Category Archives: Shops

Feline Approved. 26th May

Aristotle Bridge to St Barnabas, Jericho

Empty quiet mooring this morning

It may be Sunday, but there were things to do. We had a cuppa in bed and then rolled back the covers and pushed off before breakfast. Today our 2 days at Aristotle would be up so we decided to move on early. We were moored up opposite St Barnabas Church, the hoardings boasting about the redevelopment still, bacon butties just about consumed in time for the Geraghty zoom. Keeling over shrubs, planning permission, and no sign of that £26.4 million from last week, I think someone has spent it!


Before it got too late it was time to head out to do some shopping. Mick wheeled the Brompton his mission different to mine. Thank you Dave for warning us that the towpath along Sheepwash Channel is currently shut, and there being serious work going on at the train station. The rail bridge that crosses Botley Road is going to be expanded for more tracks. The road underneath is currently closed to traffic, buses turning at the station, but there is a footpath connecting both sides.

Rather serious works going on down there

At Osney Bridge, still single file traffic Mick and I parted ways. He was headed to Halfords for some engine oil and Currys to look to see if they had a rugid tablet, this had him heading straight on. I on the other hand crossed over the little bridge and walked down East Street towards Osney Lock.


The Thames here was on yellow stream decreasing boards, quite a bit of space to moor. One boat was familiar NB Mobius from St Pancras Cruising Club, it didn’t look like anyone was home and I needed to be somewhere before they closed. A cruiser pushed away from the moorings, winded and headed to the lock where two Lock Keepers worked them through, a pretty wooden boat waiting patiently for their turn below. The flow round to the weir was pretty strong, but we’ve seen it a LOT stronger here before, boats clinging on with their mooring lines straining to stay attached.

Yellow decreasing

I followed the footpath to Osney Mead, a Mum with her two kids walking at speed past me, ‘When we get to Meat Master you can cool down there Johnny’ if he stopped running and jumping all the time that might have also helped. My destination was the Fish Market, see what was on offer today. I had a little look around, some of the fillets being packed away already. 1 chose 2 giltheaded bream, these will either be barbequed of baked in the oven depending on weather in the next few days.


Then I headed to Meat Master to cool down myself. I didn’t need any of their humongous joints of meat or a ham, but had a good look round. Some gf sausages and smoked back bacon were purchased, far less than other people were piling up into their baskets.

Just a small amount of Prosciutto

Various things were needed to go with the fish so I called in at Waitrose, a slight detour, to get the necessary. A sign suggested a pedestrian and cycle route to Jericho was possible. I checked my map but couldn’t see where this route might cross the railway so played safe and continued back on the main route.

Back at Oleanna Mick had been successful with the oil, but not a new tablet. It’s looking like one will have to be ordered a delivery address to be thought about along with where to get our postal votes sent to.

Tasty smelling, very tasty!

Tilly checked out my purchases. Now that smells nice! Is that MY dingding? She approved and was disappointed that the brown paper package went straight into the freezer. Maybe She is saving it for a special occasion!?

The remainder of the afternoon was spent preparing things to bake, tidying up, answering messages on Whatsapp and Instagram, checking that Frank was still alive in Scarborough, sweeping through and washing the floors. Mick headed out to check on the parking situation locally, managing to avoid a serious downpour.

A roast chicken was enjoyed with all the usual accompaniments and pair 21 of my sockathon was cast off. I think it’s time to get out the red yarn next, I’m looking forward to seeing how this yarn knits up.

0 locks, 0.6 miles, 1 route through Oxford more blocked than it’s been blocked before, 2 bream, 10 litres oil, 16 sausages, 0.5kg bacon, 1 isthmus mooring, 1 roast chicken, 1 cleaner and tidier boat, 2 hour spaces found.

TLC Day 1. 22nd January

Clicking away in the car

A hire car was picked up this morning and soon we were on our way over to Dewsbury. I took with me fabric samples I’d received through the post from Just Fabrics. These were pretty good for recovering the dinette cushions, but maybe Fabworks would have something better.

Fabworks obviously

The River Ouse looked quite full as we passed over it on the A64, the River Wharf at Tadcaster was reaching the top of it’s flood banks too. We soon were wiggling our way through back streets between old mills in Dewsbury and pulling up in the car park. I went ahead to have a look round and shortlist some fabrics whilst Mick stayed in the car to give the lithium battery man Mark a phone call.

It really is fab

It’s quite a few years since I last visited Fabworks, maybe when I was hunting for curtain fabric for NB Lillyanne. The warehouse now has more lighting and things seem a touch more ordered than ten years ago. There are still the large bins of offcuts which you buy by weight, wonderful wools, cottons, silks, curtain and upholstery fabric.

Rolls and rolls and rolls

I short listed a couple from the masses, then consulted with Mick. One had some paler pattern which would get dirty from a certain second mate not being able to wipe her feet on entry into the boat! So we went for some Laura Ashley fabric at £15 a meter, I suspect it used to be more like £40. I checked my calculations and 8 meters and a couple of reels of matching cotton later we were back in the car heading back east.

Our roll on the table

Next visit was to the Designer Outlet in York, Destination Joy ! Blimey it was busy. We headed upstairs for some lunch before heading to Whittards to stock up on my morning brew, Afternoon Tea. On line it is currently £9 a packet, here it was £5! Bargain. We then paused to see if the Sketchers shop might have some trainers for Mick. The last few years we’ve both worn Shoes for Crews shoes whilst on the boat, their anti-slip can’t be beaten, but they are quite flat. Both of us have niggling backs or calves a the moment so we’re trying shoes with a slight heel for a while to see if that helps. Mick found some trainers which were 100% waterproof at nearly half price. We’d done well.


