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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The last few locks were done on New Years Eve bring us up to the Birmingham level for the new 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Whilst I’ve been away working life of course has continued on Oleanna. Last week Mick had a couple of trips to London. His first excursion was to Ealing, where he grew up. He said it was so that he could go to Morrisons for some peanut butter (their’s is made purely from peanuts and is our favourite) but he also had a look round. The ABC (Old Empire) has been demolished, the front facade left in place, now covered for protection whilst a new development is going on behind. Here there is planned to be 200 new homes an eight screen cinema, shops and restaurants. link
He also had a trip over to east London to pick up our post, returning with three shoe boxes. Once the contents were removed Tilly tried the slipper box out for size. Quite a nice fit, I am reserving judgement though until I’ve tried the other two out.
Last weekend Mick headed up to Liverpool for a night to celebrate John’s (his brother-in-law) 70th birthday.
There were drinks over looking the Mersey from Panoramic 34 followed by a meal at Radison Blu Hotel.
Then a trip on the Mersey Ferry which was followed by drinks at The Philharmonic where Mick would have taken photos of the toilets but they were in use.
Then an evening at The Philharmonic Hall where the choir numbering 150 were accompanied by the Philharmonic Orchestra playing British Classics, Britten, Vaughan Williams and some Elgar. A very good evening was had by all.
In the morning there was a tour of the Williamson Tunnels. Joseph Williamson was an eccentric, who in the early 19th Century refused to give money to the poor but instead employed them to dig holes and tunnels for no known purpose. The tunnels had been filled in with Victorian rubbish which volunteers have cleared out and cleaned up. The extent of the tunnels is unknown.
On Monday morning the level of the Oxford Canal had dropped since I’d returned home, the small weir by Isis Lock not overflowing as much, perhaps levels were starting to lower. But by Tuesday the water was on it’s way back up. Mick headed down to Isis Lock to fill with water and do some washing, there is a tap there for the permanent moorers and sitting in the lock you can access it, lets face it nobody would be coming up off the river! The sixth brick below the lock was showing.
On Thursday morning the levels were looking a touch higher, the canal overflowing the lock gates into the river too. Oleanna was rising on the canal and with the amount of rain over the last few days Mick preferred to stay on Oleanna for the evening rather than heading out to Chippy for Press Night. Being on board, should the levels rise anymore he’d be able to do something about it. There was already a plan to nudge up to the hire boats opposite should the mill stream top the towpath. Being tied up to them would mean Oleanna wouldn’t be able to end up sitting on the towpath.
Mick had a chat with a fellow from the Environment Agency, the level of the canal was caused by run off in Oxford and not from the river. So the canal should start to lower once the rain stopped. The river would need quite a lot more water to come over the towpath as the whole of Port Meadow was currently being filled with water, a useful flood plain.
During the day someone opened the paddles at both ends of Isis Lock to help drain off the excess as the weirs couldn’t keep up with the amount of water. So when Mick came to meet me at midnight he had a windlass in hand to lower a paddle.
Two weeks ago there had been a blue boat moored near Isis Lock on the canal, the following day it had disappeared. A walk over Osney Bridge to get one of our bikes serviced and Mick found the boat. Somehow they had got down the river, were facing upstream and had just managed to tie to the end of the railings there. Maybe they’d headed that way backwards as the flow along East Street at the moment is very strong. I’m so so glad Mick made the move when he did to get off the Thames.
1 lock gone into but not descended, 1 reverse, 2 moorings close together, 1 trip to Liverpool, 2 trips to London, 1 ferry, 0 panto, 1 cat not that impressed, 6 bricks, 2 paddles up, 1 big step up, £91 bike service.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sunday was meant to be a day off to try to recharge the batteries. It started with forwarding lots of reference to Phil who was working at the theatre painting all the 2D dressing for the Boozer. This I didn’t mind as it was a two minute job whilst enjoying a cuppa in bed with Tilly keeping my toes warm. Then the emails started with questions and requests, easier to do straight away than thinking about them all day. Have to say I did get a touch hacked off when asked a question I’d already answered four days earlier!
But there was still time to enjoy a cooked breakfast and a home cooked Sunday roast of Lamb.
With the sun out we walked down to Isis Lock, the level below quite a bit higher than normal. At the junction with the Thames the flow was a lot stronger than the day before, Mick said if it had been like this then he wouldn’t have tried to move the boat. We walked up to Port Meadow along the narrow path and crossed over the foot bridge, a lovely stroll for a Sunday afternoon.
