Category Archives: Scenic Art

Mud Weight. 7th April

Lockdown Mooring 3

The gardeners were about this morning

Mick put the oven on first thing with our cast iron pot inside to warm up good and hot to bake the loaf. I didn’t hold out much hope when I unveiled it. When everything was heated up I lowered it into the pot on some greaseproof paper, put the lid on and slide it into the oven. Twenty five minutes later the lid came off, not the best view, but another twenty five minutes before it could sit on the shelf to finish cooking. I already knew it wouldn’t be the most appetising loaf I’ve ever made! Oh well I knew it was an experiment.

Not the most appetising loaf!

Mick spent some of the morning linking my phone to Zoom so that I could use it as a hand held camera to show my model better at my production meeting today. A cuppa was made and I sat down to see what changes to The Garden were going to happen.

Come play with me!

Dark Horse Theatre Company work with learning disabled actors, they have an Ensemble of qualified actors and students. The Garden was to be this years graduation show, sadly Lynda and Amy had made the decision to cancel all live performances last week. Rescheduling the show was getting more and more complicated, affecting their next production which is a big tour for them. However they had come up with an idea which would mean the play could still be heard and still involve everyone who’d been contracted.

A zoom meeting taken from a bad angle

Five of us discussed the possibilities of the play becoming a radio play. How could the actors record themselves? How different would the recordings sound as they got edited together? Posting out a recording device wouldn’t be possible as the actors are not that tech savvy and not everyone has help from family members where they live. So the play would need to be recorded onto phones, sound effects and atmosphere added. We actually decided that the quality of the recording would reflect the times we’re living in rather than sound as if it was done in a recording studio.

But what of my part? I know how the show was going to look, how would it look now. The play will be illustrated by me, eight or so drawings depicting moments from the play, then portraits of the actors for the credits (my own idea!). The hope is that we’ll produce something that can go onto YouTube, therefore reaching a larger audience and be accessible for all. So I’ve not as much work to do, no sewing, but a lot of drawing and painting, all of which can be done on the boat. The hope is that when people can be together again Dark Horse will put together an immersive exhibition of The Garden, we may even realise part of the design, so my model needs to be kept.

A smaller meeting followed between myself and Amy (the Director) regarding the show that will tour next year. They currently have a computer games animator working on the show and it’s getting to the point where he will need to know what people will look like, what costumes they will wear etc.

We chatted through the show in detail, a play about Adulting, set in a 1984 type world where you have to pass tasks to be allowed into the adult world. It is a highly technical show and I will need to seek advice from those more ofay with serious digital projection.

View by our mooring

Mick and Tilly kept quiet whilst my two hour meeting was happening. Mick had headed out to find milk whilst Tilly search for friends.

Late afternoon I headed out on my own again for a walk. This time I took the OS map with me and I headed out to walk in the opposite direction to yesterday. First walking along the canal to Bunbury. I passed a few boats moored along the cut, a tent in amongst the trees where a chap was collecting fire wood and a whirligig drying a bit of washing nowhere near a boat!

Bunbury

Bunbury staircase had both chambers empty, nobody had gone through, the walls were dry. Well we’d been the only boat along here to move yesterday so that wasn’t a surprise. In the window of the AngloWelsh office there were signs up trying to discourage people from walking the towpath. Below the lock the towpath is narrower than above so boaters who live there are getting twitchy.

Walking on water

Here I followed the road to the South. Lock Farm was readying itself for the cattle to cross the road for milking, the farm house a very fine looking building set back a touch from the road, all immaculate.

What a lovely farm house

I continued onwards to where Bird’s Lane headed off to the left. Here hedges have been carved into long wide triangular divides between road and fields.

Triangular hedges

At the righthand bend I came across a couple of ladies out for their daily walk. They moved with precision keeping at least two meters apart from each other and did a red arrows manoeuvre when I came into view to give me space too. Thank you ladies.

What’s that mid shot

Then across the fields, over stiles and little bridges to where I’d gone wrong yesterday. I’d turned left instead of keeping going straight, the kissing gate in a little dip so it had been out of view. Over the last bridge into the field below Oleanna and the canal. A black shape was just visible above the friendly cover, Tilly.

Is it?

Well, there I was minding my own friends when a She appeared in MY field! How dare She!! I’d just detected a friend and then got distracted. She seemed to know me, She called my name. Hang on how come She was in my field!? Hello!!! My friend could wait.

