Category Archives: Theatre Design

Poot. 17th 18th January

Cast Iron Roving Bridge to Cast Iron Roving Bridge

Just as we were about to tuck into a late breakfast a familiar face bobbed down to say hello at our side hatch. Paul from Waterway Routes was heading off for the day to do some data checking for his maps. We arranged to meet up later in the day.

Morning Tilly

Tilly came and went whilst I made use of the washing machine. Mick headed into town to pick up some new glasses, he was a touch concerned that I might not like them as I’d not been with him when he chose new frames. The heavens opened and I was glad I was having a lazy day.

Pixel all wrapped up for our safety

For lunch we set free one of the cheeses I’d brought back with me. Pixel had been loosely vacuum packed as it was so squidgy. It took a while to cut off an end, I then realised that the whole cheese was wrapped in muslin and it should have been unwrapped completely. But the liquid state that it was inside would have required a bowl! So hoping that the muslin would contain it we continued cutting it away, bit by bit.

Cwoor!!!

Verdict. Ohhh yummy, gooey, slightly ‘prickelnd’ on the tongue. In fact after a couple of slices of my GF Austrian bread spread with it my tongue was just starting to go a little bit numb! We’ll try and eek this one out as it was most definitely a treat cheese.

Mick’s glasses are okay, bigger than his previous ones, Dame Edna meets Ben Sherman, apparently this is more modern and cool!

Paul popped in for a cuppa late afternoon when he’d returned after cycling part of the Trent and Mersey. Tomorrow he would be cycling from Lincoln to Boston to check data, good job he has an electric assisted Brompton, just hope the wind stays in his favour for the day.

Do we have to get up now?!

Saturday morning, a bright start to the day, but we loitered in bed for a while, well I have been working hard! Mick headed off for our Saturday newspaper and after a leisurely breakfast we decided to go on a little pootle.

BUMingham

With the next week looking like overnight temperatures will be low, we need to stock up on essentials. Earlier in the week Mick had pulled in at Alvechurch to enquire how much their gas was. At £29.90 Mick bought two bottles! Coal was the next thing, so we pulled along to the service point outside the Distillery.

Coal please

Another boat was topping up and emptying when we arrived so we pulled in and waited our turn. We’re hoping to reach Horne Basin, where the diesel is cheap, in a couple of days so we only stocked up on coal. Only three bags as it was £13 for 25kg a touch more than we’re used to.

The water tank was filled, the tap here has good pressure, one to remember! As we pulled away more boats were arriving, quite a busy spell.

Heading out of town

We decided to have a little jaunt a touch further along the canal to turn round. We passed the boat that runs it’s engine late at night sat not much further on. One end of the Soho Loop is closed at the moment so we chose the Icknield Loop instead.

Turning into the Icknield Loop

Blimey it was chilly out there, the sun low in the sky making it hard to see. The island here is becoming a new neighbourhood according to the developments website. Car free with modern terraced houses, green spaces (currently concrete and mud) and a widebeam sales office.

The new neighbourhood

Coming back onto the Main Line we turned right and headed back into town, turning down the Oozells Street Loop so that we could turn back on ourselves to have the hatch towpath side where we’d been moored before. The left turn out of the loop was a touch tight, but Mick managed it without hitting anywhere.

Boxes on boxes

After a cheesy lunch we walked into town. A bag of unwanted items was donated to Cancer Research, this has now freed up space for this years Christmas presents. Boots was visited for an adjustment to Mick’s new glasses as they were tending to slip down his nose. A food shop for a couple of days and some model making materials for my next project, I have a model box to make soon.

One puzzled Tilly

Back on Oleanna I browned some shin beef added veg and popped the cast iron pot onto the stove to bubble away the remainder of the afternoon. Whilst in Vienna I longed to cook for myself easily avoiding gluten in my diet. I’d dreamt of cooking on the stove top. Later on jacket potatoes went inside the fire box and yoghurt dumplings were sat on top of the stew. It’s good to be home again.

Stew and dumplings

0 locks, 2.14 miles, 2 straights, 2 lefts, 2 rights, 1 liquid cheese, 3 bags coal, 12 loads washing, 1 full water tank, 2 visits from Paul, 1 stew, 12 dumplings, 1 flummoxed cat, 1 set of needles knitting again.

Returning Problems. 16th January

Tardebigge Top Lock to Cast Iron Roving Bridge, Birmingham, BCN

Out in Vienna it was time to pack my bags. One thing left to do, visit the cheese shop on Langegasse that I’ve been walking past and inhaling for the last ten days.

