BUMingham! 4th January

The Giraffe to Ooozells

Guide Dog Oakley-Retired calls this outside Bumingham. I feel it needs a touch more BUM in it’s name than he gave it.

I’ve been patient with this outside, but it just hasn’t improved. So this morning Tom suggested changing it to an Oozells one. Well that sounded better, Ooooozells better, anywhere would be better.

Whilst She sat mumbling under her breath at the computer Tom got us ready to let the outside go. Unusually he decided this one needed backing away from, carefully. It didn’t take him long to pull in and catch one again, the usual conversation of ‘Inny……Straight……Outie’ went on between the two of them, then She came inside and gave me the rules.

That side looked interesting

She said I wouldn’t like it. What did she know!


This side didn’t

Where are the sideways trees?


Brick walls can’t be climbed.

Oooo! What’s in there?

Interesting bits blocked off.

Well I won’t get to find out!

She was right! This outside is Oooozles more BUMingham!

My tail hasn’t got the message yet about BUMingham!

I came back inside, pulled my best sad face and got some REALLY good ‘Thank you for coming home’ treats. The rest of the day became one very long cat nap.

0 locks, 0.14 miles most backwards, 1 left, 1 big wall, 0 trees, 0 sideways trees, 0 friends, 0 point!

Back To Work. 3rd January

The Giraffe, Birmingham

Tilly has resigned herself to being in Birmingham. This morning she didn’t even stir from her sleep to play pen before we got up. Then she took to her day bed without even a look at the back door, There’s just no point!

There are now four award winning Damascena Coffee Houses in Birmingham

At lunchtime I put my designers head on and walked into town for a meeting with a new director. Amy had suggested meeting up at Damascena, she’d arrived before me and secured a table in the back room. Just as well as the place got very full. Serving Middle Eastern food, hummus, falafels, flat breads etc, it all looked very tasty.

The picture doesn’t do it justice, it was yummy

We quickly ordered, Amy a falafal wrap with haloumi, myself crispy falafels with gluten free flatbreads and avocado hummus. All very tasty, I just wished I’d eaten my flat breads a bit quicker as they soon became brittle, but that tends to be the nature of such things.

A wonderful room

Amy is the Artistic Lead at Dark Horse Theatre Company in Huddersfield. A few years ago they started to run AcT a course for people with learning disabilities to train to become professional actors. This summer the first of their students will graduate by putting on a performance at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield and I have been asked to be their designer.

Bowie down by the Bullring

Work has already started on the piece with much of the physical movement already having been blocked. Set in a garden, based on a poem we will need to work our way through the seasons. We talked practicalities and then moved on to more arty stuff. Captioning of the script on the set and wheelchair access along with giving the audience the best sight lines will take a bit of working out.


We chatted away for a couple of hours, worked out a time scale for the design deadlines. Working with Dark Horse means everything needs to be ready far earlier so that the actors can rehearse with the set and props for as long as possible. A very good first meeting with lots to think about.

I didn’t fancy Mask or Neck

A walk down to the Bullring Markets to see what took my fancy for our evening meal. Plenty on offer, maybe the fish with red dots? But nothing really took my fancy, so in the end I opted for a stir fry from M&S.

Moon’s up

Back at Oleanna Tilly had ventured out and Mick had had the opportunity to chat to a man setting bait in rat boxes. These have always worried us as Tilly so likes to stick her arm down holes. But the man assured Mick that they were safe as she wouldn’t be able to reach the poison and was too big to get inside to where it lurks.

Kingfisher with Turmeric toe

The first pair of new year socks are coming along nicely. I’ve started off with the Kingfisher yarn and a matching colour for the toes and heel. It’s knitting up quite stripy as you can see. By the end of the evening I’d turned the heel and was working up the leg. I hope I can find the right place in the yarn to start knitting the second sock so that the orange meets with the heel like it has done with the first one.