It is!

When Tilly became convinced it was me her tail lifted above the grass and she trotted her way over to say hello. That tail is such a welcoming sight.

Hello!

This evening I sliced into the loaf. Heavy, thick, zero crumb, just as I thought. We tried a little taste each, very sour from having been left overnight. I finely cut some up to sprinkle on top of my Shepherdness pie. Too heavy to feed to the ducks, but not quite heavy enough to become a mud weight, it went in the bin.

My little thug

April is full of anniversaries for us. Today three years ago we hired a van, loaded it with essential possessions and bundled Tilly into her escape pod to drive to Sheffield. That day we moved onto Oleanna and Tilly claimed the bottom shelf of the bookcase as hers. Since then Oleanna has served us well, travelling over 3500 miles of canals and rivers and ascending and descending around 2300 locks. This year our travels will be much reduced, but one day we will be able to cruise again.

Staking her claim three years ago

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 towpath trimmed, 2 hours talking to Yorkshire, 2 shows, 8 illustrations, 1 box set, 1 animator chomping at the bit, 9th April milk, 0 water, 9 hours, 2.3 miles walked, 2 boats, 1 failed loaf, 3 years of Oleanna life.

Vienna Postcard 4. 13th to 15th January 2020

31 hours

Real roses tend to loose their heads when used in magic tricks

Back to work Monday morning. Today we should have been doing some technical notes followed by a couple of dress rehearsals, the second one to be watched by Julia and Helene the Producers from the theatre. I spent the morning breaking down the water torture cabinet more. Then later I was able to add chains and padlocks.

Me on stage adding bits of dressing to the water torture cabinet

The afternoon was then spent going through sound and projection cues. Even though Sunday afternoon had been used as extra plotting time there were still issues. The projector was producing a distorted white rectangular light when we went into black out. One suggested solution was never go to black out! This didn’t go down well for obvious reasons.

Dan running through things out of costume

Then when the water torture cell came on (it has a tv screen inside it which runs footage) the projector also showed the footage! The projector wasn’t the right one for the job. This was the point that the projector was turned off never to be powered up again!

Even a Notfallplan wasn’t going to help

Everyone was getting nervous when sound cues were played back. This morning they had been finessed, this afternoon all that work had vanished and needed redoing. Poor Dan really needed to do a dress rehearsal but was thankful that he and Tim had done a run on stage on Sunday as there was no time left.

Dan with one of his tricks

So our first dress rehearsal was in front of the producers and photographer. My set still needed a few things doing to it, but there simply hadn’t been any time left after sorting the technical issues out. The dress went okay, but the producers had lots of questions afterwards.

A doughnut in action

Tuesday there was time to finish the cabinet, with bolts and breakdown the chain making it look older. Then Bruno, the Viennese Frank Matthews started work on what are known as the ‘Doughnuts’. These on the transporter bridge connect the cables from the dolly at the top of the bridge to the gondola below. I could hear quite a lot of German being muttering under his breath, but in the end he succeeded in getting the tension right on the ropes both upwards and down to the stage.

Das Lange the nearest pub

The dress rehearsal in the afternoon disappeared again, so in the evening we had a preview in front of local teachers. It went well but with a few little glitches. Most of us retired to Das Lange for a few glasses of beer and wine, we’d got through the show, but there was still work to be done.

Healthy fruit for breakfast was followed by some egg and bacon

Wednesday morning I was given instructions to head off and do some sight seeing. My jobs list was short but lighting, sound and a new projector needed to attention. Helga was sent out to track down more rivet heads that I could use on the bridge.

Second time lucky

So I headed into the city to the historical centre. Walking in again I wish I’d wrapped up better as the temperature was low, it even started to try to snow at one point, sadly not for long enough. Young trees were wrapped up to protect them in parks and a few mounds of old snow lingered near the ice skating ring.

St Peter’s

I walked through the palaces, not really knowing what was around me, the balcony where Hitler addressed the crowds in 1938. The butterfly house reminded me of Kew garden with a touch of Jules Verne added. St Stephan’s and St Peters churches both still with their Christmas displays.

At Julius Meinl I was pulled inside to marvel at the number of different caviars for sale. I hunted round for things to bring back. The cakes looked fabulous, the cheeses so tasty, twelve types of tomatoes, tins of baked beans for 2.49 euros! I spent my time smelling and absorbing and refrained from buying anything other than what the ladies at the theatre had said was the best Austrian chocolate Zotter, they certainly make strange flavours!