Monday came round a touch too quickly and I was back on the S3 to Chipping Norton, this had to stop and be rebooted as the driver was getting error codes flashing at him. Luckily a five minute break did the trick and we were back on our way.
A new props maker was starting today, Emma, so a hand over was required. Phil was still about for the day finishing off bits which we put in position to see how they looked, which was very good. I did feel my age when I had to explain about pre-decimalisation and £ s d. Poor Phil ended up having to repaint the prices in the boozer twice, the last time with d and not p.
Tuesday saw the return of Chris the carpenter and Gemma, Production Manager. Chris worked his way through a list of jobs that had been kept for him, someone who could cut a straight line in one go is an asset. The evening sessions had meant to have been for the Lighting Designer Mark to plot the lights, but he’d been held up on a show in London, this meant we could get on with jobs in full light and sound levels could be set.
Wednesday and it was time for everything to be put together, actors, costumes, lights, set, props, sound, scene changes. The advantage of the actors rehearsing on stage with the set is that most problems had already been ironed out. There were still notes to take, being able to see the set and props under stage lighting meant there were things to add or alter.
Two long days sitting in the dark, taking notes and then taking advantage of the actors breaks to get on with jobs. I had become known as Pippippinpippippin, as I was a stand in for Pippins in the scene changes. But on Thursday afternoon we were joined by them. This meant going back to the start of the show and teching each team of four into the show in turn. This does become somewhat tedious, but it’s important that each of the three teams knows what they are doing.
On Friday we finished teching the show with the main cast and spent the evening with the Pippins again. They are involved in the show much more than last year and have quite a few complicated songs and dances, so it was decided to postpone the dress rehearsal that normally happens on a Saturday morning and use the time cleaning up dances and scene changes instead.
Interviews for the local radio were recorded, I may get on air you never know.
My lists of jobs are getting shorter. The last couple of evenings I’ve spent trying to sort out the back cloth and portals that suffered so badly with damp in the workshop. Flameproofed sheets of timber are used in the construction of theatre sets, this got damp after I’d finished painting causing the salts to leach through onto the surface, fading colours and leaving a residue. Nothing for it but to repaint large chunks of the main set.
The other job that is taking it’s tole on everyone’s patience is installing LED tape around the portals. This takes time, let’s just say that some people are better at this than others. Staring at a lumpy mess you’ve created behind the tape, then disappearing into the toilet for half an hour doesn’t get the job done, but it does mean someone else ends up doing it!
Yesterday afternoon it looked like the lights were nearly there, the final strip just needed connecting before we left for the weekend. But three LED’s decided that they no longer wanted to play the game and stayed pink whilst those around them changed colour. Nothing for it but to start again on that half of the portal.
I managed to catch a bus back to Oxford at a reasonable time, the bus having to wade through water. My walk along the towpath back to Oleanna felt very narrow with the water on the mill stream higher than it had been last weekend. I was glad of a touch more land between the canal and the flowing water when I reached the boat.
Tilly was very happy to see me, Mick having left first thing to head up to Liverpool for the weekend. Of course she missed me. But I also missed having my morning Ding Ding that Tom had forgotten!
I encouraged the stove to flame back into life, fed Tilly and then myself. Chicken pasta with a few glasses of wine. Mick had been to London this week to pick up post. So now I have my new passport several months after it was applied for (it arrived three days after I applied for it), a new credit card, new E111 card, a waitrose card we’ve been waiting for since we moored in Newark a few years ago. We also have a new pair of boating shoes each and Mick has a second replacement pair of sheepskin slippers. What a lot of post!
Tilly chose what we were going to watch, somehow I don’t think she expected The Rock to be about chemical warheads on Alcatraz, a touch disappointing as there was little climbing involved,but I didn’t mind as it had Sean Connery in it. Not quite the girls night in I thought we’d have.
2 buses, 1 chippy, 1 painter, 1 new props maker, 0.5 backdrop repainted, 3 dogless collars, 3rd attempt with the LEDs, 12 Pippins, 2 pairs ears, 1 very dark room, 1 girls night in, 1st pasta in three weeks.
Hertford College Boat Club to College Cruisers, Oxford Canal
A very long week in Panto land, but a productive one.
Two buses got me back to Chippy by 11am on Monday. The cast take over the stage now for much of the day, but lunchtimes and the evenings it is free.
Monday we had a photo shoot for publicity photos for the show. We set up the Square setting as that was the most complete, actors donned their costumes and ‘set up’ photos were taken by Josh Tomalin.