Yummy Jumi

Many cheeses in this shop are kept in cabinets for safety, our safety. Many of the cheeses in this shop look like given half a chance they would take over the world with only Dr Who capable of stopping them. With so much to choose from and a taxi booked I couldn’t sample too many, which maybe was a good thing.

Bombs, brains

I’m not too fond of Emmental or Gruyere so that immediately ruled out half of the shop. The chap helped me and gave me a couple of samples. I like goats cheese, but in Britain you don’t often get a hard goats cheese. So as I was in Austria I had to have one from the mountains, ‘High on a hill lived a lonely goatherd’. It was tasty, sold.

Cheese!!!!

Then a softer cheese. No chance to taste this one as they are individual cheeses that have a whole culture of their own. Sold! The chap vacuum wrapped them for me so that my bag wouldn’t be making it’s own way back to the UK.

Heading for home

My taxi was early, the driver arriving just as I checked out and was asking where to wait. Soon I was whisked out to the airport to await a delayed first flight to Munich.

Sadly not available in Mick’s size

I’d booked a window seat, but at the gate I was issued with a new seat in the middle! This was a shame as there were fantastic views over the Austrian Alps, not much snow though!

Alps

Meanwhile back in Birmingham.

Mick and Tilly have been avoiding storm Brendon. On Monday once Chris had left to visit more boat builders Mick filled the water tank and headed northwards again. Passing NB Sola Gratia, under the M42 he chose a suitable place without trees to spend Monday night by Bridge 68.

Tuesday they decided to head into Birmingham setting off early to beat the weather. At 9am they reached the southern portal of Wast Hill Tunnel. The interior of Oleanna already in full tunnel mode, hoping that with all the lights being on this would keep Tilly from fretting. I suspect he just timed their passage well and she was busy having her morning snooze as he could hear no shouting at the back doors.

A mile and a half later they came back out into daylight. But what lay ahead?

Out the northern portal

There was a boat up against the towpath, pinned in my a fallen tree. Had the tree fallen onto the boat? Mick was about to try to nudge his way through when the owner came out. Last night he’d tried to do the same, but got stuck. Whether he was grounded or just held by the tree Mick didn’t know, but one thing was certain Mick was now stuck too!

One stuck boat with tree attached

The other boater had rung to report it to C&RT, another phone call wouldn’t hurt after all Mick had nowhere to go. He couldn’t get into the side so was just having to sit in the middle. Apparently C&RT staff were on route to access the situation.

Fountains arrive with long chainsaws

Then the C&RT staff got held up by traffic so the contractors were called and sent anyway. They arrived with long handled chain saws and proceeded to climb onto the roof of the stuck boat. Helmets, high-vis but no life jackets! The roof of the boat was wet and had no grabrail or anything should they slip to stop them. They chopped and chopped away at the tree. Soon the trapped boat was free.

On the bow

Mick offered the bow of Oleanna as a platform to carry on working from, then they moved to the stern to clear more. At last Mick and Oleanna could continue on their journey into Birmingham. The 8.5 miles had taken around 7.5 hours and Mick had got a touch wet in the process.

and on the
Stern

Location is always important. So I insisted on some greenery in the BUMingham outside. Tom obliged and tied up the one with short sideways trees. Thank goodness it wasn’t just bricks again!

So back in Munich.

I should have had an hour and a half waiting for my next flight. There were things to do, look at the shops and restaurants, then eat the quinoa salad I’d brought with me from Vienna. The new (well to me new) passport control had to be cleared, this I am now a dab hand at after being rejected on my outbound flight. Hold your passport down on the screen with your hand so that it can be read!

Long corridors

I headed to the gate, not quite at the furthest point of the airport, but almost. Staff arrived, then announced that there was a delay. This extended and we finally were allowed through the boarding gate as our plane should have been pushed back. There was no plane, just a bus to take us out to our Star Alliance A319-100, here we crossed the tarmac and climbed the steps to find our seats.

Climbing on board

With everyone on board we taxied round to run up along the side of the runway. The pilot swung us round onto the tarmac, would this be a rolling start? We tootled along for a little while straightening, then the engines roared up and the wheels began to speed up. Time to say goodbye to Europe….

Except the engine soon powered down! There had only been a short blast of throttle, now we were trundling along the runway. An air hostess quickly came on the tannoy and said that an announcement would be made shortly by the captain as to why we hadn’t taken off. They don’t use the term abandoned as this might cause alarm!

Once we’d turned off the runway the Captain spoke to us, something about the engines not being in sink, I’m not sure what he was saying as a group of English men were too busy joking with each other about finding the nearest underware shop! One thing we did all hear though was that he was going to go round and try to take off again.