Next round to the north of York to check on some vinyl for a bathroom at the house. The chap in the shop didn’t want to tell me how much it would be and I was keen to await the arrivals of some samples at the house. Too much sales banter for my liking. We did stop to look at their fake grass, this has come on leaps and bounds since I last used some on stage, I still prefer the real stuff in real life.

Not allowed to buy any yarn at the moment

Hobby craft was next here I wanted to buy another canvas for a painting in the house. There were plenty to choose from and I’d reckoned I wanted one twice the size of the one I’d used for Lock 21 of the Wolverhampton flight. There was a stack of canvases with a price of £10 on top, brilliant and surprising as the others were a touch more expensive. At the check out it turned out it should have been more expensive but as the only price shown was £10 I got it at the bargain price.

Round to the east of York we called in to see Mark and Sarah who Mick used to work for before boat life took over. It was lovely to see them and get to see their new home, The Good Life. Sitting at the edge of Elvington airfield they have masses of garden and a fantastic workshop. The space in there is as big as The Round stage at the SJT, what a wonderful space to make things in with a great view, admitedly it was dark when we were there. A great catch up.

Missed parcel

Back at the house Tilly had become concerned that she would have to start feeding herself, our journey back delayed by a crash on the Malton bypass. Through the door was a card from Royal Mail, they’d tried to deliver a parcel. Hopefully they’d be okay delivering it to a neighbour as it’ll be a busy week for us.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 car hire, 8 meters fabric, 2 reels cotton, 1 pushy salesman, 2 prices noted, 1 canvas, 2 sketchbooks half price, 2 ex-telecoms, 6m x 6m workshop, 1 lathe, 1 plum and almond cake, 1st parcel of the week, 1 very hungry lonely forgotten about cat!

Cushions In The Closet, Have We Peaked Too Soon?

Has it really only been two weeks since I got back from Panto land? It feels like a lot longer, but then it also only feels like yesterday!

Now where did we get up to last year?

There has been the obligatory Morse watching whilst being pinned to the sofa by Tilly. Four episodes including, in my opinion, the best one, Masonic Mysteries where Morse is framed for the murder of a friend and no matter which way Morse turns there is another surprise for him.

Tilly has kept a close eye on my yarn tension

More socks have been knitted for Dementia UK. Not sure exactly how many pairs I’ve knitted this year but it’s somewhere over 30 and my fundraising page has just topped £1130! Thank you everyone who has donated and I hope those of you who have a pair of socks have cosy toes. At some point I’ll update the page I set up for my Sockathon, there’s quite a few pictures to upload.

Cards of the Christmas and other varieties printed, scored and folded

Boating photos from this year have been whittled down, a short list of about six presented for final vetting to Mick and Tilly for our Christmas card. Would the old printer upstairs upstairs be up to the job though? With a full set of new cartridges and a morning spent assisting the paper into the printer every couple of sheets the card factory got to work.

The first veg box since my return contained a lovely looking bright orange squash. What to do with it? I hunted round for a couple of recipes and decided to try two out, both requiring roasted squash. So the whole squash was roasted in one go and then divid up for the two dishes, Mushroom and Squash Lasagna and Squash Winter Herb and Crispy Butter Bean Pie. The latter involved three bulbs of garlic which were cooked before being added into the mix. Both will be made again, the pie for a special occasion as it takes a while to cook, but was very tasty. I’ll add links to the recipe pages.

The South Bay

One evening I was invited to a reading of a play that a local lady is hoping to produce. Earlier in the year I’d been approached to see if I could give some advice on it’s staging, but without a script this was impossible. It was nice to meet some new Scarborough faces, but the best bit was walking down to the top of St Nicholas Gardens and looking across the bay to the harbour where numerous boats had their Christmas lights up.

When we moved back to the house from Oleanna we brought all the dinette cushions with us. The covers desperately needing a wash or maybe even replacing. The seat cushions that we sit on the most have also lost most of their cushionness, so I measured them up and placed an order for replacements. The dinette makes into a bed, so any cushions apart from the one that isn’t normally out have been replaced with new firmer more suitable foam. We also had an odd cushion which we have never really understood why it existed, why hadn’t it been added onto one of the back cushions? This and the wedge shaped cushion that goes into the corner have now been made into one piece. Having just written this I don’t understand why it is wedge shaped and not just rectangular, I’ll have to look at it when the cushions go back on the boat, then remember for next time. At the moment I have a few samples of fabric but the final discission hasn’t been made. This will be a project for the new year.

Look who popped up as a screensaver. On the Marsworth flight back in our yellow days.

Why have the cushions gone in the wardrobe? Well a certain Second Mate/Thug has been enjoying clawing the old cushions, thankfully the one which has been affected the most is being replaced! I can’t help it if I have to find myself things to keep me occupied when the outside doesn’t move every day!!!

Mick has just about sorted out his planned upgrade to Oleanna’s batteries. Doubling Oleanna’s amp hours, but will there be enough room for him to be able to move them indoors? A visit in the next couple of weeks is on the cards to check on her and have a measure up.

It’s handy having quite a stash of yarn in the house

During November I’d joined a knitting challenge for Dementia UK, soon I was running out of things to knit! Mick just so happened to ask where his winter hat was. Ah that might just still be on the boat! Emergency hat knitting, this ended up being two hats one inside the other for extra warmth.

It just fitted in the bike bag

Then preparations for Christmas were started, the London Leckenbys were heading up to join us for a pre-christmas meal. Normally we don’t put decorations up for another couple of weeks, but because they were coming we had to get busy.

Last years boat Christmas tree has just about survived the year after a repot with some human made compost, so this has been brought in. But a bigger tree was really needed for the living room, where would we be able to get one from without a car? Nowhere that we found would deliver and the nearest veg/florist didn’t look like they’d be stocking any. One option left, a trip to Sainsburys with our trusty bike as sherpa.

