Category Archives: Theatre

Mending. 13th June

Nightingales Bridge to Stoke Bruerne Top Lock

Another very wet morning. We weren’t going to be going anywhere! Tilly however was encouraged to take a morning nap as the weather app suggested that it might dry up later on, then we could at least get to Blisworth where we might find a shop for a few bits.

As I sat down to breakfast and to catch up on the latest blogs I picked my computer glasses up. These are old prescription reading glasses that are just perfect to view the lap top with. They are quite old and a lense has a tendency to fall out. Today however it wasn’t the screw that had come loose, it was still there, just where it connected to the other side of the frame had snapped off! Darn and blast!


My bifocals are not good for the computer, I’d have to do something about this. Father Christmas had been a jolly good chap this year and bought me a tube of super glue. This alone would hold things together but some reinforcing would be wise. With some black button thread and Mick to help hold things in place, I tied the joint together then applied some glue, letting it soak into the cotton and hopefully the joint. After a minute I tied a few more knots around the joint sealing it all with more super glue. The end result is a fully operational pair of glasses once again. may now have to dig out the other old pair that have a loose lense and see if I can mend those also.

Our spritzer bottle for the composting toilet has recently lost it’s spritz. We use this with diluted vinegar in it to spray the urine separator on our toilet with the hope that the vinegar will help to keep the pipes clear. However the spray was starting to be a bit feeble. Mick took it apart. The spring that makes it spritz fell into four pieces. We’d been warned not to have a steel urine tank as gradually the vinegar would work it’s way through this, it looks like it had eroded the spring.

A spare spring was found in an empty hand wash container. Now our spritzer spritzes again. Not bad for £1 from the handyman shop in Ellesmere eighteen months ago.

Which way?

By 11:45 the rain was easing, we needed to find a shop, mostly for some cat food, a variety and flavour that Tilly would actually eat rather than be put in the bin after a day. The wine cellar is currently half full of rejected boxes of cat food and very little wine! Mick doned his waterproofs and pushed off, leaving me indoors adding detail to my Boozer model bits.

Gayton Junction

At Gayton Junction a boat had just pulled up and positioned itself right in the middle of the service moorings. Mick couldn’t be bothered to ask them to nudge up so we could off load our rubbish so he carried straight on, the mountains of rubbish having to wait a while longer.

Round the bend towards the tunnel

The moorings at Blisworth had space for us so he pulled in. A walk into the village proved fruitful for cat food, but little else. After lunch there wasn’t sufficient time for us to go through Blisworth Tunnel and to reach the top of Stoke Bruerne locks before the last boat in at 3:15, so we didn’t rush.

North Portal

The boat was put into full tunnel mode, I came up on deck having suggested an early afternoon nap to Tilly and we pushed off. Blisworth Tunnel is just short of 3km long and is the third longest navigable tunnel in the UK, ninth in the world. It is straight, very straight therefore you can see all the way through. The interior goes from arched brickwork to a long section of concrete hoops in the central section, back to brick again towards the southern portal. The tunnel suffered over the years altering shape, it became unnavigable. In the 1980s major works were done to rebuild it, the method used was a try out for the Channel Tunnel.

The other end
Nearly there

Just before halfway through we could see another boat had entered at the south portal. Was this the trip boat that sticks it’s bow into the tunnel then reverses out? Or were they coming towards us, if they were they were going very very slowly. The tunnel was wetter than usual, no surprise there and we gradually came to meet the on coming boat. The speed they were going at it would take them an hour to go through!

The South portal

We had risked arriving at Stoke Bruerne where there might not have been any moorings left, but it turned out there were no queues waiting for the locks in the morning. We had a choice of where to moor and later on we were joined by three more boats, one having reversed past us at 22:45.

Mikron van hiding at Blisworth, wonder if it has a name?

We could hang around for a couple of days and share the locks southwards with NB Tyseley the Mikron boat, but that wouldn’t get us a Saturday newspaper or our wine stocks replenished. Hopefully the weather will improve, Mikron are loosing donations due to the bad weather. They had to perform a ‘radio’ version of their show the other night at The Admiral Nelson due to lack of space indoors for the full show.

0 locks, 4.4 miles, 1 straight on, 1 spring sprung, 1 pair glasses mended, 1 boozer exterior finished, 10 hanging baskets, 2nd sock new and improved version started, 9 pouches of edible food again.

Waiting Out The Rain. 7th June

Around about Bridge 80 to around about Bridge 87

The forecast was for rain, followed by more rain and then…. yep you’ve guessed it, more rain until about 4pm.