This time we headed further up the runway, turned to face the tarmac and stopped. The engines roared and we set off, so far so good, we’d made it further than last time. Bye Europe… as the wheels lifted off the ground this time. Phew!! I had wondered if we’d have to change planes, be diverted to another UK airport, but thankfully we were on our way.

Mick later told me about the air disaster in Munich in 1958. Glad I didn’t know about it earlier!

The sun setting over main land Europe

The sun soon set on the horizon turning the sky orange. After an hour and something the coast of main land Europe showed, lights twinkling below. Clouds covered the English coast, just the occasional glimpse confirmed we were over land again.

With half an hour to go we started to descend, the lower we got the bumpier it got. Bumpier and bumpier. The bumpyness kept on coming. We seemed to be getting lower, but would we be sent round again by air traffic control. There were a lot of houses getting closer, surely we must be about at the end of the run way!

As the runway lights came into view the plane crabbed it’s way towards the ground, was this still Storm Brendan? One wheel down, then the other, both now on the tarmac going slightly diagonally. As soon as the engines stopped their furious noise a round of aplause filled the plane, followed by more comments about underwear shops.

Birmingham and canals

Only about half an hour late, I sailed through biometric passport control, my bag was about the tenth to appear on the conveyor. The cheese in my bag kept quiet so I exited arrivals through the green customes doors to see Mick stood holding his phone with my name flashing away in red, just in case I’d forgotten what he looked like!

Very posh first night present from the Viennese Producers

0 locks, 14.16 miles, 1 wind, 2 much wind, 1 tree, 1 wet boater, 2 chain saws, £20 on cheese, 2 vacuum bags for safety, 1 taxi, 2 planes, 2 trains, 3 shuttles, 1 walk, 271 head nudges with Tilly, 16 very posh first night chocolates.

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 3.

A day off

Cheeses and meats today

After a good breakfast I set out to explore Vienna. I had a few things in mind and whatever else I came across would be a bonus.

Klimt with Katze
Self portrait of Schiele

First port of call, The Leopold Museum. Built in the Museum Quarter which is situated in the former Imperial Stables. Rudolf and Elisabeth Leopold amassed their collection over 50 years, in the 1950’s works by Schiele and Klimt were considered to be taboo. The Leopolds contributed the lions share of some 5200 works of art to the Leopold Museum at a fraction of their estimated value of 570 million Euros.

A wardrobe

The galleries are filled with paintings, sculptures, some clothing and furniture. Some of the marquetry was exquisite.

Death and the Maiden by Klimt
Self Portrait by Oscar Kokoschka

Klimt and Schiele I knew but Oscar Kokoshka, I knew to be a writer and playwrite, not a painter.

Self portrait by Schoenberg

Schoenberg, the tone row composer (I have had physical reactions to his music in the past, he’s not one of my favourites).

A group portrait with Schoenberg

Then new artists for me. An exhibition of Richard Gerstl who is considered to have been the first Austrian Expressionist, you can almost hear the paint being applied to his canvases.

Summer Guests by Emil Nolde

Then Emil Nolde a German/Dutch artist, who’s choice of bright colours caught my eye.

But my favourites were The Blind Man by Klimt, not in his more recognised style;

Schiele The House with Shingles

Schiele’s House with Shingles. It looks like the roof is made from many thousands of books.

Man with fur cap (My brother the Animal)

and The Man in a Fur Cap by Albert Brinkle. This chap looks like a corn fed chicken.

Stop
Go

After a couple of hours inside I reclaimed my coat and headed onwards. I’m glad I took my feather and down coat as even though the sun was out it was still a touch chilly.

Naschmarkt stretches on forever

Tim the Director of Houdini had mentioned a fantastic food market called Naschmarkt, so I headed off to have a look. I was already aware that it would almost certainly be closed, few shops are open on Sundays in Vienna.

Crystallised fruit
Nuts and spices

Despite all the shutters being down I could peer in through the windows and imagine the smells from the sausages, spices and dried fruits. If I come back I will do my very best to visit here when it’s open. My Mum would have spent a whole week here.

Hey you!
Look up here, it’s beautiful

Looking up above street level two buildings jumped out. A verdigrised lady way up high shouted to me to admire her building against the bright blue sky. She was right, it was beautiful. Designed by Otto Wagner who was a leading member of the Vienna Succession movement and the broader Art Nouveau movement.

Another Otto Wagner building

Almost next door is another of his buildings, less gilt but more colourful. His work has been added to the next time list.

Yum

Time for food. I needed to eat well today as I’d spent far too much time trying to work out what I could eat in the supermarkets. Google is your friend at such times and it pointed me towards Blue Orange who did gluten free bagels. Mine was very tasty with beetroot humus and a cup of tea with a nice sit down.