0 locks, 0 miles, 6 crispy falafel, 1 brand new director, 8 actors, 1 wheel chair, 4 seasons, 9 foot head height, 0 fish, 40 minutes shore leave, 1 old friend found again, 1 underwhelming video, 0.75 of a sock, 8pm you should stop your engine matey across the way!!!

White's. 2nd January 2020

The Giraffe, Birmingham

This years daffs are starting to show their heads already
The ideal ash can

The two of us have spent a bit of time trying to hunt out where or how we could get a new ash can. Getting one delivered to a Post Office or Amazon Locker would have been great, except they are too big according to Amazon! So instead we’ve been concentrating on trying to find a hardware shop that might just have one.

Farmers Bridge flight

This morning we walked down the Farmers Bridge flight. We like this flight but have realised we’ve only ever been down it, never up. The BT Tower sits high above as the locks work their way under buildings, roads and the railway.


Once off the canal we followed a dirty rubbish strewn road to our destination, White’s Ironmongery. Sitting on the corner of Lower Loveday Street and Summer Lane the 1930’s building melded in with it’s background.

Hinges and numbers

The window displays of hinges, brushes, bolts on boards totally filled the windows. We opened the doors and went in.

Shelves and shelves and shelves, older than the RSJ’s above them

I was immediately taken back to when I was four, with my Dad going into Stubbs in York for some screws. Shelves lined the walls, each opening once filled with boxes of screws, nuts and bolts, all manner of things. The wooden drawers covered in decades maybe centuries of patina. Labels for many an imperial sized object still in place. As a kid I used to imagine the shop assistants sliding along the shelves on their ladders to reach the top boxes, pushing from one end of the shop to the other.

1″ what’s?

Today in White’s the shelves were not so full, but still the atmosphere. There were a few displays in the middle of the room, more boards advertising their wares, a few gaps where the last hinge of its type had been removed. Hanging from the ceiling were mop buckets and two galvanised buckets. A lady appeared a touch like Mr Ben bringing with her some warm air.

50p a pair

Unfortunately the suspended buckets were all they had, none with lids. A bucket however would do us for the time being. It would give us somewhere for hot ashes to cool off before being disposed of with our rubbish and mean the ash pan could stay in the stove rather than sit on the towpath. If we were going to get anything else nicked, we’d rather it was a bucket than the ash pan from our corner stove which would be hard to replace without ordering one from Yorkshire.

Whilst here we had a routle through boxes of bolts. Back in the summer Mick had wanted one for our batteries. A good look round and he may have found just the one. When asking of its price the lady said 10p! When our hand written bill was finished she said call it £7, the bolt now 5p.


What a wonderful shop, with just about everything, except an ash can with a lid. How do they stay trading in this modern world? Hopefully local builders and joiners give them plenty of business.

The old and the new

A walk back through town to get some food for this evening. The trams now run into the centre and many of the hoardings we’d got used to seeing 18 months ago have now gone. Old buildings surrounded by new glazed towers.

Skating and a big wheel

Then it was time for me to do a touch of work. A script was printed out, read, notes made, photo references added to Pinterest. Then my tickets for my flight to Vienna were printed out. These are all in German, so I spent a while trying to translate them in case there was something I needed to know other than the obvious times and flight numbers. It’s a long long time since I did German at school and only the bare minimum has remained with me.


0 locks, 0 miles, 1 flight walked, 1 bucket, 12, 1 bolt, 1 time warp, 8 page script, 105 images, 4 flights, 22 letters in a word, 2 many consonants!

A Funny Sort Of Burger. 1st January 2020

Earlswood Motor Club to Birmingham City Centre, BCN

Mick checked the weedhatch using his new pair of pond gloves. His original pair (now five years old) had sprung a few too many leaks to do their job properly. Despite being able to have a good feel around the prop there was nothing there. Our slow progress must be more to do with our depth and the canals depth.

Lots of cutting back along this stretch

Not that much later than normal we pushed off to make our way into Birmingham, well we tend not to be early risers. Estimates reckoned we’d reach our chosen destination in around 4 and a half hours, a longer cruise than normal at this time of year. We wanted to make the centre of Birmingham today so had to push on.

