Category Archives: Theatre Design

Tense. 14th July

Ballot Box Bridge

There was only one thing for it today, we had to stay put. Last night the TV signal had been checked and double checked. We really would have had to move on if the signal was patchy, but luckily it was fine.

Reception good

Boats started coming past fairly early, the first being NB Lottie Jane heading in towards London. Our New Zealand friends Clare and Graeme had introduced us in Manchester, sadly we were still having our morning cuppa in bed as they passed. A while later one of the boats that had been in Paddington cruised past at quite a speed, at least if Lottie Jane had booked one space would have become available.

Sharing my studio

Soon after breakfast I set myself up for a day of model making, hopping that today I would put my finishing touches to my panto model. Mick turned the radio on, followed by the TV, there was an important cricket match that needed to be watched. Today because England were in the final of the World Cup it was to be shown on terrestrial TV, a first in a long time.

Bloomin bicycles

10 hours! Those trees out there may have thought that they had disguised themselves, but I could see straight through the ivy. Plenty of climbing, pouncing and bicycle avoidance today. My back legs were in need of a good stretch and they certainly got it.


With the commentary from the Test Match Special team keeping us company for much of the day, the delay of around five seconds before the TV caught up was handy, apart from when they went to adverts. Blimey it was tense, time after time. How close could one match be!

Boozer complete

We celebrated with a glass of Crabbies each as I did my best to finish my model. By 9pm the last bit of dressing was added, security boxes repainted, the list of model jobs was all ticked off. Just the long list of Tech Drawings to work through now. Thank goodness we had a good portion of Paella left to eat cold as soon as I’d finished.

0 locks, 0 miles, 0 steps off the boat for me, 1 load washing, 10 hours, 8 taken, 1 tenser than tense ending to the match, 1 shade of pink which became yellow, 1 model completed, 20 rows of knitting.

Shiny Boat Central. Day 6

Paddington Basin

A cuppa in bed, then a shower and we were ready for the day. Bang on time another familiar face walked under the footbridge into the basin. My college friend Kathy coming for breakfast on her way to work.

Kathy and me through the hatch

Kathy has worked her way around the drama colleges of London through the last few years and now is head of Production Design at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, possibly the highest thought of design college in the country. Kathy was the first person I met when I moved to Croydon for college and our first day in the student house together we just didn’t stop talking. We don’t get many opportunities for a catch up nowadays, so it was great that we’d managed to find a couple of hours today.


We headed over to Kupp for breakfast, Kathy must have know where we’d be going as she matched the decor perfectly. Mick and I opted for poached eggs with bacon and hollandaise sauce, whilst Kathy had wild mushrooms spinach and a poached egg. It was all very tasty, my only criticism was that just because my gluten free bread was smaller than Mick’s sourdough slice shouldn’t mean that I got less sauce than him!

A touch more hollandaise would have been nice

We talked about friends, family, theatre and boats. During the week Kathy lives on board Dora May on the Thames, her mooring just down stream from Tower Bridge, a fantastic view from their wheel house. All too soon it was time for her to head to work. Hopefully she may come out and join us for a day when we’re on the Thames, but we’ll see, she’s a busy lady.

Some shopping was needed, so Mick headed off again into central London this time in hunt of some new clothes for himself and a stock up of tea for me from Whittards. I in the mean time did my best to finish scanning my Dad’s second diary. Not as many pages as the first one, but this one has the account of his journey by ship to India.

A sketch of India

I was determined to get the diary scanned today, the only thing distracting me was the GoBoats. Several of them had been hired out to teams all in matching fancy dress. Dalmations, Rabbits in hats, Blackbirds, Elfs. Each one set off from the next pontoon and just about all of them managed to collide with us. We may now have access both bow and stern but it does mean we are the first and most likely boat to get hit. No wonder the boats have had more and more padding added to them from when we first saw them.


