finesse replaced a leaking window, gave us a new one (our choice), sorted out our gas locker lid amongst other bits and bobs. It had been a good decision going to Sheffield, it saved them time coming out to us and it saved us money on the extras we’d asked for.

New galley window going in
200 years old

Next we headed for Goole, the lure of cheap diesel and a night away to see our friends Bridget and Storm on the otherside of the Humber was a bonus. We then hunkered down to sit out storms and rising river levels. Our original plan had been to go to York, but flooding put paid to that, so instead we went by train.

Bridget and Storm with their lovely house

Towards the end of March we decided to give a trip up the Ouse another go, the rivers were at better levels and we still haven’t taken Oleanna there. But first Bank Dole lock wouldn’t fill due to silt, then when we reached Selby the Lock onto the Ouse had a fault which would take too much time to mend for us to wait. This was a relief for Tilly as this was where she’d discovered the difference between grass and duck weed and ended up learning to swim a couple of years ago.

Mark came to meet us from York

At the beginning of April we headed to Leeds. From here we had a day trip to Derby Crown Court for the sentencing of our original boat builder (Stillwater) who had finally pleaded guilty for fraud. I also spent a more pleasurable day in London, having a meeting for Puss in Boots.

Derby Crown Court

With panto in mind we planned our cruising for the remainder of the year. The remainder of April we made our way up the Calder and Hebble and onto the Rochdale Canal.

Being a foot shorter it wasn’t as tight as it had been on Lillian

Our friend Frank joined us to do the stretch from Sowerby Bridge to Hebden Bridge, which included the deepest lock n the network, Tuel Lane. He’d not done this stretch back in 2014 when he and I walked from Manchester locking Lillian over the Pennines to get to the Tour de France.

Tuel Lane the deepest on the network
Frank

Once over the top we picked up a boat to share the locks down into Manchester. Clare and Graeme were over from New Zealand for a few months and proved to be very good company.

Mr Blue Sky and Oleanna

On the 1st of May, with the help of a Canal and River Trust volunteer our passage down into Manchester went well. The following day both boats headed down the Rochdale nine with an extra pair of hands from an old college friend of mine, Doug.

Nearly there!

During May we cruised down the Bridgewater and onto the Trent and Mersey Canal gradually heading southwards. A short detour up the Middlewich Branch to look at where the breach had been before we carried on southwards.

Climbing the Cheshire Locks

A pause in the Cheshire Locks meant we got to meet up with Tom and Jan who were over for a visit. For Micks birthday we moored at Barlaston and had a nosy at the wonderful hall on the hill, our plan still stands if any of our family are interested! https://oleanna.co.uk/2019/05/23/the-plan-20th-may/

Tom and Jan

We saw the end of May out mooring at Tixall Wide before rejoining the Trent and Mersey and heading onto Fradley Junction where we joined the Coventry Canal. With Atherstone Locks out of the way I spent time below working whilst we cruised familiar waters on the flat, it might have rained too!

Tixall Wide

A day trip to London from Rugby for us both, me to a seminar for Separate Doors 3 and Mick to catch up with his friend Siobhan who was over from Australia. Continuing down the North Oxford Canal to Braunston where we joined the Grand Union Canal to head to London.

Busy Braunston Locks

A visit to the Royal Ordnance Depot at Weedon meant I bought some lovely yarn to make a cardie for myself (it’s nearly finished!) and caught up with our friend Heather Bleasdale, who just so happened to be moored there as well.

Yummy yarn

Our route then up and down the Grand Union meant we managed to get to see both Mikron shows this year as well as teaming up with the cast and NB Tyseley to climb the locks up to the summit.

Sharing the locks with Tyseley

Tilly was left in charge for a couple of days whilst we headed to Scarborough to check on our house as we had a change of tenants. This meant we got to stay with Jaye and Duncan and catch up on the news from home.

I’d be in trouble if this photo wasn’t on the blog again!

We now pressed on down to London where we booked a mooring in Paddington Basin for a week in early July. This gave us the opportunity to catch with with friends and family before we headed back out west and down the Hanwell flight. I made the front cover of Canal Boat for July.

Mid July we locked out onto the Thames cruising the Tidal section to Teddington. From here we transited to the River Wey, brand new waters for us.

Up onto the Wey

With my final design for panto delivered to Chipping Norton from Guildford we could enjoy our cruising a bit more, despite the soaring temperatures which had us hiding under trees for a couple of days.

Finished!

On the 26th July we ticked off our third point on the compass, reaching Godalming the furthest south you can get on the connected network. On our way back to the Thames we met up with Adam from NB Briar Rose, both he and Tilly got wet that day.

Furthest South

The original plan had been to cruise the Basingstoke Canal whilst we were there, but sadly the levels were too low and the canal closed before we got there, so we spent a while longer on the Wey.