Over several days Mick busied himself in the garden putting lights round bushes. I headed to the snicket to give the ivy a trim. Two wreaths were put together with lights and on the first day of December our decorations were up and illuminated!

Christmas baking. A batch of some rough puff pastry was made, a new recipe I wanted to try out. Then some Lebkuchen, these are my current favourite Christmas biscuits, especially when you poor the heated butter, treacle and maple syrup onto the spices, qworrr!

Christmas shopping this year has meant a walk down to the harbour, thankfully on a very nice sunny day before the snow arrived. I’d placed an order online and been told to ring the doorbell by the bow of a ship! I was taking ‘Buy it off a boat‘ to the next level. The doorbell was nowhere to be seen but thankfully a couple of people were stood on the bridge. My order arrived at a side door, the chap having to climb slightly up a harbour ladder to pass it to me safely, the tide was out at the time!

Buy it off a ship!

The coal man arrived along with snow and hail, Scarborough having a dusting of the white stuff just in time for the London Leckenbys arrival.

Who’s coming?

It has been at least ten years since the London Leckenby’s have visited us in Scarborough, us having lived on boats for much of the last ten years. This trip would also be their first by train, Andrew normally drives them up, but he’s still recovering from his stay in hospital. Quite a bit of work was needed to sort trains due to strikes and engineering work. Tickets were booked with only a couple of days to go. At Kings Cross they loitered for the platform to be announced, confirming the advanced knowledge we’d given them. Also knowing which carriage was likely not to be reserved helped, so they headed straight for it and thankfully got seats on what became a very very full train.

Nearly as good as my Mums Yorkshire Pud

Sausage rolls on arrival, sorry Frank forgot to take a photo! Then an afternoon lull, a walk to the beach not taken up as the pavements were really quite slippy. We caught up on their news and then got going with our Advent Saturday joint of roast beef with all the works. I’ve almost mastered gluten free Yorkshire Puddings so that my Mum wouldn’t know the difference. She’d certainly have been pleased that we had a slice each as a starter with gravy (not with the meat!) helped by the veg being a little reluctant to brown up.

Crackers were cracked, wine drunk, plenty of food eaten. Pudding, a warm Dorset Apple Cake accompanied by some Wensleydale Cheese, not quite ‘Apple Pie without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze’ but very nice and worth repeating.

Jac, Pip, Mick, Josh, Andrew

A lovely time was had by all. It was really lovely having them back in Scarborough.

Sunday morning and it was time to check that their return trains would be running. Well Transpennine Express did what they seem to do best and cancelled their first train. Mick came up with a couple of options for them. Their return journey was going to be 5 hours rather than the 3 on the way up, due to engineering work. It was decided that they’d head to the station and catch an earlier train, either to York where they could loiter in the pub, or to Hull where they could catch their the train earlier on it’s journey than planned. This meant quite a quick breakfast and exchange of presents before a cab arrived to whisk them back to the station.

Bye bye!

Almost 24 hours in Scarborough, we wished them a good journey and wished Josh good luck for his forthcoming interview for University. I’ve got my fingers crossed for him as I’d like to visit the very good chilled medication shop we visited last summer when on one of the Great Ouse tributaries. Their journey back changed again due to more cancellations, they had a good journey around the country arriving in London ten minutes earlier than originally planned.

My lovely fella

Sunday evening Mick and I headed out for what has now become our annual Chinese meal. Crispy aromatic duck a necessity to mark 21 years of us being together. A lovely way to round off the weekend.

Us out for a Sunday walk

It feels like we’ve already had Christmas now. The big day isn’t for another three weeks!

Have we peaked too soon?

0 locks, 0 miles, 3 snow showers, 5x50kg bags of coal, 2 veg boxes, 1 squash, 2 celeriac, 1.8kg top rump, 15 Lebkuchen, 1 Lasagna, 1 pie, 20 sausage rolls, 2 trees, 4 stars, 100m of flotilla lights, 1 bored cat, £1132, 30 plus pairs, 4 Morses, 2 wreaths, 4 new cushions, 3 weeks early, 21 years.

You may notice a couple of changes to the blog. Firstly the blog roll, this had stopped rolling as bloggers posted their posts, so we’re trialing a new plug in, not quite as clear as the old version sadly. Secondly Mick has added code to the blog to hopefully change the default colour of the writing to black without me having to change every paragraph each time I write a post. This was done with assistance from Copilot. I hope it works!

Gentleman Fishmonger. 30th September

Doncaster Visitor Moorings


A box of eggs had been hiding in plain view and their time was up, so it was scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast. A shopping list was put together, then we walked into town, time to visit the deli!

Hang on the sign above the door was different, a budgie in a cage sat by the front door not shelves of exotic fruit and veg. A young lady tinkered with the door. We checked they were open, they were. Blimey it’s changed!

Still a fab cheese and meat counter

Scicluna started off as a deli stall on the market 47 years ago, it grew in popularity but the restraints of a market stall became too much and after 36 years Josephine moved the business into the shop where it stands today and where I head every time we visit Doncaster. A year ago Josie chose The Gentleman Fishmonger, Martyn Peppard to help move the business into the next age. DN1 was born. Well the shop has changed quite dramatically, the final alterations only happened a couple of weeks ago. Painted black from floor to ceiling, the counters have moved, all the sacks of grains and flours have gone, replaced with dispensers. The wall of spices is now condensed and the boxes of different types of flours are more ordered. There is still a huge variety of fresh veg and bread, it’s just that someone else, not Josie, has sorted everything out.

No more sacks

Half the shop is now a kitchen and fine dining room, with taster menus. The reviews very good suggesting Michelin stars should be on the cards. I’m sure the food is excellent, but the price tag a touch too high for a Saturday lunchtime, a serious celebration needed.