A new boat arrived for the pontoon, having to hold back under the footbridge as there was no space. Who was overstaying? Yesterday a not so shiny boat had pulled in and the chap carried his bike along the gunnel and disappeared, he was an obvious choice, but being shiny isn’t a prerequisite for mooring here, anyone who books and pays can.

There followed a bit of complex boat moving. The central boat moved out, the one on the inside then pulled out and moored on the Hospital side (they were the ones), before the boat from the outside moved into the inside, the central boat moved back into position followed by the new boat onto the outside of the pontoon. Everyone was happy now.

Mick returned with a stash of my tea, showered and put a new polo shirt, far less creased than normal but with tell tale signs of it being new. I still had 20 pages left to scan, we decided to be slightly late to our next engagement so that I could finish.

Ziggy keeping an eye on us all

Across London to Homerton, here I’d spied a stockists for Charlie and Ivy oils and bread dippers. One of these I use on lamb and veg kebabs and I’m having to cobble together my own version, which isn’t quite the same, the lack of juniper lets my version down. We hunted the shelves of Eat 17, but nothing from the range was to be found.

At my brothers they have been joined by Jac’s Mum over from Australia for six weeks. Not bad doing that journey in her mid 80’s. Helen is as inquisitive as her daughter, just with a Scottish accent. We were asked endlessly about life on the boat, my favourite question being ‘What do you eat?’


A lovely evening with them as ever and Andrew cooked a wonderful paella on the barbecue, packed with fish chicken and prawns.

Lemon Tart

Helen had made a lemon tart, the crust having been made with corn flour for me, very tasty it was. A good evening to mark our last in London.

Helen, Mick, Pip, Jac, Andrew, Josh behind the camera

0 locks, 0 miles, 4 tubes, 2 buses, 1 overground, 1 best friend with a beaming smile, 5 poached eggs, 2 hours to catch up, 157 pages scanned, 0 juniper balsamic dipper, 1 huge paella, 1 slightly nutty Scottish Australian, 2 diaries handed over, 1 slow journey home, 1 fruit cake of a cat, it’s time for Tilly to have some shore leave.

Shiny Boat Central. Day 3

Paddington Basin

Another work day for me today. I put my model together and worked my way through the scenes. The colours I’ve used work well with just about every scene, I may just change the shade of pink I’ve used in the kitchen scene. Second coats could go on to everything and by the evening it was looking pretty good, it now looks like panto. Still a few days work left to do before I can hand it over.

A sneaky peek of Panto

Mick headed off to find a hardware shop. The washer on the cap for the water intake has expanded, making it hard to put it back on. So he returned with two to try and a set of new bits for a screw driver. In the set is a square headed one, which we’re hoping will mean we can now take off the back of the freezer drawer.

Mick’s personal ferry

Then he headed off to make use of his 60+ oyster again. Today he headed first to Canada Water via the tube and southwards on the overground via Clapham Junction. Then on to Greenwich. Here he considered climbing up to the top of the Dome, but at £30 he felt that was a bit steep and the view wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as that from the Harbour bridge in Sydney.

Thank you

So instead he spent £2 and caught the ferry Predator 2 across the Thames to Trinity Buoy Wharf. This only took around five minutes, but he had the boat to himself. He’d remembered about the ferry from when we came to visit my friend Kathy a couple of years ago in one of the galleries at the wharf.

Greenwich and a big boat
Greenwich and a fast boat

Next was a bus to Canary Wharf, then DLR to Island Gardens where he watched big boats go past on the Thames, before returning back to Oleanna.

A busy day all round, except for Tilly. She has taken to sleeping until around 2:30pm, then she has a period of shouting at the back door before giving up and having to visit her box in the bathroom. A quick check at what I’ve been doing all day, by sticking her head right into my model box. Luckily she approves.