The set being mainly sliders means that I can pull bits out to paint and then slot them back in whilst another scene is being rehearsed to dry without the possibility of actors getting covered in paint.
On Tuesday I took advantage of not being able to get to much on stage and sorted sending my model box out to Vienna. This took so long to fill out the forms on line. I could quite easily measure the box but weighing it was more problematical. The Front of House money scales came to my rescue, the box weighing 2kg which is £220 in £1 coins!
In the evening Jo (the props maker) and I tried out the Dames car on the front of the stage whilst the technicians and Mark (Lighting Designer) hung lanterns around us. By the end of the day there were working headlights and I’d managed to paint my panto anaglypta in the boozer.
Wednesday was a filming day. The panto has some sections which are shown on a projection screen. So these were filmed in front of green fabric so that suitable backgrounds can be added. Then footage for the car chase was looked at with the actors in the car. Lots of fun.
On Thursday I spent quite a bit of time getting dotty in the Bank of England Vault. I ended up getting carried away with the dots so had to paint every third one of them out. It being Halloween the actors had decided to spend the day in fancy dress. We had a strawberry, mustard, The Joker amongst other things.
Friday was a very messy day. A panto isn’t a panto without a slosh scene. Last year this was tame compared to this year.
A huge bowl of Smash was required, costumes are made with ease of cleaning in mind and a large tarpaulin covered the stage floor. Various consistencies of smash were tried out, thinner worked better and tended not to clog nostrils up quite so much. On the set side of things I am going to need to glaze a lot of it as there is no knowing where the smash will land.
In the evening I worked on the front edge of the stage, one last curve needed marking out. I was back to measuring and scaling up from my model, then joining the dots, followed by painting as good a curve as I could over mouldings. This involved adding a bit, loosing a bit, adding a bit etc whilst Mark and the chaps focused the lights on stage.
Saturday morning, time for a stagger through of the whole show for the actors and a chance for everyone else to watch and see what is missing and needed for the technical rehearsals next week.
This went well, a couple of scenes scripts were still in hands and we had to stop and start for scene changes, these will be worked out next week.
Once the actors and props were clear of the stage it was time to get to work. Mark had done his best to get most of the lights focused, but still needed a bit of dark time. Jon (Sound Designer) was also around positioning speakers and microphones, a lot of people when you need a clear stage to start painting the floor. But everyone was understanding and accommodating.
The cavalry arrived in the shape of Phil, a scenic artist from Bristol. She has come to help out for a few days and was thrown in at the deep end helping me with the floor. We soon discovered what a small world it was from Skye to Hull to Bristol.
The heating was on full blast to help the paint dry. We gave first, second and to one particularly annoying shade of blue a forth coat of paint before we broke for something to eat at 9:15 leaving the paint to dry on it’s own. Half an hour later we were good to go with a coat of glaze. This was on and drying with twenty minutes to go before the last bus left Chipping Norton for Oxford. Much better than last year when I finished at 2am and couldn’t escape to the boat until 6am.
This morning, Saturday, when I’d turned my phone on I received a message from Mick. Yesterday he’d been up to Osney Lock to check on the flow above the lock, any possible moorings and if it would be possible to turn into Sheepwash Channel and then up onto the canal. More rain and strong winds were forecast for this morning, should he push on or stay put. The message said, ‘Just setting off now to beat the wind and rain.’
By the time I’d had a shower he’d negotiated his way past numerous rowers on the Thames to Osney Lock. Finishing breakfast he’d single handed Osney Lock. This involves a lot of walking round as the lock landings are on the offside and control panels on the towpath side.
The next stretch would be the hardest. The narrow channel meaning the flow would be strongest. Osney Bridge to negotiate and then the turn onto Sheepwash. Changing from going upstream to downstream with a right hand bend the currents couldn’t be predicted, there was even an Eddie there to confuse matters. Mick made the turn, passed the disused swing railway bridge and then turned onto the lock landing below Isis Lock. This was conveyed just as I reached the front doors of the theatre.
In the now pouring down rain he worked Oleanna up the narrow lock and at last he’d escaped the Thames. Two weeks later than originally planned, but safe back on the cut. No photos of this expedition as Mick was quite busy and it was raining somewhat.
2 locks, 2.31 miles, 1 right, 1 left, 1 red board, 3 buses, 1 car, almost 2 weeks in 1, 1 scenic cavalry, 1st glaze, 2nd tomorrow, 1 day off, 3 2 1mph, 1 boat escaped, 1 designer escaped, 1 lazy day planned, 1 escape pod to be put away!