Category Archives: Pantomime

Panto Postcard 5. Thank You Chippy.

44 hrs

Pen duty

On Saturday night before going to bed I decided that I should check the ropes. Mick normally says he’s doing this, but both Tilly and I know what he is doing! However, Oleanna seemed to be listing a touch, and the spirit level we have on board confirmed this. She normally has a slight list and after not spending much time on board recently, what I was experiencing may have just been normal, but I wanted to be safe so popped outside to check there was slack on the ropes. Luckily there was, so Tilly and I could sleep soundly.

No Mick to cook breakfast on Sunday morning, but he had left a couple of packs of bacon in the fridge. A bacon butty was in order, a deluxe bacon butty. Mushrooms were added to the pan and some thin slices of cheese placed on the bread before the hot bacon. Yummy!!

Whilst Tilly explored outside I caught up on my paperwork for Panto and when she returned I headed into town to pick up some supplies for Sunday dinner. A new pair of jeans made their way into my bag along with a chicken and some suitable veg. Mick arrived home earlier than he’d originally planned which meant I didn’t get chance to breakout the yarn I’d just received until much later in the day.

Crocheted poppies everywhere

Monday morning and I was back on a bus out to Chippy where the town was waiting for 11am to strike for the two minutes silence. Today there was lots to do before the first dress rehearsal, everyone was kept busy. The actors were on stage and everyone from back stage worked around them and through their breaks, which was to be the case for much of the week.

Ready for the dress

The first dress rehearsal went fairly well, although the curse of last years Axe Man struck again, with several flown pieces missing their deads (position in view and out of view) or not appearing at all. We’d been expecting a reasonably early finish to the day but this wasn’t to happen. My evening meal ended up being a packet of crisps, but I was able to imagine sitting in The Anchor on the Staffs and Worcester Canal as I enjoyed a bottle of gluten free 6X.

6X

Tuesday morning I plucked up the courage to climb to the top of my set and repaint the higher panels. I don’t like heights and being stood near the top of a set of Zarges ladders makes me nervous, especially whilst holding onto a pot of paint instead of the ladder. Thankfully the ladder was footed and I was warned of any loud sound effects before they happened. As the day went on my list of jobs got shorter and shorter. I was even starting to work through the notes that would normally fall off the end of the list.

John sorting the curtain call

In the evening we had a second Dress Rehearsal. This went much smoother and I was able to sit in the front of the balcony and take photos. But the show was running too long, by about twenty minutes. A few cuts were talked about and the interval change discussed at length to see if this could be made shorter. After painting the floor into the wings black I’d managed to finish early enough to enjoy a curry with the Sound and Lighting Designers and the Production Manager.

Two pickle trays!

Wednesday. Preview day, an early start to do a few jobs whilst the cast were informed of some cuts to the script. Paint tins were sorted, labelled and put away for any touch ups that might be needed during the run. Then at 1:45 the lights came up on the first performance. The audience were up for a good time, a sixth form college filled the stalls and they had a ball. They should be rented out as a first audience.

All sorted and labelled, whether they ever get used is a different matter!

At 6pm the second show played to a very mixed house who were much quieter but still enjoyed it. The cuts that had been made earlier in the day had improved the running time, but more was needed. Long discussions followed, doubles of everything for the slosh scene would help with laundry between shows. Would just nips and tucks bring down the time enough or would whole routines need to go?

Oops, my third fish and chips!

Thursday morning, I had a lie in, followed by my annual bath. My landlady had left for work early so I could take my time turning pink in the hot water. Living on a boat you miss baths. When you stay at friends they always offer you a bath, but it’s not quite the same. Here in Chippy it’s almost like being back in our house, it was lovely.

I packed all my belongings and popped the key through the door to my digs. Sadly I’d not had chance to say goodbye to Suzanne in person and the card I’d bought her I’d left at the theatre, so i had to say farewell by text.

There were just a couple of little jobs to do at the theatre and then wait to see if the cuts to the show would need anything from me. All that was needed was some props being put into the store as routines had been trimmed.

Boozer

My floor needed a good wash and scrub in places, the crew having been a bit too careful for the last week, so Gemma and I got on our hands and knees making a big difference, still not as lovely as when it was first painted but it would do.

Boo!

Earlier in the day I’d had messages from Mick about the water levels in Oxford. The canal was flowing over the top of Isis Lock and the river was up to the highest we’ve seen it, Isis lock being only 6 to 8 inches deep instead of 2ft 8″. He was nervous of leaving Oleanna for the evening, so I donned my glad rags and enjoyed Press Night on my own.