Extensions and upgrade to the service mooring

The club house at Earlswood is having major building work, extensions on both sides. What looks like a new Pump out machine and new blue pipes stick up out of the ground along the cut.

The mooring round the corner was occupied, the view not as good as we’d had last night, so we’d stopped in the right place. Dickens Heath looked as it always does, incongruous. The water feature no longer flowing and just turning green instead. Here the number of towpath walkers increased.

Washing was on our minds, the drawer overflowing. A good long cruise into Birmingham would be useful to charge the batteries as we washed two loads and ran the dishwasher.

Key of power lifting

Shirley Drawbridge was our first obstacle. The control pedestal is hidden behind the barrier box, so took some finding, even though I’ve had this problem before. Once the bridge was clear I pressed the open button wondering how many vehicles I’d get to hold up. Only 1! Two others turned away just at the last minute. Oh well.

We avoided a fisherman just after Bridge 5 who had plonked himself on the bollards for the waterpoint. But there was still plenty of space for us so we topped up the tank as a second load of washing went through the machine.

Kings Norton Guillotine Lock

Cups of tea in our thermos mugs and snacks taken out the back we continued onwards, through Brandwood Tunnel and Kings Norton guillotine lock. Here much of the graffiti has been cleaned away. A homeless man had made himself and his dog comfortable under the bridge, a good place to keep dry.

Kings Norton Toll House all wrapped up

Kings Norton Junction Toll House is swathed in scaffolding. Back in February last year ( it’s odd saying that) the building was set alight, arson was suspected. Fire crews had limited access so had to carry much of their equipment to the scene with them. Hopefully the building will be restored.

The nearest we’ll get to Worcester for a while

Here we turned right up towards Birmingham. Shortly before Lifford Lane Bridge, Oleanna reared up, listed and eventually rode over a submerged obstacle. Looking behind us into the murky depths I thought I could see a wing mirror of a red car. Up ahead there was a wide enough opening and ramp down onto the towpath for someone to have brought a car for disposal. Were we the first to come this way this year? I sent a facebook message to Canal and River Trust, but so far have heard nothing back, well it is New Years day.

Not the most romantic of roving bridges, but it would do the job if horses were still in use today

On we pootled in the chilly grey afternoon air. At Bournville there was a space we could have pulled into, but we decided to carry on. The new Sainsburys at Selly Oak is right by the canal and looks huge. Wonder if mooring rings will be put in for passing boaters?

The new big Sainsburys

At Edgbaston Tunnel the handrail and lighting reminded me of my panto design.

Panto memories

By now it was dusk, so our lights on the roof stood out twinkling in the gloom, we got lots of smiles and comments from those on the towpath.

Worcester Bar

We turned left at The Mailbox and carried on to Worcester Bar. Should we moor on the visitor mooring there or carry on to a more familiar mooring? We carried on under the buildings into the big lights of the city.

The big lights of the city

Mick waved at a familiar boat down the Ouzels Loop, but the occupants were a touch busy to notice, hopefully we’ll catch up with them whilst we are in the area.

Once moored up there was the matter of what to do with the ash from the stove? MIck lifted the ash pan out and left it on the towpath, hoping that it would cool down enough before we headed to bed to be able to go into a bag, sadly this wasn’t the case. Tomorrow we’ll be hunting round for an ash can.

With our loyalty card in hand we made our way to The Handmade Burger Company, just around the corner. Today we’d get a free drink. Well that’s what we thought until we got to the doors to see a sign saying that they were closing at 5pm!

GF dough balls

What to eat instead? We’d both really fancied a burger. Other places seemed quite empty, many had no lights on at all. Pizza Express however was open so we opted for the usual in there. Gluten free dough balls and Pollo Ad Astra each. Mick’s pizza being nearly twice the size of mine!

Funny looking burger

Returning to the boat we sat down to watch the first episode of the new series of Dr Who. Verdict, we think it’s got potential to be better than the last series. The monsters might just be worth pulling the sofa out for!