The blog took an annoying amount of time to sort, the internet being so intermittent. Just when you thought it was all sorted and eventually uploaded, I’d put it into preview mode and not only did the photos not appear but half of what I’d written had too! After a lot of frustration I gave up, I didn’t want today just to be about the blog, a rainy day meant I should be getting on with some work.

Dunchurch Pools Marina in the rain

I headed off into the woods. Once the trees had been climbed, I’d done quite a lot of that yesterday, Then some pouncing, I wandered that little bit further. There was a big brick wall. I prefer stone canal walls as they are climbable after some calculations. But this wall had very little claw factor (C) 0.1, Height (H) 1.3 trees high, Friendly cover (FC) 0, Angle (A) 90, Breakfast (B) 15 biscuits, wetness (W) 7.4, Tilly (T) 100%.

Drying off before my next adventure outside

I did my calculations (B x C $} T/W ~ FC x 0.7>A^H+C = :(abort attempt. Back to putting my arms down holes and climbing trees. After an hour or so the wetness rose to 8.2 time to dry off!

I drew out my scenery, everything starting from one point on the whole set means it takes a bit of marking up, but I got there in the end. It will be me painting this part of the scenery, I need to either simplify the floor design or manage to find a very quick way of marking it out.

A mound of scenery

We waited for the rain to ease. NB Chertsey braved the rain as did several hire boats. Every now and then the patter of rain stopped on the roof, Mick would look out of the windows, but by the time he’d stood up the rain had started again. At around 4:30 he decided to move. The annoying internet could not be lived with for any longer and we both knew what happened to Douglas Bader. Getting closer to Braunston would be good for tomorrow and hopefully improve the signal.

Seasonal wool decorations

We cruised only a couple of miles, to be within eye and ear shot of the Banger Spire of Braunston. Internet signal was checked, good, so we pulled in. Tilly went out and explored again, Mick got the stove going and we enjoyed the last of the pancake batter from the freezer.

BANGERS!!! Our mooring for this evening

With only one thing left in the icy box that went into the fridge for tomorrow night and the power was turned off at last. Just how long has it taken to empty the freezer!? But now that mission was accomplished. It will defrost over night have a clean, then be lifted out of the drawer to see if we can improve it’s ventilation anymore. Fingers crossed our combined skills can come up with something.

A rather lovely mooring

0 locks, 1.99 miles, 1 very wet day, 1 very wet cat, she may as well have fallen in! 664 inmates not the 625 it was built for, 2 hours wasted, 3 portals, 1 floor, 1 back cloth started, 2 much grey paint mixed, 2 savoury, 2 sweat pancakes each, 1 instep on its way.

A Good Place For A Conversation. 6th June

Rugby to Dunchurch Pools Marina Bridge 80

Well we had plenty of time

No rush to be on the move this morning, so Tilly was allowed to head off and explore whilst we had breakfast. Next was a shopping trip. We’d opted to moor nearer the station than Tescos so we had a bit of a walk there and back for supplies to keep us going for the next few days.

Lock 4 at Braunston has been shut for 48 hours, opening later today. C&RT have been carrying out repairs to the gates and cil to reduce water loss. Also overnight closures at Watford, Long Buckby etc have come into effect this week so that back pumping can be more effective overnight. Both of these things have put a stop to our plan of popping up to Crick to see our friend Lizzie, instead we hope to catch up with her a bit further south.

So we are in no rush to get to Braunston to join the queue to use the locks, we’d just get a touch closer today. The sun being out helped and despite us being on the flat for a while I decided to have a day off work, well almost.

The new bridge being clad

We pootled along towards Hillmorton. The new road bridge that will lead to Houlton (the new village of 6200 homes, 3 schools etc) has come on somewhat since we last passed. Now the roadway spans the canal and is certainly wide enough to be a duel carriageway. Big bold letters announce the bridges name Houlton Bridge 66A.

Proudly displaying it’s name

Hillmorton water point was empty. This tap is renowned for being one of the slowest on the network, but today that would suit us just fine. With the hose connected we started to fill up, I had a phone call to make about some possible work next year. Now Lynda can talk, but by the time we’d finished our conversation our tank was full, Mick had moved us off the water point closer to the locks and another boat had almost finished filling it’s tank!

Lock beam poetry
Hillmorton Locks

We worked our way up the three paired locks. One boat headed downhill towards us. The top two locks have three paddles out of order, so the chamber we’d chosen took forever to fill. Once they’ve finished at Braunston maybe they should try to get these working a touch better, they are after all the most used locks in the country.

Wild flower borders

Further along the building works are on going, but set back from the canal at the moment. Houlton will be huge, Will it extend down to the canal or will the banks of wild flowers remain?