Just a little bit funny

The evening went very well, lots of booing, clapping, singing and dancing, sweet catching, Oh No! ing and Oh Yes! ing. After the show there were drinks and a very good spread of cheese for us all to enjoy. A photo call on stage for all concerned before people started to make their way home.

Scooters

Without Mick to help me home I got a lift with John the director and Anna who plays Jack the Cat, back to Jericho where Mick loitered to give me a hand with all my bags. After big hugs all round I waved them goodbye, my second Chippy Panto finished. A lot of hard work, a touch easier than last year, with a very good company, may they have a great run.

Panto company, courtesy of Chippy Theatre

0 Locks, 0 miles, 1 bus, 2 dress rehearsals, 2 previews, 3rd portion of gf fish and chips, 1 curry, 1 very tall ladder, 1 very long email from Vienna, 1 long reply, 1 shed full of paint, 1 wooden leg emergency repair, 2 bottle brewdog, 1 panto finished, 1 big sleep needed, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

Panto Postcard 4, 2019 Nearly There

68 hours

Our mooring in Jericho

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!

Yummy!

But there was still time to enjoy a cooked breakfast and a home cooked Sunday roast of Lamb.

Isis Lock looking autumnal

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.

Port Meadow

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.

Rebooting

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.

Prices being amended again
Kitchen dressing attached

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.

Chris, Gemma and me with some of the LED woking

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.

Lighting a scene

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.

Some of the footage taken last week now added into the show

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.

Mark and Jon getting into the feline vibe

Interviews for the local radio were recorded, I may get on air you never know.

A second portrait needed

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.

Puss’s boots

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!

A special brew for Panto

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.

Glad I got the bus and didn’t catch a ride in the Dames car!

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.

Someone was hungry!

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!

Lots of post, including a shiny new red passport

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.

Panto Postcard 3, 2019. Saturday Escape.

73.75 hours

Hertford College Boat Club to College Cruisers, Oxford Canal

A very long week in Panto land, but a productive one.

Lily working with the Pippins

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.

Josh taking set ups

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.

Cutting in the woodwork on the boozer

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.

All wrapped up, ready to go

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!

That’s me driving for the first time in three years!

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.

Highlights
Shadows

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.

Green screen filming

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.

Dotty vault

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.

Susie mixing the smash
Actors getting covered

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.

Pepper keeping me company back at my digs

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.

Ready to start the stagger through

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.

The boozer, just needing it’s dressing adding

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.

About to start at 3pm

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.

Phil finishing the second coat of the base colour

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.

Base coat on by 4:20
Blues drying waiting for second coats at 5:10

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.

Glazed by 22:35

Meanwhile

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.’

More Panto

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.

Panto

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!

Back In The Red. 27th October

Sandford Lock

Tea in bed with the Saturday newspaper, just what was needed along with an extra hours sleep.

Tilly

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.

Sunny day

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.

All very well going downstream

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.

The lock landing on 20th August

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!

The lock landing today

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.

Red

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.

My route to work in the morning

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!

Panto Postcard 2. 2019

66.75 hours

The yellow line to Panto land

Early trains, two of them to get me to Banbury. Then the 488 bus to Chipping Norton, which arrived so I had a good half hour before the meet and greet with the acting company. The van was already being unloaded with the set pieces that had been built in Cornwall.

Pieces coming in through the front doors

There was time to make sure all was well before I’d be needed elsewhere. Unfortunately there were two pieces that wouldn’t fit through the front doors! I had given Ade and Lou what are known as the ‘Get in’ dimensions. The two offending pieces had a very quick straight cut put through them which will be disguised with a lick of paint when I get round to it.

Portals going in

The first day of rehearsals starts with meeting all the actors and other creatives, this is followed by a read through. This was very funny indeed, plenty of jokes for both old and young. Then it was time for Helen (the costume designer) and myself to be centre stage and show off our designs to the company.

Positions on stage

Over lunch time there was a production meeting with Lighting Designer, Sound Designer, Props Maker, everyone involved apart from the actors. My world that normally revolves at about 3mph was suddenly accelerated to ten times that speed and that is the way it has stayed for the rest of the week.

Starting the phone box

Monday saw the portals being put together and fixed in position on stage. By the afternoon a second van arrived with barrows, hanging baskets and the start of a telephone box. Plenty for me to paint.

Pepper being grumpy with me

Late afternoon I walked round the corner to pick up the key for my digs and drop my bags off. I’m staying in the same digs as last year, so no need to be shown round, just a quick hello to Suzanne and Pepper the cat and I was back at work within fifteen minutes.

Yummy!