1 stop lock on the flat, 12.41 miles, 1 lift bridge, 1 car, 2 tunnels, 1 right, 2 lefts, 0 other boats moving today, 1 resigned cat, 1 wave to Tim, 0 burgers, 2 pizzas, 3 glasses wine each, 1 baddy Lenny.

Abandoned Ship. 31st December

Above Lock 6 to Earlswood Motor Yacht Club.

A semi cooked breakfast

The fridge is getting depleted, but there were three sausages that should have been eaten by yesterday, so we risked it and accompanied them with an egg, toast, beans and a few hash browns for our last breakfast of the year.

Was this Adam and Adrian’s old share boat?

Boats were moving in both directions earlier than ourselves, so we hoped that the last locks of this year would be in our favour. The first one wasn’t, the last two boats must have passed each other below the lock. Oh well, we’d had most of Hatton and Lapworth in our favour.

Emptying ready for Oleanna

Mick brought Oleanna into Lock 5, I closed the gates and lifted both paddles to fill the chamber. The short pound above seemed a little low already, we were making it lower still. As normal I walked up to the next lock to set it, emptying water down. Now it is just the two of us Mick is left to close the gates behind him and drop the paddles.

Winding the paddles back down
About to bring her out of the lock

He dropped the paddle one side, crossed the gate, opened it, dropped the paddle that side. Brought Oleanna out of the lock, stopped in the throat of the lock, stepped off to close the gate behind. The stepping off usually is done with the centre line in hand, so I was surprised when he stepped off without it.

There’s a bit too much water between man and boat!

The one time he does this and Oleanna decides she’d like to carry on on her own! Mick spotted this just a touch too late the gap far too wide to jump never mind step! I’d already started to walk down, nothing much we could do, the gap was too wide from the other side of the lock. We just had to wait and wait to see where she was headed, very slowly.

That’s right head to the bank

Her chosen course luckily for us was to aim for the towpath. Some careful footing was needed to get down a slippy bank before Oleanna’s gunnel could be reached. Fortunately she continued her course towards us and Mick could climb back on. Phew! Tilly not only needs to learn how to make tea, but also to steer Oleanna.

All back to normal

Once up Lock 4, Mick told me that he loved me. ‘Because I didn’t shout at you and call you a stupid b*gger!’ ‘Yes’. Well that wouldn’t have got us anywhere and just been a lot of hot air.

Lapworth Top Lock was also full despite emptying itself. This lock will always be remembered as being covered in snow, Narnia Lock. When we moved our old share boat NB Winding Down south we did this stretch with about four inches of snow on the ground, the top lock had looked magical. Today it would be our last for 2019.

Narnia Lock our last for the year

We pootled along to the first lift bridge. This used to be exceptionally hard work. It certainly was when it had four inches of snow on it! The hydraulics were changed a few years ago which means at least you can turn your windlass to get it moving. You just have to do it 60 plus times to be able to get your boat through!

A chap by his boat thought there might be someone who’d sell us some gas, but the closed sign was up at Swallow Cruisers.

We won’t be stocking up with gas here

On a bit further to the next lift bridge. Here the grey boat we’d obviously been following was pulled in on the bridge landing. No sign of the chap. Mick tried pulling in infront but we were too long. This had the effect of blinds being twitched and two people came out, a lady ran to open the bridge for us and presumably themselves. At least it saved me 24 turns of my windlass.

Lufted lift bridge

Now to find somewhere to see the new year in, preferably with a view and suitable for Tilly. The cutting we were in opened out after a few miles. Should we pull in here, or go round the corner where we’ve moored before? Debates went on, but with a view one side, a field and trees we pulled in. This would do us.

We still didn’t stop, but then it doesn’t appeal anymore.

It already felt like it was about 3:45pm, the day had been exceptionally grey, but Tilly was given an hour and a half to explore. This she made use off and vanished into the thickly treed embankment, requiring encouragement to return before it got too dark!