Giant poppies
Witch in a well

On along Barby Straight, the old ambulance long gone, but giraffes graze the trees and a witch hovers in a well, it gives you something to photograph. The moorings between 78 and 79 were very full so we were surprised at those outside Dunchurch Pools Marina having plenty of space.

Barby Straight

Here Tilly was allowed two hours. Last time we stayed here she was out well past dark. Today Tilly stayed out for three and a half hours, returning for a pit stop only for the doors to remain shut for the night.

3 locks, 5.93 miles, 1 cooked breakfast, 0 boxes wine, 1 chicken, 1 huge bridge, 1 monster development, 1 house up to rent, 1 witch, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.

1 Mooring good for cats but not that much else!

Debbie Does Pinot or Potato Salad. 5th June


Our mooring was chosen for it’s proximity to the station. We had tickets booked to head to London for the day. Tilly was left in charge of the boat with an extra scoop of biscuits.

The walk to the station took us along the towpath, then down off the embankment and along a footpath before joining roads that led to the station. The station sits high above the roads, we spotted some steps that looked like they would lead us up to platform height. Except these steps just led up to the car park! We then spotted more steps that looked like they continued from the car park, so we climbed them. These did take us up and over the viaduct to the other side of the road we’d just walked along then down to the underpass to the the station. At least all these stairs increased our steps for the day!

I headed off to catch my train first, I’d opted for a slower train via Long Buckby, Bletchley etc to London, this was £6 cheaper than the faster trains one of which Mick had opted for ( he has an old foggie card and it was my idea to go to London in the first place).

BT Tower

My train arrived with an hour spare before my appointment so I got some lunch crossed over Euston Road and sat down in Gordon Square in the sun. Then a short walk around the corner to RADA. In February I’d been an observer at a Separate Doors 3 masterclass in Huddersfield making sketches for the report that will follow. Today there was to be a forum ‘Integrated Theatre featuring actors with learning disabilities, the will AND the way?’

One of my sketches

Over the last seven or so years I have designed a couple of plays with Vanessa Brooks and Dark Horse Theatre Company. I have also attended workshops and participated in the ‘Silent Approach’ a technique where all participants in the room are on a level playing field, a very inclusive method of working.

Royal Academy of Dramatic Art

Today the forum was attended by around seventy individuals ranging from Directors, Actors, Producers, Academics, Writers, a Composer and one Designer, me. Introductions were given by Geoff Bullen from RADA and Vanessa Brooks which were followed by three panels which discussed different aspects of integrated theatre.

Much has changed in the last few years, parts in television for learning disabled actors have started to branch out from just medical dramas. Next month the National Theatre will produce Jellyfish by Ben Weatherill with two leading learning disabled actors, more integrated pieces are starting to be produced around the country.

Physically disabled actors have a voice, funding has veered towards companies in that sector. Where as learning disabled actors often don’t have a voice of their own, not one that can be heard or understood by all, so others are speaking out for them. Those in the room today already support the sector, but the room needs to expand and loose it’s walls for the message of such talented actors to spread.

Todays programme

I live my life on a narrowboat away from most of my previous life of show after show after show. At times I have felt as though I have left that world behind and now live a separate existence at 3mph. But on days like today I feel included, my voice as equal as the next, If you look past the windlass and the muddy jeans there is still a Designer beneath. Possibly more confident in myself because of my time away. However I still can’t make my mind up quite how to paint my panto model!

It was lovely to see a lot of familiar faces today, one of which was Mick’s sister Kath. She was at the forum representing The National Theatre and we’d arranged to meet afterwards for a catch up. We walked to Euston to meet up with Mick. He’d also had a busy afternoon, having met up with a friend who is over from Australia and then popping over to Hackney to pick up our post.

Well it had to be tried!
Post at last

A nice meal was had at Cafe Rouge followed by beer and a glass of Debbie Does Pinot in a pub just across the way from the station. A nice catch up with Kath, who hopefully we’ll get to see again in a few weeks when we reach London by boat.

Our train back was a speedy one. But as we neared Milton Keynes the train slowed and made an unscheduled stop. A fault had occurred with the train meaning it could no longer head northwards. The next London bound train pulled up and the passengers from both trains swapped. Our train would return to London, Mick thinks it maybe had a cracked windscreen, whilst our new train would now head northwards. Only a slight bit of confusion as everything on our new train suggested it was still going to London, at least it exited the station in the tight direction.

The delay luckily had been only half an hour, Tilly was hungry, very hungry on our return.

0 locks, 0 miles, 7 trains (1 broken), 2 tubes, 26 bus, 1 sock almost finished, 70 forum attendees, 1 potato salad analogy, 15 known, 60 seconds avoided, 1 sister-out-law, 2 burgers, 1 salmon steak, 1 cat home alone, even Tom Tom didn’t come to see me!