Late evening we all retired to the pub where on the menu there was gluten free cider battered fish and chips, I obviously had no choice. The portion was huge and I did consider keeping half for the following day, but I did my best and polished it off.

Tuesday more set pieces went up, sliders were suspended. This all took time as the floor of the stage is by no means flat, in fact it dips by getting on for two inches towards centre stage!

Hanging baskets all blobbed and splodged

I took over the front foyer, painting smaller bits of set. Hanging baskets, kitchen counters, the telephone box. By late afternoon it was time to say goodbye to Ade and Lou. They very nicely gave me two bottles of this years apple juice that they’d just pressed.

Glitter tastic scooter

Wednesday was props meetings with John the Director and Jo the Props maker. The scooters Jo has made are wonderful. The huge vault door wasn’t opening quite far enough, so some major chamfering back of the built hinge was needed and I then had to promise not to put too much paint on it all.

Big hinge about 12 inches long

With the crew putting first and second coats of paint on things for me I could concentrate on doing the arty painting. Late on in the day more people headed home, leaving me with Gavin and Ash to carry on.

My pretty walk to work

Thursday the actors started to rehearse on stage. By 4pm the Pippins had joined them. These are local kids who get chance to be in the panto. There are three teams of four, songs are learnt on mass, but stage directions and dance routines all have to be done three times. I’m just about word perfect on some of the songs already!

K6 finished

This also meant that Gavin gave his health and safety chat to the kids. When I realised he’d started I made sure I went into the auditorium to listen. Sadly this year he’s changed the wording somewhat, Death wasn’t mentioned once!

Missed bits

During the evenings the stage is available for painting at the moment, so I’ve made use of Ash and Gavin to get more pleb painting done. This does mean that even though I’m last in the building I also tend to be the first, touching in the bits they’d missed before the actors start rehearsals.

Still things to fly

By the end of Friday night there were just signs and barrow dressing left to do for the market square scene. This scenery possibly has the most work, so on Saturday I treated myself to a sit down in a dressing room doing all the signage. The complicated floor has also been marked out, I just hope it’s still there after all the dancing next week.

Road sign finished

Once these were completed and a few jobs finished on stage I headed to get a Saturday newspaper and a few bits and bobs that Mick had planned to buy when he reached Oxford, but that just hadn’t happened. Leaving the theatre in daylight was a first this week, as I waited for the bus to arrive it went dark. Only the twinkling lights in Woodstock illuminated the journey back to Oxford.

Pub sign completed

I considered on popping in to say hello to our friends, Andy and Irene, who were moored at the end of the canal, but by now I was weary and wanting to get home, still with another bus journey to do. Mick met me from the bus and we walked back to the boat by Sandford Lock. After sausage and mash with a glass or two of wine I had returned to 3mph, Tilly doing her best to keep my lap warm in front of the stove.

Cat cuddles, only because I was nearest to the stove!

2 trains, 3 buses, 1 read through, 7 potatoes more,2 big flats, 3 lots hanging baskets, 1 street sign, 1 nick, 1 kitchen unit, 1 ancient Pepper, 4 free bottles Crabbies, 2 bottles apple juice, 1 wet day, 1 newspaper, 1 purring Tilly, 1 cosy boat, 1 day off.

Dropping The Anchor. 21st to 26th October

Theale to Goring Lock to Abingdon to Sandford Lock

This week has been a busy one on board Oleanna.

Yellow line at Theale

Early Monday morning Mick helped me with my bags to Theale Station and on to Reading where I headed off to Panto world and he headed to Screwfix where he bought us a new thermostatic mixer tap for the shower. This was fitted and we now have hot, cold and intermediate water in the shower, no need to look like cooked lobsters anymore.

Tuesday he stocked up on provisions for the dash up the Thames. The levels were dropping and yellow boards were starting to out number the red ones. With friends positioned along the river Mick was getting first hand knowledge from Goring and Abingdon.

Wednesday morning, Mick and Tilly were joined by Paul Balmer who had volunteered to come and crew for Mick whilst I was away. The cruise to get to Oxford would involve two long days. With Paul in charge of the ‘Key of Power’ they passed through Theale Swing Bridge just before 9am holding up a good few cars. Then they dropped down through the remainder of the K&A locks reaching County Lock 106 (the final lock) a little before midday.

Paul working County Lock

We’ve been wondering for a while if the K&A has the highest number of locks on the canal network. Answers on a postcard if you know otherwise.

The traffic light button was pressed and they were on their way through the shopping centre and back onto EA waters. For a jaunt they went round the Jail Loop* in Reading and then down onto the Thames. Oleanna had now escaped the K&A canal.