Excerpt from 9th September 1943

This evening I have started to scan my Dad’s diaries from the mid 1940’s. I only have two (I suspect that’s all he wrote) which cover his life from the age of 18 in York, then onto when he joined the army and training camps. The last few entries cover his journey across the seas to India where he rebuilt bridges around Hyderabad after the end of WW2. I’m wanting to try and collate his diaries, with letters, photos and his drawings at some point. Passing them on to Andrew to read has spurred me into action.

My Dad (central) at the age of 19
140th RE (Field) OCTU 175 Class April 1944

0 locks, 0 miles, 4 tubes, 2 overground trains, 1 ferry, 1 bus, 2 DLR, 1 back room den, 3 portals, 1 floor, 1 backdrop completed, 52 pages scanned, 1 cat saving up all her shore leave to have in one big go.

Shiny Boat Central. Day 2

Paddington Basin

A serious work day for me and as we are in London Mick was quite happy to head off for the day.

Traffic lights!

First he headed to Hammersmith where he used to work. Things have changed somewhat since those days, there are now traffic lights at Hammersmith Broadway. You’d no longer be able to race round in a Bedford HA van!


He took a walk up to the river, you can never keep a boater away from water long. The tide was out and numerous boats sat on the bottom waiting to float again.

On the bus

Originally he’d thought of heading to Acton to the Transport Museum, but changed his mind as an interesting plane had arrived at Heathrow. So he caught the tube to Hatton Cross and then a bus to Terminal 5. Here he went up to the car park to see what he could see.

Terminal 5

Not many planes were in view, but the one he’d gone to see was. A British Airways Airbus A319 which has been painted in the BEA livery which is who Mick’s father flew for after WW2.

BEA livery

Back at Paddington, I caught up with my Production Manager for Panto, we both got confused about a quote she’d had and I got on with painting my model.

Boats nudged round the pontoon, one boat wants to leave early Wednesday morning and if a long boat pulled into the available space next to them then they’d have been trapped. Their first move meant nobody would be able to use their original mooring as they were blocking access to it. We could have moved in there, but I prefer being on the outside without people looking in all day as I work. In the end another boat who is wanting to go for water moved to be next to them, they will vacate the mooring on Wednesday letting out the other boat at the same time when they go for water.

Shades of blue

By the end of the day I had made definite progress with my model. Putting everything back into the model box it suddenly looked right. Phew!! I just hope it still looks right in the morning when I put the different scenes into it.

You will let me out! You will ! You will!! YOU WILL!!!!

0 locks, 0 miles, 3 buses, 2 tubes, 1 trains, 60+ rules, 1 plane, 2 many terms, 8 hours solid painting, 1 very bored cat, 2 hours of being stared at, sorry Tilly.

Last Lock To London. 5th July

Uxbridge Lock to nearly Ballot Box Bridge, Paddington Arm, Grand Union Canal

Yellow hose to water his garden

After watching a chap lower a pump into the canal, presumably to water his garden (bet he doesn’t have an extraction licence) we pushed off and rounded the bend to Uxbridge Lock. We dropped down and then turned into Denham Marine, for once we didn’t have to wait in line the mooring was empty.

79p, yes please!

Here is possibly the cheapest diesel in London, if you spend over £15 you can also fill with water. The tap now has a lock on it, so you can’t hog the service mooring just for water. The tank was topped up to the top but we refrained buying a bottle of gas, the price a shock after the cheap ones in Stoke. We’ll hopefully see a coal boat at some point and we’d rather give them the money.

Last Lock to London Town

A couple more miles and we had reached the last lock before London, Cowley Lock. We’d thought of emptying our yellow water tank here, but on seeing lots of people enjoying the sunshine with pints in hand we decided to wait until later. The yellow water has a touch of a wiff when it is pumped, also people just can’t help talking to Mick as he holds the hose spurting urine into our black container for disposal at the elsan.