Ooo err!

Next I wound my way round side streets and headed for Weiner Park where the Weintal Canal heads out to the Danube Canal.

Quite fancy for a storm drain

This was built as a relief channel, it looks more like a storm drain now with fancy bridges, but it was used to rid the city of sewage.

Three Bridges

Vienna’s own Three Bridges crosses the canal, road above rail above water criss crossing as they do on the Hanwell flight.

Every window treated differently

I’d seen so much Baroque architecture as I walked round I now headed to find something different. Kunst Haus Wein designed by architect Hundertwasser is reminiscent of Gaudi or Manrique, but in his own way. Inspired by Klimt his work contains numerous tiles, cut to different sizes, applied at different angles.

A Pip self portrait

Kunst Haus Wein is mostly chequer boarded on the outside, the main entrance with wavy steps with large bulbous pillars with mirrored and tiled sections.

The building houses a museum and a gallery which hosts photography exhibitions. Sadly by the time I’d got here it wasn’t worth the entrance fee to look round. A quick look round the shop and a comfort break did mean I got to walk on the uneven floors all sweeping up into the corners of each room. Another place to come back to.

The fast flowing Danube Canal

By now the sun was setting, so I walked along the Danube Canal to reach the older part of the city. The walls confining the fast running water were lined with much graffiti, not much of it worthy of photographing. As I rounded a bend hills could be seen in the distance.

St Stephan’s

I now joined the masses of tourists in the older districts. St Stephan’s was being photographed from ever angle with the dark blue sky above. The tourist shops open, selling their tacky tack. I meandered my way around.

Hello!

The column of Pest was another focal point. I joined in with the selfies, but got bored of trying to get both myself and the statue in focus, so it just looks like a Christmas tree.

Demel a cake shop est 1786

The blanketed vestibule at Demel opened into a mirrored shop selling expensive cake, there were a few seats in a back room were fizzy wine was being served, I’d hate to think how much the experience was costing the lucky few!

The Hofburg

Horse drawn carriages could be smelt before they came into sight waiting by the entrance to The Hofburg where you can see Lipizzaner Stallions at the Spanish Riding School.

Atmospheric side streets

By now I was starting to feel a touch hungry and quite tired. Should I head back to the hotel? Should I climb on a tram? Or should I carry on walking? I chose the later and headed towards a restaurant I hoped I’d enjoy.

Through the Hofburg where there was a bar set up

I plotted my route, the most direct route along a shopping street. C & A amongst all the usual highstreet names and Austrian stores. The road kept going and going and going. Eventually I saw a Kentucky Fried Chicken sign, I’d almost reached my destination.

Oooo!

Gasthaus Zum Wohl. Here in the warm I took a seat, looked round at what everyone was eating and then was offered an English Menu. Oh for somewhere like this back home. Zum Wohl is a gluten and lactos free restaurant. Here I could choose anything from the menu. Here I could have a glass of draught beer, brewed especially for them.

Beer and Schnitzel

I had a choice, I didn’t really, I already knew what I was going to have. Wein Schnitzel. Well I am a tourist! When it arrived I was astounded at how big it was. Accompanied by a potato field salad and some cranberry jam. Ooh it was nice and just what was needed after a long day on my feet.

I checked the pedometer on my phone and then ordered some almond and chocolate pancakes for pudding. I did wonder if I had room for them, I still had a mile to walk home, so felt no guilt.

Yummier

Once back at the hotel I popped my pyjamas on and poured myself a glass of wine. What a good day it had been.

Tired legs and feet

Meanwhile back at Tardebigge.

Tom moved the outside to a very good one, plenty for me to do. He had a friend come to visit.

Tom Chris stayed lots of sleeps. He’s thinking of having a boat built for him They talked boats lots, reminisced even more, then went to see the dog in a bath down the locks and ate at The Tardebigge. On Sunday they moved the outside. They tied one up and went shopping, then turned us around and headed back to catch the previous outside again.

More shore leave for me! I spent ages in the sideways trees and climbed a tree. A friend kept me busy too. But when I got back to the boat in need of a drink it had gone! Tom had moved the outside with me in it! How dare he!! I shouted lots, but only the wind chimes heard me.

Then from nowhere Tom called my name. What was he doing over there?! At least he had the boat with him!

0 locks, 20.71 miles, 6 tunnels, 3 water fills, 1 extra Tom, 1 friend, 1 missing boat, 10.75 miles walked, 1 museum, 1 bagel, 1 wein schnitzel, 1 beer, 1 very good day in Vienna.

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.