Blake’s Lock down onto the Thames

The trip heading upstream was a touch harder due to the current which was stronger than we’d had earlier in the year. Lunch was had on the go, helping to tick the miles off quicker.

Paul and Mick coming into view at Goring

As Oleanna passed under Gatehampton Railway Bridge, Mick gave Carol on WB Still Rockin a call. A space was available in front of Still Rockin’ and Carol and George were at the ready to catch ropes and help to moor up. Despite the river now being off Red Boards at Goring the flow was strong, so the extra help was much appreciated.

All moored up. Mick, George and Paul. Photo stolen from Carol

Tea and biscuits on board Still Rockin* was enjoyed by all before Paul headed off to catch a train back home. 18.41 miles and 10 locks. Mick joined Carol and George for some food at The John Barleycorn in the evening. Over the years our bows have crossed and we’ve followed each others blogs, but we’ve never had time to properly meet*, so a couple of hours was spent chatting and getting to know each other.

Tilly getting to know George

The flow on the river had been deemed too strong for shore leave to be allowed for Tilly. So instead on Thursday morning she received visitors at home, Carol and George coming round for a cuppa and a neck tickle!

Oleanna caught foam from the flow over the weir all day, a weeks Thames licence was bought and Mick had a look around Goring* and then was invited over to Still Rockin for some food in the evening. A good day of rest before the next long day up the Thames.

Friday morning and Mick was waiting for Paul’s return with the covers rolled back early. With help from George they ascended Goring Lock and waved goodbye, Still Rockin will now be heading downstream to their winter mooring.

A pause for water above Cleeve Lock and they were on their way again. Lunch on the go, ticking off the miles against the current. The hope was to reach Oxford so that I could return to the boat on Saturday night and Paul would have ease of access to Oxford Station to get home.

Around 1:15pm however an alarm sounded! The engine had been working hard against the flow, the temperature gauge (inside!) was showing how hot the engine was, too hot!

Mick put the engine into tickover, but things didn’t improve. Paul headed to the bow and dropped the anchor*. He was able to hold onto the rope once it had dug in giving Mick the chance to check the engine out.

Below the deck boards things were hot and steamy. Water and coolant were over the engine bilge. Mick topped the system up with water, the engine started again, the alarm stopped sounding and the temperature gauge dropped to about 90, not 80 which is good, but good enough for them to carry on to Abingdon to find a mooring.

Caversham Lock

They pulled in below Abingdon Bridge, the engine still too hot, was it a faulty thermostat? In the end it was decided to call RCR out to have a look. Rusty arrived after about an hour. Once Mick had convinced him that we’ve been on tidal waters going against the flow for far longer without any problem in the past they discovered the thermostat to the skin tank was full of crud. It was cleaned, dropped into boiling water to see if it worked. It did, but Rusty wasn’t convinced it should go back in. Unless this wasn’t the full problem it would be okay to run Oleanna without the thermostat for a while.

Paul had headed home and by now it was too late for Tilly to go climbing trees. A discussion on the phone at gone 10pm (my work finish time) and Mick thought he’d carry on to Oxford in the morning on his own. With rain forecast he didn’t want to now get stranded on the river if the levels came back up.

Troublesome thermostat

Saturday morning I received a message saying he was on his way, the Lock Keeper at Abingdon had said that there should be no problem getting to Oxford. Well except the engine was still being a touch too hot for comfort.

At 12:30 I checked the river levels on line. The rain was having some effect. A couple of reaches above Oxford were increasing again and Osney to Godstow Lock had gone into the red! This is the last reach where you turn off to get onto the canal. it is narrow and there is quite a low bridge too.

One red board

I messaged Mick. I could hear the cogs going from Chippy. Maybe he’d turn back, but then Sandford Lock came into view, this lock closes in a couple of weeks, so would be good to get through it.

He pulled in and opened the lock, the first he’d have to do single handed. Luckily a narrowboat appeared behind and pulled into the lock with him, with spare crew now they operated the lock and left Mick to attend to ropes. They were going to continue on to Oxford and try to get off the river, but Mick didn’t want to risk it with a hot engine. A 24hr mooring above the lock on bolllards was free so he pulled in there to have a think.

Why now?! Why rain now?!!

Being on a lock cut the flow is next to none, so Tilly could go out. Only problem was the amount of rain! This actually put her off for sometime despite having been locked in for days. The weather eased a touch and this outside proved friendly. I decided to bring my new best friend home to meet Tom, but the excitement was obviously too much for it. Tom picked it up and took it outside for safe keeping. He says it’s getting too cold now, so the back doors will be closed when I’m out from now on.