Todays purchases

Some tapioca starch was found easily, then a small bag of Gram Flour (I’ve an urge to make onion bhajis), a bag of gluten free suet jumped off the shelf too (I miss steak and kidney pudding), we’ll see what it’s like. The cheese counter called us over. A small slice of three cheeses added to our purchase. I’d been worried that the deli would have changed without Josie at the helm anymore, but it just feels like they have removed some of the vast array of ingredients, tidied the place up so other people can find things not just Josie. Still very much worth a visit.

The Wool Market

We’ve not been into the Wool Market before. Several street food vendors have stalls including Hand Pulled Italian Coffee?! It certainly seemed to be popular. Maybe Doncaster is becoming a very foody place.

Into the market for a nosy, a pork pie for Mick. I refrained from buying any haslet, three flavours of this Lincolnshire delicacy on offer today. I’ve only ever had it on school geography field trips, it can stay in my memory thank you! Then into the fish market. The Gentleman Fishmongers stall was by far the most popular with hoards of people crowded round. I was tempted, but this week we need to stick to our list and we’d got treat cheeses.

Trainers! But can I walk in them?

This morning I’d tried on my trainers for the first time since breaking my toe. I got them on, but walking in them was a different matter, back to the crocks. But after an hour it was time to sit down, I left Mick to do the shopping and returned to Oleanna.

Big model

Time to get on with the song sheet for panto. My work boxes had been dug out from under the dinette and a backing was painted up similar to parts of my portal design. Then it was scanned and popped into Photoshop. Faded, colours, saturation contrast changed. Then the words added. I just wanted to add a border.

Altered colours

This took sometime, but I got there in the end, saved and printed out a copy. Ah …. I’d got a spelling mistake and had saved it without all the layers! Time to start again, well I need the practice. Except I couldn’t get it to do a border! Grrr.

0 locks, 0 miles, 3 cheeses, 2 flours, 1 suet, 1 pie, 10 litres oil, 1 chicken on second attempt, 3 goes at songsheet, I thought I was getting the hang of this! 1 Saturday roast chicken.

Continents. 29th September

Bramwith Junction to Doncaster Visitor Moorings

Tilly was allowed out first thing, she could decide when we would move on today. Off she went not to be seen for quite sometime! Clive came past with Peg and stopped for a chat, he’s got his car back from West Stockwith and the boat is plugged in, it should make life easier for a while.

Paws at rest

We’d run out of things to occupy us, time to move on, but still no Tilly. Time to be the mad cat woman on the towpath. I walked back towards the lock, my voice resonating across the canal. In the past Tilly has spent time in amongst the trees this way, today it looked like the friendly cover might be just a touch too dense for her. No noises came back. I walked up in the other direction. TILLY!! Minny meow!! Was that her bell? Was that a meow? Hard to tell with the wind. Maybe it was. Then up she popped tail held high skipping back to the boat. Time to move on.

Barnby Dun Lift Bridge

We pootled up to Barnby Dun, pausing to drop off rubbish and empty the yellow water. Then the key of power was put in the bridge panel. This road is so busy, do you wait for a gap in the traffic coming from three directions? Or just press the button no matter? The traffic died down, so I chose a moment without a car in view and set the sequence going, no white van to jump the lights today.

Once through and the bridge dropped you then have to wait for a gap in the traffic to be able to cross the road. I like counting the number of stopped vehicles, but just how many more had me waiting?

I recognise that whirligig

A dutch barge with a whirligig and washing drying in these parts is almost certainly Dolly Earl. Recently blacked and the gunnels repainted, no name visible. Mick made a note of the boat number, yep it was Dolly Earl! That’s a familiar boat ticked off our list for the year, I think we’re short of only one, the blue boat NB Jubilee Bridge.

Big Yorkshire locks

Wind swept us up to Long Sandall Lock, Mick opting to reverse and hover whilst the lock emptied. The huge vast lock filled, then I noticed the amount of Pennywort by the top gates. Could I open the gates without it getting in the lock? Yes.


Across the way was NB Northumbria, Paul used to look after the basin up in Sheffield. He bobbed his head out to say hello. We did our best to hover and chat with him as the wind buffeted us about. There was news of a new Finesse boat setting off from Sheffield in the morning, hopefully we’ll get to see her. I dropped Rachel the owner a line, they had their snagging weekend quite some time ago and have a bit of a major weekend cruise ahead of them, very exciting.

Paul suggested that the Doncaster moorings might be full, he’d counted boats on the move today, we hoped some would have stopped at Strawberry Island. He gave a suggestion of where to moor if Doncaster was full. Fingers crossed we’d not need it. There’s ground works going on with diggers perched high up on banks of earth, maybe this is where there used to be abandoned burnt out cars, I’ll have to take more note on our way back.


The Minster came into view, a zoom in on the camera, loads of space at the moorings! Brilliant! We winded to have the side hatch outwards and a better view from bed in the morning. During the afternoon another two boats joined us.

Weed boats

Rafts of Pennywort have taken hold here, two weed boats soon arrived. The one with chopping blades and a conveyor belt we’ve seen before, but the other was new to us. Long prongs on an arm at the front can hook a chunk of pennywort, this can be lifted into the air. The boat is propelled by two caterpillar tracks of rubber blades. This means that it not only moves in the water but it can ride up the bank too to deposit the weed well out of the water. Shame my video isn’t fully in focus but it gives you the idea.

Later in the day MIck made a comment about an island of Pennywort passing by. I peeked out, ‘that’s not an island, that’s a whole continent!’

Obviously the weed boats had missed this one

I walked up to Boyes in the town centre to see if they might have some bright pink long fringing for panto. Their haberdashery section was a disappointment, I’ll have to order online instead. They did however have engine oil, Mick will return with the bike for 10 litres.