How much?!

Whilst having some lunch I got a phone call saying the rivets had arrived. So I walked back to give them a coat of paint before they were added to the set. I’d only managed 8 miles walking today!

Pre-rusted rivets

In the morning a new projector had been brought in, but the image couldn’t be made a suitable size to satisfy us. So after another morning of work the projection in the show was cut for good. I could then get on with riveting the bridge with the help of Vernon. we managed two sides but ran out of time. He’ll finish them without me tomorrow.

Finishing touches

Another preview night and then it was time to pack up my belongings. Julia and Helene seemed happy. The show is great, it’s just a shame the icing on the Sacher Torte was missing, your average punter wouldn’t know it wasn’t there. Farewells and big thank yous to all the chaps at the theatre. They are a great bunch and very welcoming. By the end of my time there it felt like I’d been working with them for ages, a very good team.

Top of Act 1
The bridge and Dan in action

Vienna Postcard 2. 12th January

54.5 hours

It’s been a short but long week here in Vienna.

Lufthansa, not a bad way to fly

Picked up from the airport and checked into my hotel I then showed my face at the theatre in the evening. A very friendly bunch who totally put me to shame, its been a very long time since I learnt German at school! Some words have come back to me during the week, but everyone at the theatre is bilingual.

Choosing paint colours with a glass of wine

I must have impressed on my first visit as I got my hands dirty and ended up being invited to stay for a drink in the crew room once everyone had finished work. This reminded me of the old SJT days when ideas were discussed in the green room over tea, just here it’s with a beer or wine in hand at 10pm.

Such a pretty theatre

On Wednesday I got to finally meet the new director Tim, a lovely fellow who has worked so hard and been exceptionally patient this week. Dan the writer and actor arrived Wednesday morning in his van, having driven from Newport in two days with jet lag. Then Fez, the videographer arrived completing the team.

A bridge pedestal

I spent the day painting things. All the base coats were ready for me to finish off. There is no scenic artist, but if you show Helga or Michaela what you want they are more than capable. Which is just as well, as I do not like their ladders and there was some high up breaking down to do.

Floor in progress

During the evening call we painted the floor. With a plank cut the right width with packers underneath it, I could paint along each side to create floorboards. As soon as I turned round to recharge my brush the plank was moved to its next position ready for me. Then laying in the Painty grain, one person wet the area and I painted over it. A very good team effort and dispite starting later than planned we finished bang on time.

The bridge goes up

Thursday and lighting started to happen. Some of this before the main parts of the set could be put in position. But once overhead was done the Transporter Bridge could be built. Sections of it I’d already faded to black after asking which way up they would be. Unfortunately Bruno had remembered his Anglo/German labelling wrongly, fortunately it was only two small pieces that needed repainting.

Michaela behind Dominic, Helga, Andreas and the only brit Vernon on the right.

The position for the projector was altered to give us a bigger image and images altered to fit the space and blended in with lighting. It all looked very exciting. The end of the days production meeting got through countless cans of beer and four bottles of wine, I left the building at 2am!

Fez checking what’s inside the cabinet

Friday, a day of getting things painted, but badly! There are some days, not many, when I pick up a brush and spend hours doing something, only to look at it later under light to see what a waste of time my work has been! The water torture cabinet is the thing that will be painted and painted on this show, time and again to get it right. It’ll get there, in the end.

The show is on till the end of February if you happen to be passing

Then the sequence with the cabinet was teched. The Audio Visuals took forever to sort. Vernon and his team had worked hard on a solution so that we could move curtains from side to side and then, on cue, have them drop to the floor, this is called a Kabuki. Fortunately my idea for this worked helped by a lot of Viennesse magic.

Now that is a big Painty sink

The content of the AV is still a bone of contention. Discussions could go on for years regarding it. Then it’s editing would take decades! To me the director is sadly right. If only the content had been able to be done in one continuous shot.

Vernon helping to check lighting states

Saturday. Tech day. This is when we stop and start the play to add in lighting cues, sound and visual along with curtains opening and closing. We started a little late, but thankfully got through the play despite there being a lot of problems with the images.

Fairground lighting state!

I at least got to sit around for much of the day instead of running around. Tim required my input on many things which was nice and stopped me from nodding off!

At last something other than rice

We finished with enough time for me to finish painting the floor, moulding my mud banks into it, whilst a sweet potato cooked in the microwave for me to eat back at the hotel at gone 11pm. This made a very nice change from various forms of microwave rice that I’ve had each evening.