Below the lock there was a handy space, we pulled in and had an early lunch. This is where I gave Oleanna half a wash a couple of years ago, a bird in flight had relieved itself all over her. I’ve recently been refraining from giving her a wash, hoping that a layer of dust would help us not to stand out too much amongst the London boats, very few are polished to within an inch of their lives. But most people can see through our thin disguise and make complementary comments.

Now which colour?

Over the next stretch I bobbed down below, only needed for navigational reasons now I could get on with some work. Now I have my paint colour charts again I decided to use them to select what colour I would use as my base for the panto portals and floor.


My helpful assistant decided to join in on the decision, however pink is not the right colour for the job.

Hello Houds

After a short while I could tell we were near Murderers Bridge. West Drayton is where we said goodbye to our first Second Mate, Houdini, in early 2015. We crossed the bridge with a full cat carrier and returned with it empty, cancer having gained another victim. So I always pass under here with a tear in my eye.

There were lots of boats like this on the Lee in 2014
That way

From below progress seemed to be very slow. Oleanna seemed to be in constant tick over, but where were the moored boats? There was only one boat, a big wide beam taking their time in front of us. On a long straight they pulled over to let us pass. Thank goodness we could have been there all night!

Look at that sky

No need to stop for water at Bulls Bridge so Mick swung the tiller out and Oleanna turned onto the Paddington Arm, straight ahead to London Town.

I managed to get a base coat on my model, then a first coat of green. I really hope I’ve chosen the right colour this time. A week ago it was all too bright and busy, so I thought a grey would be better. But earlier today grey didn’t seem jolly enough for a panto, I opted for in between, now i’m not so sure! I hate designers who can’t make their mind up!!

What is going on there?

We pootled along, passing numerous boats. In Southall nobody was feeding the swans, only one coot visible and the water point looks like it is now in use. Plenty of boats, piled high, their own shanty towns on water. I quite like them, but wonder how they see to move their boat.

Big development in Greenford

At 5pm we reached our chosen destination near Ballot Box Bridge. We’ve stopped here a few times now. Next to a nature reserve, a couple of hours away from Paddington, in Zone 4 and should you need it, a big Tescos a good walk away in the old Hoover building.

Zone 4 sunset

2 locks, 12.01 miles, 1 straight on, 1 left, 60 litres, 87.5 miles to ? 2nd colour, 3 portals, 1 floor, plus extra bits.

Oy! That’s Not Your Boat!! 4th July

Debham Bridge to Above Uxbridge Lock

NB Augustus came past us whilst we were having our cuppa in bed, there wasn’t enough time to get the covers rolled up and pushed out to join them for Denham Deep Lock, anyway I hadn’t finished my tea.

An hour later another boat came into view, we started to get ourselves ready when Mick spotted another boat behind them, they were obviously already sharing the locks, so no need to hurry. We pushed off and followed on behind them knowing we’d be the odd one at the back of the queue.

Heading in towards London

Chatting to the two boats ahead as they descended the lock, they both were heading into London, one to take their chances with the masses, the other has a booked mooring.

Filling Denham Deep Lock

With nobody coming from below we filled the chamber up, all 10ft 6″. A large group of students came up to the side of the lock to watch.

Please don’t get too close to the edge!

They just about filled the towpath side and I suggested that some of them move, just in case Mick knocked the bottom gate as he left, we didn’t want anybody tumbling into the canal or onto our roof. A chap sat on the off side closed the gate for us meaning we could be on our way.

We were now looking for a mooring close to Uxbridge, one with cover would be ideal. Soon there was space in the shade and Mick pulled us in, both of us doing our best not to get nettled as we moored up.

Leaving Denham behind

An early lunch then Mick was off to make use of his 60+ oyster card. He headed across London back out to Hackney where my panto model was sat waiting at my brothers. Hopefully I’ll be able to get on with finishing everything so that as soon as we turn out onto the Thames I can concentrate on boating.