Almost empty shelves

An afternoon of knitting for me in front of a film. Judy (2019) about Judy Garland’s career in the last year of her life when she performed on the London stage. Flash backs to her early career at the time of The Wizard of Oz. Another lonely sole, what a great performance by Renee Zellweger, no wonder she won quite a few awards. It was also Michael Gambon’s last film, so quite an apt choice.

Some of the miners portraits in A Rich Seam by Laurence Edwards

Another pair of socks went in the post today, another pair finished ready to have the ends woven in. That’s six pairs done, another two on the list.

1 lock, 5.7 miles, 1 lift bridge, 19 held up, 25 holding me up, 2 hours shore leave, 1 skipping cat, 1 sauce tasting woofer, 0 fringing, 1 walk not hobble, 1 parcel arrived.

Leaves, Leaves, Leaves. 12th to 14th July

Cow Field, Lechlade

Time to settle down to do some serious days work. Jotted down in a margin I worked out how long I thought each job might take me, I needed to make the most of three days on the trot when we’d not be moving to be able to have a day off. Wednesdays goal was to finish all the leaves and get them stuck onto portals and cloths. Painting them was one thing, cutting them out another, then touching in their edges. Blimey they went on and on forever! And some more!! And even more!!!

Add into the mix the number of planes going overhead heading for Fairford and the Royal International Air Tattoo. Big planes, little planes, a helicopter, jets, display teams that arrived flew over the airfield then split up to come round to land. On Wednesday I decided to keep a tally of the number of planes (you know how I like numbers), a little hard as you couldn’t really tell which planes were circling round before landing. My tally got up to 128ish. The sky was certainly very busy.

With all the noise, Tilly stopped sitting out the back. With all the noise Tilly’s legs shrank and she started looking upwards and cowering. Time to make her a cave to feel safe in as the aircraft would carry on for days! A bit like my leaves!!! The escape pod came out and was zipped together, nestled next to a big bag on our bed, the curtains left drawn. Soon Tilly had taken up residence and we’d only see her first thing, dingding time and if we were lucky she’d sit on my lap in front of the tv for an hour late evening long after all the planes had stopped.

Wednesday evening we decided to treat ourselves to a meal out, we crossed over Ha’Penny Bridge closed to cars after an incident a few weeks ago! The New Inn was the obvious choice, it had been four years ago. Not the cosiest of pubs, we were offered a table in the back room which was chocka, we opted to sit in a front room, which soon became chocka too. Four years ago I’d thought about a gluten free burger, but that option on the menu meant having a burger without a bun! Instead I opted for a duck breast with mash and red cabbage and sniggled a chip off Mick’s plate. Blimey it was busy, the air show had very much moved into town.

A nice duck breast

Thursday I continued with leaves, getting up early to finishing cutting them out, returning to bed for a cuppa before breakfast. By the end of the day, backings had been stuck on card, the first two types of leaves added. Just the breadfruit leaves to go, a shame they weren’t quite dark enough. The skies were quieter, not so many arrivals. Tilly checked on the weather then stayed in her escape pod for the rest of the day.

Friday. What a wet day. I think it didn’t stop raining for a full twelve hours. It didn’t really matter to me as I had my head down. A new schedule to aim to keep up with. Breadfruit leaves added and everything went into the model box, at last! I still want to do a little bit more to them, but that will have to wait as other things need paint on them first.

At last something’s in the model box!

The Town Square was painted up. One house and the Town Clock turned out really well the other buildings may get revisited. Tilly avoided the rain unlike Mick who headed into Lechlade to pick up a few supplies. On Wednesday he’d treated himself to a sausage roll from the sourdough shop, today it was a pork pie from the butchers. The butchers turned out to be quite useful for things other than meat and a lot closer than the Co-op which he didn’t find.

Pork and pickle pie

Today was the first day of the air show, not that you’d really know it. Due to the rain and wind we didn’t notice much in the skies. The red arrows cancelled their display. However more boats arrived in the rain.

Planks and poles in a dry window

They did their best to fit in where ever they could. The shallow stretch a short distance behind us has seen two narrowboats stuck bow in. It took Mick and two other chaps with planks and poles a while to get one boat free.

The Town Square tucked away for safe keeping

Here’s hoping the sun comes out tomorrow as I’m having a day off work.

0 locks, 0 miles, 128 at least planes in 1 day, 30 the next, 2 stuck boats, 12 hours solid, 1 very bored cat, 1 extreamly wet day, 1 model box starting to look like something, 179 leaves, plus some spares.

Ice! What Ic…. Ooh! 20th December

‘Avecoat Marina to Sutton Road Bridge, Birmingham and Fazeley Canal

Alarm set just in case we slept in. Breakfasted, water tank filling and rubbish disposed of as the first boat came past on the canal heading towards Tamworth. This boat, a short while later returned and pulled in on the towpath opposite us.

Smiles all round this morning

Just before we rolled back the covers the chugging of an engine started up, NB Capricorn was about to reverse out from it’s mooring. There she went, no problem, no ice. None what-so-ever. Covers rolled up and ready for our departure I tapped on NB Mr Blue Sky’s roof to wish John a Happy Christmas. He then stayed to watch our departure, which thankfully went well.

Reversing out and turning there was just enough room. Then the steep right to the entrance and left to the service area on the towpath. NB Capricorn was moored up chatting away, they pulled forward having topped up their tank. Time to fill ours and pay for our extra days in the marina. We’d originally planned to stay for ten nights and ended up staying seventeen. Out of those the marina was frozen for twelve nights.