Hampton Court Palace

Onto the Thames where we managed to get a space outside Hampton Court for a couple of days and I discovered the joys of standing in line for some fresh veg. Gradually we made our way up the Thames. Waking early and getting going worked for us as mostly we managed to get moored where we wanted around lunchtime. Three years ago we did from Teddington to Oxford in a week but with a months licence we took our time.

Waterway Routes
No Problem XL

The further upstream we got the quieter the river got, less hustle and bustle. We met up with Paul and Christine (NB Waterway Routes), missed Carol and George (WB Still Rockin), finally got to have a proper conversation with Sue and Vic (WB No Problem XL) as we headed upstream.

Kelmscott Manor

As the rivers bends got tighter, the banks were harder to get up. A mooring by Kelmscott Manor required a rope from the post to help us get on and off the boat, but it was worth it to visit the house.

At the end of the navigable Thames

On the 26th August we winded at the furthest point we could reach on the Thames on Oleanna and started to head back eastwards. Tilly gave one of our moorings a double stamp of approval and stayed out well after dark!

Isis lock, Oxford

An incident with engine coolant nearly stopped us from reaching Oxford to see War Horse. But a nice man from RCR got us going again so we had a narrow lock fix and headed to the show catching up with Matt and Bill for a drink afterwards.

Lovely chaps

Then at the beginning of September we turned off the Thames onto the Kennet and Avon. For the last five years we’ve been meaning to head this way, but for one reason or another it hadn’t happened.

Gangplank land, the K&A

With tales of lack of mooring we kept to rising early hoping we’d get moorings. This mostly worked and wild moorings were very rarely needed, we did still have to use the gang plank every now and again. We only encountered one pound on our westward journey where even the longest plank wouldn’t have helped which meant we had to carry on up a flight with the clock ticking before locks were locked around us.

Over the summit

At Devizes we met an Instagram friend Frankie who’d been working on the flight over the summer. Despite following another boat down the flight we made good time with the help of the volunteers.

The photo of the year, Devizes

Onwards to Bath and Bristol. Here we moored with HMS GB in the background and met up with two of my old school friends for lunch. A big shame we couldn’t stay longer as there was more we wanted to do and see whilst there, we’ll just have to save up for next time as the mooring fees are quite pricey!

In good company
Old school friends

The section between Bath and Bradford upon Avon was our favourite, with the aqueducts and views along with the second deepest lock on the network.

Cornwall

Mick and Tilly got to enjoy it for a week longer than me whilst I headed off to Cornwall to eat gluten free pasties and start painting my panto set for a week.

Pasty

Once I was back we had two weeks to reach Oxford, but the weather had different ideas. What felt like the monsoon season started. There was rain on most days, luckily not the day we did Devizes. We managed to team up with two couples from Bristol on a hire boat, by the time they reached the top of the flight they could work uphill locks with their eyes closed, we left them to master downhill on their return journey.

Tilly enjoying the big trees

Our second low pound struck as we tried to leave Cobblers Lock, Oleanna was sat firmly on the ground and unable to leave the lock until a good flushing of water set her free. The rain actually did me a favour as whilst we sat in Newbury hoping for the Thames to drop I managed to get my model for A Regular Little Houdini finished.

A Regular Little Houdini

At the end of October I headed off to panto land leaving Mick and Tilly a short distance outside Reading, hoping they would be able to get up the Thames in the following week. Our friend Paul came and helped Mick out onto the Thames reaching Goring on their first day. Here Mick and Tilly got to met Carol and George (WB Still Rockin’) who’d been clinging onto the moorings there before heading downstream.

Photo courtesy of Carol WB Still Rockin

Paul returned later in the week and despite the engine overheating and having to deploy the anchor they succeeded in getting to Abingdon where Oleanna had her second visit from RCR. Mick battled on against quite a downstream flow and reached Sandford Lock before tying up. Here the levels rose and fell, the engineer came for a second visit and found lots of crud in our cooling system.

A calm paws on the Thames at Sandford

With the engine in better fettle, Mick nudged his way up towards Oxford and finally made a dash up Osney Lock and onto the canal despite that section still being on red boards. It turns out he’d chosen his moment well as the river has stayed on red boards since then.

Pantotastic

Once I left all the singing dancing and glitter behind and returned to narrowboat life we had to sit out high levels on the Oxford canal and on the River Cherwell. We loitered in Oxford, but as soon as it looked like things were improving we were on our way.

Lakes not meadows

We paused in Banbury for Christmas haircuts and shopping before pulling in for a few days at Cropredy Marina, from where we headed to London for a Sibling get together at my brothers.

Family

Onwards to the top of the Oxford Canal the day the locks reopened and down the other side continuing onwards to Radford Smelly for Christmas.

Christmas

In Warwick we met up with my family and then picked up crew Mike and Chris to help us up the Hatton and Lapworth flights.

Our final visitors of 2019

The last few locks were done on New Years Eve bring us up to the Birmingham level for the new year.