Which way

Tomorrow I have the day off and I’m hoping I have enough energy to see some of Vienna. I have too many things on my list to do, but may just head in one direction and see where I end up.

Meanwhile back on Oleanna.

More bricks!

A day or so after I left, Mick headed to Sherbourne Wharf. 50 litres of diesel (we’ll get more when I’m back from Hawne Basin), they had no gas sadly, then he headed to Cambrian Wharf services to top up on water and finally dispose of our waste.

Topping up

Then they headed out of town staying on the level. First stop was just south of Edgbaston Tunnel where Tilly got to stretch her legs and be amongst the green again. But she wasn’t satisfied as the towpath was too busy.

Much better than BUMingham

Next stop was through Wast Hill Tunnel in a spot we moored with NB Blackbird a few years ago, but they arrived there too late for Tilly to explore.

Mick had hoped to be able to moor at Alvechurch, but where he’d planned he couldn’t get into the side. I’m assuming this was at a far more cat friendly mooring than the usual one by the railway and marina. So he moved on to Tardebigge, where Tilly got green freedom again.

Swish curtains

0 locks,? miles, 4 tunnels, 1 happy cat again. Short list today, it will be expanded when I’m home.

German word of the day, Ananas. This means pineapple, but it also means strawberry in Austrian!

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.

Kicking Heels And Packing. 5th 6th January

Oozells Street Loop to Cambrian Wharf to Oozells Street Loop

A bit of old amongst the new office blocks

Sunday we decided to go for a little bit of a pootle, we needed water and to dispose of our waste. The original plan was to cruise round the Icknield Loop and then the Soho Loop stopping at the services at Hockley Port, before returning.

A new fender!

But by the time we’d walked to Sainsburys for a few things for a roast in the evening and emptied the yellow water tank and pooh bucket, time had run away with us.

Paul’s boat

So instead we continued round the Oozells Street Loop, past NB Waterways Routes and turned left. Turning right isn’t an option here as you would be turning about 300 degrees without sufficient width. So we continued on to near Monument Road Bridge where you can wind at a short stubby arm.

No right turn here

We then cruised back into town and pulled up at the Cambrian Wharf Services. Here we knew the tap would be slow, but with a wash load in the machine and no moving boaters it didn’t bother us, so we stayed, had some late lunch, until the tank was full. The bins here were overflowing so not the right place to dispose of our waste.

Back into town to the services

There was one space left at Cambrian Wharf quite close to the pub, The Flapper. Normally this would have put us off pulling in, but the pub closed it’s doors for the final time on Saturday night. However the thought of being hemmed in on a pontoon wasn’t that appealing, so we returned to Oozells Street Loop.

Oh BUMingham!!!

Tilly requested to go out. We told her it was just the same, but she insisted. Each alcove into the car park had to be checked just incase there was anything interesting. There wasn’t so she returned tail hung low.

This is one very stubbornly boring outside

Then there was the horrible job of returning everything to the Christmas hamper. The tree was allowed one more night inside before it was returned to the cratch and normal temperatures.

Naked again

Monday morning and it was time to sort myself out. The back steps were lifted and my paint brush bag brought out from storage. A small selection of brushes and a nice natural sponge were put to one side before the bag was returned to it’s hidey hole.

These don’t get worn that often

The big black bag came out from storage along with my red winter boots. Some thermals, something I would consider smart, but others maybe not.

Tilly has been caught several times today trying to get into the big bag, but I’m afraid it isn’t her way out of Birmingham. Mick will do that soon.

Nothing! Not me!!

Schedules, tickets and euros are packed. I’ve checked in for my outbound flights and now have boarding passes on my phone. So tomorrow I will jet off to Austria to work. I’m hoping it will be fun and that I’ll get chance to have a bit of a look round Vienna before I come home. Mick will please Tilly no doubt and find her an outside that appeals more than here.

Money and guide

Mick may post about what they get upto whilst I’m away and I may post a Viennese postcard or two if there is time. But for now, we’ll see you soon.

0 locks, 1 mileish, 2 lefts, 1 wind, 1 straight on, 1 too familiar mooring, 1 roast chicken, 2019 Christmas packed up, 1 big black bag, 105 euros, 15A window, 1 cat with cabin fever, 1 eye test, 2 boaters kicking heels.

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.