Hello Harnser somewhere over there

We could have carried on to top up the diesel elsewhere where it may have been cheaper, but we didn’t want any detours today, there was shopping to do. As Mick headed off to pay a lady arrived to see how big the queue was, she’d pulled in some distance away and was wanting a top up and coal. We chatted away, it turns out we may be neighbours for Christmas as our destination is the same. Sandy has only been living afloat for 14 weeks, the last ten days iced in at Polesworth. Her journey so far today had involved some pretty thick ice. As we pulled out she ran back to get her boat, we think she was next in line.

Capricorn topping up

The plan had been to follow NB Capricorn along the canal as they were heading the same direction as us, but they seemed settled for a while and we wanted to be off. I pushed the bow out and off we set, free from all the ice. What ice! It was as if there had never been any.


Okay, so in sheltered places we came across cat ice that crackled itself out of our way, someone had already been through it. Past the house where they must hoover the lawn. Past the end of garden mooring where we got to know the owners when Tilly was a very new boat cat and had to have her vaccinations. No boat here today. The supermarket trolley that Mick had seen on the ice a few days ago was now visible on the bottom of the canal. Thankfully it was to one side so not a problem for us. If we’d tried to pull it out it would only end up back in the canal and most probably in a worse position for passing boats.

A Lock!

Glascote top lock came into view, no boats on the Co-op moorings. I decided to work the locks, hoping my leg was recovered enough. I filled the top lock, walked down to lift a paddle on the bottom lock so it could fill as we emptied the top lock. Paddles lifted lock emptied, gates opened, then closed, yep my leg still had a problem, more evident when pushing and pulling gates. I walked down opened the bottom lock where Mick and I swapped roles.

Glascote Top Lock

Just as I brought Oleanna out of the bottom lock I could see the bow of a boat coming round the bend and under the bridge ahead, we could leave the gates open.


More patches of ice gradually getting that bit thicker. Large sheets of it, the surface melted in places creating an undulating surface. A few boats were moored near the Tame Aqueduct, here the ice was the thickest, maybe about an inch, someone else had already broken it up. We slowed right down, a boat coming towards us, the ice chinking against the armco and moored boats.

A sea of ice

At Fazely Junction we headed right to Fradley and the North. Two boats sat at the water point filling up their tanks. From here on it felt like we were the first boat through. Thankfully what ice we came across wasn’t too thick, but it did sound like we were surrounded by a primary school assembly every child with some rudimentary percussion instrument.

Fazeley Junction

We counted the bridges to where we hoped to moor, there was space. Tilly was very very excited. Trees!!! Sideways trees!! Friendly cover!!!!!!!!!! But things needed to be done which would mean we’d be out for the afternoon, so no shore leave. Boring b***********!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Another day added to the eighteen she’d already endured without stepping off the boat wouldn’t hurt.

Looking back

Lunch, NB Capricorn came past and then Sandy pulled up behind us. At least we now knew someone else would be breaking the ice ahead of us.

Time to tick off the last Christmas shopping and things for work. First B&Q who had some possible small Christmas trees, reduced to half price. Still twice as much as I paid seven years ago in Newark, but the trees were twice the size. Asda had some very dinky trees, not worth the effort. The tree purchase could wait for tomorrow.

One of those might do!

I walked to the furthest shop I wanted to visit, M&S. Then crossed over the queues of traffic to Hobby Craft. Here I had a long list of things to buy for work. Some things needed rethinking due to what was available, a £1 canvas bag and stuffing would go together to make a pregnancy bump. Could I make chip cartons from sheets of A4 card? Would the 4 sheets of A1 foam cor fit in an Ikea blue bag to aid carrying them back to the boat. Sadly no!

It appeared as if the population of the Midlands had all decided to come out in their cars to sit in traffic jams to go slowly round the round abouts in the retail park. So many people and so few ways to walk from place to place with streams, fences, walls in the way. I nearly got run over walking the wrong way through the McDonalds drive through, did you know they are open 7am to 11am on Christmas Day!

Ow much!!!!

Mick had popped to Sainsburys. I visited Pets at home, successfully buying Tilly a present for Christmas. Then we made our way back to Oleanna in the dark, the fairy lights on her wreath guiding us home. Finding places to stow things on board is getting quite hard.

That way please

2 locks, WE 4.45miles, Pip’s Nebo 4.9 miles (including walking between locks), Mick’s Nebo 4.5 miles, 1 ice free marina, 66 litres, 7 extra nights, 0 to 1 inch ice, 1 new Christmas friend, £600 not £5,000, A1 things, 250grams stuffing, A4 card, 6 secret things, 2 boxes wine, 10 litres litter, 7+gravy food, 2 boaters and 1 boat cat free again!

Blowing Up The Rats. 3rd October

Marlow Lock Cut

Up, out of bed, breakfasted and walking towards the station this morning for Mick to catch a train into Maidenhead, then one to London, the tube, on to York and the final train of that leg to Scarborough. Our latest lodgers had moved out yesterday, so the house needed checking over and the grass cutting.

Only a bit of space on York to moor today

I meanwhile headed off to Sainsburys to see how much I could carry back to the boat ending up doing an intermediate shop which would keep us going until we reach Tescos in Reading.

Just look at those!

The shop windows in Marlow have tantalising things in them. I SO wish I ate gluten still as one cafe had the most enticing looking bread in their window and trays of wonderous baked goods filling the counters. Oh well I most probably saved myself a fortune.

I behaved and didn’t stock up on yarns

A shop down a side street caught my eye, a crafty shop with fabrics and yarn. My bumbag needs the zip replacing, so I waited outside for the shop to open then purchased what I hope is the correct length zip for the job. Just need to find the time with enough daylight to put it in now.

Alan, still King of the wall in Scarborough

Today I was going to make use of the table whilst Mick was away and do a bit of prep work for panto. The elaborate portals that I’ve designed have quite a few things that repeat themselves, so a quick means of drawing them out is required. I could project them onto the scenery, a method I’ll use elsewhere this year, but as these are so repetitive I’m going to use stencils.