Narnia Lock our last for the year

Quite a busy year. So our vital statistics for 2019

According to Canalplan

Total distance is 1199 miles, ½ furlong and 886 locks . There are 119 moveable bridges of which 22 are usually left open; 139 small aqueducts or underbridges and 20 tunnels – a total of 8 miles 2 ¼ furlongs underground and 8 major aqueducts.

This is made up of 207 miles, 4 furlongs of narrow canals; 399 miles, 5¾ furlongs of broad canals; 102 miles, 5 ¼ furlongs of commercial waterways; 226 miles, 6 ¼ furlongs of small rivers; 212 miles, 5 furlongs of large rivers; 49 miles, 6 ¼ furlongs of tidal rivers; 150 narrow locks; 626 broad locks; 109 large locks; 1 lock on major waterways.

838.2 engine hours

That is 255 miles and 272 locks more than last year! But 246.4 hours less engine running, just goes to show it’s worth having solar panels.

1336.93 litres diesel, 9 (although we’ve got 2 empty now) gas bottles (used for central heating as well as cooking), 6 overnight guests, 6 packs Dreamies, 1 cover cat, 32 friends, 17 Mrs Tilly stamps of approval, 1 double stamp, 5 pairs socks, 3 pairs gloves, 1 baby blanket, 2 shows designed, 1 cover illustration, 5 lots gluten free puff pastry, 9 supermarket deliveries, 39 boxes of wine delivered, 12 bottles of wine delivered.

Thank you for sharing our year with us.

Short Listing. 4th December

Banbury

Short listed

Over the last few days I’ve been working my way through the thousands of photos I’ve taken this year, auditioning them for our Christmas card. Short listed photos are copied into a new folder. This year we’ve had no snowy photos and very few misty atmospheric ones, so the short list contained quite a few sunsets and sunny days.

A close contender

Down to 29 Mick and I weedled them down to five last night. Sleeping on it we were now down to just two. The winning photo is one that I’ll never be able to take again. So this morning I set about laying it out into a format to print. This takes a little while, but each year gets a touch easier. I’d just got it sorted when it was time to head out.

To Chippy

The 488 bus to Chippy pulled in at the bus station, much to our relief as it was so chilly out this morning. After 45 minutes of winding through the countryside, pulling over on the narrow roads and climbing steep hills we arrived in Chipping Norton with enough time for some lunch, The Old Mill cafe provided us with a sandwich and jacket potato.

Back on Spring Street

We were a touch early at the theatre, but we certainly weren’t the first to arrive. The place was filled with school kids and quite a few general audience too. Our seats were upstairs away from a large school party who’d taken over downstairs. Upstairs we sat behind a group of grey haired recycled teenagers all with their Santa hats and Christmas jumpers on ready to have a good time at the panto.

Before the Santa hats and flashing lights arrived

Mick had missed out three weeks ago and we’d been trying to work out a time to come on an evening performance. But these only happen at weekends until the schools brake up and would necessitate the hiring of a car as the last bus back is at 6:50pm. So we go to see a school performance which is a slightly edited show to keep the running time down so it fits in with the school day better.

The local electric shop festive window

Mick seemed to be the only one in the audience getting the more adult jokes, but that didn’t matter as the fast pace cracked along on stage. Plenty of shouting, booing and the lady in front of us had a very audible laugh that turned the actors heads at times.

In the interval Will, the producer, came through to say hello whilst we enjoyed some half time chilled medication. I passed on my one note which was already in hand. The show was in good shape, the Smash hit it’s mark, the chocolate mice were thrown, we laughed, joined in and had a good time.

The bus journey back was freezing with the heaters kicking out cold air and the bus driver far too keen on his brake pedal. But we got home in one piece to Tilly sat in the window wondering when we’d be home, Well my evening Ding Ding hadn’t been served had it!

Tilly’s fee for helping on panto

It was worth the wait though as She had finally brought home my Feline Assistant fee. Five foil wrapped mice. They deserved to go on the floor, so that’s just where I put them.

0 locks, 0 miles, 24,970 photos down to 29, 29 photos down to 2, 488 twice, 7 mice, 2 chilled salted caramel medications, 1 panto, 1 hungry cat, 1 Christmasy day out.

Meanwhile Back On The Water.

Jericho

The ABC in Ealing

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

A shop window with it’s own Strowger exchange

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.

It smells of sheep!
The Liver Building, Liverpool

Last weekend Mick headed up to Liverpool for a night to celebrate John’s (his brother-in-law) 70th birthday.

Quite a view

There were drinks over looking the Mersey from Panoramic 34 followed by a meal at Radison Blu Hotel.

View fro the Mersey

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.

The loos

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.

The tour party

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.

Lots of Victorian rubbish

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.

Sixth brick just in view

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.

Oleanna sitting high on the canal

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.

The canal almost level with the edge

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.