Staying put was the only way forward, Rusty was called and he’ll come back out to flush through the system hopefully in the next couple of days At least if the river goes red again we have a few feet to rise before the river would top the banks here and we’re on bollards. We’re also through the closing lock, so once things improve Oleanna can carry on up to Oxford and off the river, following NB Kamili.

Thank you so much to Paul for his lock wheeling and to Carol and George for keeping Mick company and fed in Goring.

18 locks, 42.63 miles, 1 left turn, 1 thermostatic mixer, 1 cruddy thermostat, 2 days with Paul, 2 evenings with Carol and George, 1 frothy bow, 1 weeks licence, 1 missed evening with Irene and Andy, 1 soggy friend, 2 buses instead of 1 to get home, 5 * things that happened for the first time, that I missed out on due to Panto!

Kingfisher Formation Flight. 20th October

Woolhampton Lock to Theale Swing Bridge

This morning I noticed that our window frames need a good clean out. We seem to have a crop growing in the fluffy surround. Maybe it’ll be something tasty!

Cress or something more substantial?

As we finished off breakfast yesterdays locking partners came past us, then as we were rolling back the covers they came past again, heading in the same direction as us. How nice of them to call for us to do Woolhampton Lock together.

The river joins from the right

They of course were experienced at this lock and the swing bridge that closely follows it, having been through it yesterday. Below the lock the River Kennet joins again at 90 degrees, this is soon followed by the swing bridge. The flow on the river can mean that heading downstream you won’t be able to stop to operate the bridge, so it is recommended to open the bridge before leaving the lock.

Power on
Both safe through the bridge

Crew went ahead to open up, from my side of the lock I couldn’t see that it was opened but the chap on the other side said it was as Mick left the lock. A bit of power was needed to get past the initial force of the current, then enough to keep steerage through the bridge where shortly afterwards the boats pulled in to pick us all up. We’d both safely made the transit.

The culvert work we passed has progressed into a lot of mud

At Aldermaston Lock we waited and helped bring a wide beam up before we both could descend. An off duty volunteer appeared and as there were a few boats he went off to get his windlass and life jacket from the car, a handy extra pair of hands.

That’s what they look like

NB Seraph went on ahead through the lift bridge whilst we turned to the services to fill with water, this will be the last opportunity before going onto the Thames. This meant I got to see what the underside of a lift bridge looks like from the road. At the services we disposed of all our waste and then reversed out winded and waited for the road to be clear to lift the bridge again. I was glad we’d waited as I got 27 cars compared to NB Seraph’s 19.

Hips

As Mick brought Oleanna into Padworth Lock I heard two Kingfishers, soon followed by the two of them darting past in electric blue unison, both banking at the same time to give a flash of orange as they turned just behind Mick’s head and vanished into the trees. It was like the Red Arrows, they just needed a few more mates to make a proper display team. Sadly no photos were possible.

Sticky sticky things

We carried on working our way down through the locks and swinging the bridges now on our own, each chamber needing to be filled. Every now and then the river would join again, one stretch taking us by surprise and speeding our way downstream.

Sulhampstead Swing Bridge and lock were to be my last on the Kennet and Avon. A shame the sun hadn’t been out for my last day of freedom before Panto starts. We pulled in at Theale Visitor Moorings, hoping that the Thames will have dropped enough for Mick to make progress upstream towards Oxford this coming week. Today more yellow boards, stream decreasing are showing, they are almost half way to Oxford now, just a few more needed.

Tilly had a good explore this afternoon as I packed, baked and booked train tickets. Mick spent much of the time searching the internet for a new shower thermostatic mixer bar. Ours has decided to keep a constant temperature, just about too hot! So tomorrow he’ll help me with my bags and then go and see if he can get a new one from Reading Screwfix to plumb in.

My bags are now packed and in the morning I’ll be heading off to Panto. Hopefully when you are reading this Mick will be closer to moving onto the Thames, my navigational and windlass duties will be passed over to Paul from Waterway Routes https://www.waterwayroutes.co.uk to help Mick get off the K&A.

Image result for puss in boots chipping norton

So until I get chance to post a postcard here, this will be the last post for a while. I’ll be keeping an eye on the Thames and other boaters blogs as I eat my cereal each morning before painting my arms off on Puss in Boots. See you all soon.

6 locks, 5.99 miles, 1 wind, 5 swing bridges, 1 lift bridge, 41 held up, 1 boat let through, 1 full water tank, 20 biscuits, 1 oat and chestnut loaf, 1 big bag packed, 1 rucksack, 1 bag of templates, 2 kingfishers, 1 boater signing off for a while.