A bit of shade left

Tilly headed off and soon found gaps in the mesh alongside the towpath to be able to access the trees and find friends for the afternoon. This left me with the panto script and a spread sheet to compile a props list. It is way bigger than last years, but with fewer tricksy makes. A set builder also needed more information so some of my technical drawings had to be scanned and emailed off.

Feline temperature gauge ‘long’ = hot

The shade that we’d arrived to was short lived. I had about an hours worth before the sun crept along the cabin sides, this lasted well into the evening. Inside I was at least sheltered from the sun, but the temperature kept on rising. Tilly even had to return for spells to be a long cat on the floor.

Yum yum yum

When Mick returned we made use of the shade Oleanna was now creating and sat out to enjoy a barbeque, the towpath just wide enough. Sweet corn, followed by some chicken thighs marinated in ginger and garlic with a hint of chilli and veg and halloumi kebabs.

THAT is NOT your boat Tilly!!!!!

1 lock all 10ft 6″ of it, 1.17 miles, 1 shady mooring for an hour, 1 bright mooring for 7! 1 oven, 1 long cat, 4 tubes, 2 buses, 118 props, 4 kebabs, 3 thighs, 1 model back to be finished, 1 cat preffering a wider boat roof, 1 big hello again to Ali!

Missing Cat. 1st July

Cassiobury Park

I don’t know what they were on about, I’m not missing anything! Everything is here right next to my boat along with me and I’m making the most of it.

I’m not missing!

My feline charms worked wonders this morning. I persuaded them that they needed another day off from moving the outside. She said that if She had a good day today, then until She got her box back She’d have run out of things to do for Puss In Boots. The big slidey board came out and I was told my assistance wasn’t required today.

Title block

Tom got the black box that spits things out out. Instead of feeding it today he showed it things, lots of yellow paper. He didn’t look like he needed my assistance either so I was redundant from boat duties, so made the most of this outside even more.

Outside was quieter today, no music, which meant I could hear friends in the friendly cover easier. Trees needed climbing and from up high I could watch the occasional boat coming past. One was called NB Wand’ring Bark. Now is that the sort of Woofer Bark or Tree Bark I wonder, the latter would be best.

Wandering Bark and The Jam Butty

Then there was this family who came past. The children took quite a bit of interest in me, ‘Look Mum, it’s the missing cat!’ ‘Do you think so’ ‘Yes’. As I said earlier I’m not missing anything! They watched me and then started to follow me, making it hard for me to get back to Oleanna.

Horus. Hope he’s being very busy

She came out and asked about the cat they’d seen, did it have a white tip to it’s tale? Of course I did! She said sorry but that I wasn’t the missing cat. That cat has a lot more white and only one eye and looks nothing like me at all. The children were a bit disappointed but I was then able to carry on with my business undisturbed.

Tom had to go and get them some ding ding as they’d run out of fresh supplies. I offered to catch them some and even suggested they try the Shrimp and Plaice ding ding that I don’t like, but they weren’t too keen on either. Tom doesn’t like things that eat pooh. She calls them crustaceans which makes them sound rather nice and crunchy, but believe me they are not and are really rather yucky!

A boat came along, She popped her head out and suggested they tied up the outside in front of us, it is deeper there. I didn’t think it was trying to get away, but another boat holding it would be better.

0 locks, 0 miles, 9 hours, 1 afternoon kip, 36 trees, 5 friends, 23 showings, 10 sheets, 1st letter opened, 0 left for She to do, 0 other cats, 0 missing cats, only 1 cat, me!

PS She says hello to the people who thought they’d still been following us, but then everything stopped. Tom and She think people were still getting the blog from the old blog, somehow! Tom turned something off the other day which meant the old blog couldn’t be nosy anymore. We are all glad that you’ve found us again, although it looks like Ali hasn’t and She doesn’t want to get told off when She next sees her. Thank you Aileen you helped us sort it. She will write to you about Houdini’s’ transition to life on board, She thinks I’d give a very biased view that wouldn’t be helpful.