Rats blown up

I gridded up the card I’d bought in London and transferred the designs across, trying to better the originals I’d used for the model. The correct lines were picked out from the mistakes with pen and later on in the day I started to cut them out. After two I’d had enough, the others can happen over the next few days when we moor up.

Around the lock was busy today. Plenty of boats coming and going. At one point I looked up to see a grey widebeam gliding past with no-one at the helm. They were sorting out their centre rope and ran back down the roof before the boat went off course.

EA getting ready for some work somewhere

A work boat and skip came down the lock. We’ve seen a few worky type vessels about the place, presumably getting ready for winter maintenance.

Several of the overstaying boats moved off too. Notices removed from windows. That left us and one other boat that looks like it is quite happy here.

Thankfully no friends were brought home today!

Council workmen arrived and did a bit of pruning in the park we’re moored alongside so whilst the chipper chipped Tilly was kept in. A big vat of carrot and orange soup was made from the remaining cheap carrots we’d bought at M&S, Not bad for 45p, a roast, a cake and soup.

Scarborough Station

Mick’s return journey from Scarborough wasn’t quite so good. The trains to London from York were cancelled so a detour via Leeds was taken. This train ended up stopping everywhere so got into London late. A fast train to Maidenhead got him slightly back on course where he caught up with a train he’d hoped to catch back to Marlow. He was back on board Oleanna just gone 10:30pm. A long day with a lot of trains.

Cats enlarged

0 locks, 0 miles, 9 trains, 2 tubes, 1 tidy house, 1 load washing, 1 catch up with neighbours, 2 bags shopping, 1 zip, 6 hours shore leave, 2 cancelled, 1 busy river out of season, 7 stencils drawn, 2 cut.

Midsummers. 21st June

Clayhithe Moorings to Fort St George Moorings, Cambridge

Clear clear water

The river was so clear this morning, all the reeds and plants intermingled with the fish below us. The sun was out again with the temperatures requiring shorts and shady hats.

We pootled our way in towards Cambridge, much of the journey we were surrounded by trees offering us some shelter. Baits Bite was to be our second lock of the week. Accompanied by a Lock Keepers hut and behind that a rather shy thatched cottage hiding behind high fencing.

Okay then

By The Plough Pub in Fen Ditton there are signs asking you to keep left, this means passing boats on the wrong side. A rowing boat came round the bend ahead of us, a touch too close to the bank and old man in the pub garden shouted across to them about a painting of the Bumps at this location.

Maybe this is the one he was on about. The bend here is known as The Gut, keeping to the left is because of the difficulty in steering a 60ft rowing VIII, as the boat ahead of us had just found out.

Wonder if these cows have better manors than those at Lechlade?

We’d been surviving on what water we had left since filling up at Prickwillow so we gladly stopped in between the moored boats along Stourbridge Common. Here cows graze right up to the river, leaving their calling cards on the banks. Thankfully today any cowpats were dried out making stepping off to tie up easier than it would have been otherwise.

Whilst the tank filled up I had a shower hoping we still had far enough to go to heat up another tank full for Mick later on. Some bins were found nearby, including recycling which was a relief as our rubbish mountain was getting close to engulfing us.

Under Riverside Bridge where two lanes cross the river, one for pedestrians the other bikes. Past Cambridge Museum of Technology with it’s high brick chimney. Terraced houses were soon replaced with boat houses, one for each college, the river narrower than the Thames through Oxford, but still full of boats.

College Boat Houses

We kept our eyes peeled for spaces, the first one too close to a bridge and right outside a pub. Midsummer Fair was set up on Midsummer Common ready to draw in the crowds later this week, maybe we’d be better further in. Then a space with some wonderful shade, we couldn’t let that go to someone else!

Only a few poles to tie to meant the spikes came out. Mick bashed them into the ground, on the final hit the hammer flew out of his hand and straight into the river! A mental note was taken to it’s location and the Sea Searcher magnet earnt it’s keep assisted by the river clearing a touch and the handle of the hammer being bright yellow!

Despite Tilly’s protestations the doors remained shut for her. The amount of foot fall, bikes, scooters and proximity of a busy road means that sadly she won’t be exploring Cambridge.

First port of call was a visit to Heffers. Heffers was established 140 years ago and was the equivalent to Blackwells in Oxford, the university bookshop. In 1999 Blackwells bought the shop, it still retains it’s name. In a previous life I was a book and map seller at Blackwells in York, so time to have a browse was on the cards. With aircon and some birthday presents to purchase I was going to be kept busy for a while. Mick browsed from a chair near the front doors whilst I headed off to find the Crime Section. One title I was after was easy to find, another however wasn’t there. A friendly chap asked if he could help, the other title was currently being considered for reprint. He then suggested various authors that might be suitable, this was a man who knew his stock inside and out. In fact he turns out to have worked in bookselling for 40 years, 38 of them for Heffers and he is also a judge for the Golden Dagger Awards for thrillers. So I purchased a wild card paperback suggested by him, hope Andrew will enjoy it.

Kings College on the left

A couple of hours had us bimbling around the city along with many thousands of tourists. We did have a couple of aims.

Mathematical Bridge

The Mathematical Bridge which crosses the River Cam at Queens College. The bridge was designed by William Etheredge in 1748 and built by John Essex in1749. It spans the 50ft wide river using short lengths of timber. These short lengths of timber are held in a state of compression by the action of gravity on the whole structure, based on a voussoir bridge requiring strong abutments to balance the compressive forces created by the spring of the arch. The triangulation in the structure makes it very strong. Since it was first built it was repaired in 1866 and then rebuilt to the same design in 1904.

Below on the river the punts were in use, several with experienced guides gliding the punts along with ease showing up those having their first attempt. Just beyond Silver Street Bridge is the limit of navigation, although it is only possible to bring powered craft into The Backs between October and March with permission from the Cam Conservators, between March and October the furthest we can go is to below Jesus Lock. Today we weren’t tempted to have a go on a punt.

At weekends they have a second shop elsewhere in the city

Walking back through the city we headed up Bene’t Street. As soon as we’d turned the corner I could see the queue, at least thirty people standing in line. Slow decisions at the head of the queue very necessary. Jack’s Gelato will be visited before we leave, but I didn’t really want to stand around for half an hour today, so we even refrained from looking at todays flavours as that would have been torture.

The Fair

The walk back to Oleanna passed numerous other University buildings and colleges, the bus station (possibly handy for tomorrow) and then across Christ’s Pieces a park filled with trees offering walkers wonderful shade. Then along and across Midsummer Common which one end was almost totally taken over by the fair, we’ll see how noisy it gets tomorrow when it opens.

1 lock, 4.96 miles, 1 full water tank, 2 clean boaters, 1 miffed cat, 1 big splash, 1 handy magnet, 1 first perusal of Cambridge, 2 long a queue, 1 list, 1 joint membership, 3 options, 1st to read the letter, 2 presents, 1 vat of bolognaise sauce.

Keen For Cake. 11th June

Jubilee Gardens to Padnal Fen GOBA Mooring, River Lark

There was only time for a cuppa in bed before I was heading off into town his morning armed with shopping bags. Somehow we’d managed to time our return to Ely with the twice monthly Farmers Market, I like Farmers markets. Mick stayed behind and left me to it.

Those strawberries smelt sooo good

The market square was mostly full of antique stalls and street food wagons, the market stretching round onto Dolphin Lane. There was still quite a good mix of produce stalls, so before I put my hand in my pocket I had a good look round.

So far this year we’ve only had one lot of asparagus and that was supermarket bought, so seeing what hopefully would be fresh spears I hunted round for the best price. Only a couple of meat stalls. I didn’t want a nice juicy steak at £21 but some sausages if they were gluten free. The lady had pork and apple burgers, sorted that would do us for a bbq this weekend.

I so wish bread agreed with me

More fruit and veg stalls, a nice plump cauliflower, some carrots (just because they looked nice, no idea what I’ll use them for).

There were two bakers stalls. One with every sort of bread you could ever want apart from gluten free, but that’s understandable with sooo much gluten flying about. I got Mick a small pork pie.


The other bakers was George’s Bakery. Here the stall was enclosed with plastic, only small gaps either end for you to be served. Then a line of benches led away under gazebos where some fencing took over to help keep the queue under control. There was a queue, quite a long queue. Sadly it was another stall that I wouldn’t be making a purchase from, just as well a I didn’t really want to stand or sit in a queue for an hour!

Waiting area

Fish, wine, beer, cheeses, all sorts of tasty looking things to buy. I was restrained and walked away with a good stash. On the way back to the boat I called in at a Chinese Supermarket for some more rice noodles and took note of what flours they do in case I need to stock up at some point.

I was back just in time for the Geraghty zoom which covered subjects such as Drax Powerstation, how big one fried goose egg would be in a frying pan.

Todays purchases

A top up shopping list was drawn up taking into account the random items I’d just purchased and I headed off to Sainsburys whilst Mick rolled the covers up, pushed off, winded and headed for the water point. I got back to the boat just in time to assist with the second rinse through of the yellow water tank.

Breasting up to empty toilets

Now we pushed Ely away and headed north once more. Rowers were out today in force. We pootled our way back along the straight straight, there was space on the EA mooring should we find none elsewhere.

Rowers out in force

Blimey it was windy out there, thankfully a tail wind. It might have made it a touch awkward turning onto the River Lark, but Mick and Oleanna made the turn without a problem. Not far to go before the two sets of moorings. The EA mooring on the north bank was filled with one narrowboat, the other GOBA had a cruiser settled at one end, plenty of space for us. We moved to the far end where Tilly could roam free and not disturb the Alsatian on the cruiser.

Sunny, warm and very windy! We were joined by a widebeam filled with friends and family out for a pootle, they stopped for lunch and then headed up to the junction to wind. We pottered away the afternoon whilst Tilly made the most of lots of friendly cover.

Now who’s lurking in here?

Over the last few weeks we’ve been thinking ahead towards October and November when I’ll be away working on Panto. Last year we moved Oleanna north so the move back to the house would be easier/shorter for Tilly. This year we plan on being on board much longer, in fact most probably into the new year. Having Oleanna near to Chippy will be so much better for me to be able to get back at weekends as I’ve done in the past. But once the show is open we intend to get as far north as possible to return to the house to do winter maintenance there. This involves a lot of planning and winter stoppage dodging!

The evening sunshine

A while ago the first draft of stoppages was published, these are put out for boaters to look at and make comments. Mick spent quite a while looking at routes north, the River Trent, Trent and Mersey and the Shropshire Union. Most years works on the T&M and Shropie are split, one canal before Christmas the other after, leaving a route north to south open. However in the first draft both canals will be closed before Christmas, the T&M for the usual works and the Shropie for work on a culvert, then the usual stoppages will follow in the new year. Mick sent in a comment regarding Coldstone Culvert, a couple of days ago he received a response from the Construction/Stoppage Coordinator for the West Midland Region. It’s only a courtesy email, but at least we know his comment has been logged. The next draft will be out for comment in a few weeks time, we’ve got our fingers crossed.

Sun setting

0 locks, 4.37 miles, 1 wind, 1 right, 1 cauliflower, 1 punnet of strawberries, 1 pie, 8 spears, 4 burgers, 0 boxes wine, 6 bananas, 1 full water tank, 1 empty yellow water tank, 1 pesky culvert.

Captions in black today