The fish pie mix we’d bought in Oxford was made into a crumble for our dinner, accompanied by a bottle of wine. The second episode of Vienna Blood was watched as I finished off knitting the pockets on my new treat cardigan. The button band and pockets just need sewing together now and it will be finished.


As we watched the fireworks in London we urged the helicopter to head southwards as the smoke masked the view to the north of the Thames. Plenty of fireworks went off around us, at some distance, clearer than those on the TV. Thank goodness Tilly is fine with all the bangs, she slept through midnight chasing mice in her sleep.

4 locks, 4.74 miles, 2 lift bridges, 3 sausages, 2 eggs, 1 abandoned boat, 1 bow just close enough, 1 silly sausage, 0 visits to Wedges still, 0 Ferraris, 7635 Christmas trees, 1.5 hours, 1 cardie knitted, 1 Happy New Year to all.

Letting The Side Down. 30th December

Hatton Top Lock to above Lock 6 Lapworth, North Stratford Canal.

We’d intentionally let the stove go out overnight as the boat had been a touch too hot, so this morning the boiler was put to use to take the chill off and provide hot water. Cups of tea in bed were disturbed as the boiler clicked in repeatedly. The gas had run out! Good job we carry three bottles.

After a round of bacon butties we pushed off and onwards. It was a chilly morning outside and Mike and Chris stayed inside keeping warm.

Emerging from Shrewley Tunnel

Shrewley Tunnel was clear and we sailed through accompanied by the Dr Who theme being recited from the bow where Chris was doing a time lapse of our journey. Link A shame there weren’t any air shafts for me to count the mysterons as I’m sure that would have been appreciated by the chaps at the front.

A wise old goat

Next the goats at Tom O The Wood, plenty in the fields today. We stopped at the water point to top up the tank and relight the stove so that it could get going before we reached the Lapworth flight, saving everyone getting a face full of smoke.


From the stern we could hear Tilly protesting constantly inside. The sort of protesting she does whilst we are in tunnels. Blimey Tilly! SHUT UP!! Just what will Mike and Chris think of you?!

She’s silent about it now of course! But would she stop!!

Left please

Mick swung Oleanna round at Kingswood Junction leaving the land of widebeams behind and we slowly moved our way past the moored boats and new houses going up towards Lock 20. Sam from NB Red Wharf had warned us that Lock 20 had been out of use before Christmas so we were prepared to carry straight on through the link when we saw the hazard tape and chains holding the bottom gates together.

Straight on

When the Stratford Canal was extended from Hockley Heath south, it reached and joined the Warwick and Birmingham Canal (now the Grand Union) at Kingswood. The canal was built with the current lock No 19 in situ. The canal then stayed on a level to what is now the new link, here there was a guillotine lock which dropped down to the Grand Union level.

Lock 20 today

When the Stratford Canal was extended to Stratford the layout at the junction altered. The guillotine lock was blocked off and the current locks 20 and 21 were built. The Warwick and Birmingham therefore continued to receive a lockfull of water every time a boat passed onto their waters.

Heading through the link

In more modern times leisure boats heading from the south Stratford and those coming from the Grand Union, would drain the pound above locks 20/21 and so in 1996 the original guillotine lock was reopened but as a channel linking below the locks, thus saving water.

Swinging round to the right to Lock 21

So today we continued straight on, through the narrow link and turned right to head up the Lapworth Locks. A different crew briefing was needed along with pointing out the gap in the bridges that let the horse remain connected to the boat and the barrel roof of the lock cottage.

The wide basin below lock 21, the link to the left by the cottage

There were plenty of walkers out on the flight. Today’s comment being how narrow the locks were, at least nobody asked if we’d fit!

Making our way up

Most locks were empty, a couple full. With three crew we got into a rhythm again quickly. No boats coming down, we had the flight to ourselves. The sun had burnt it’s way through the morning mist that loitered, so whilst stood in the sunshine it was nearly warm.

The boys finishing up

Although each pound between the locks was on the weir they all felt a touch low, well we were taking a locks worth out of most of them. Oleanna took her time entering the locks, extra umph needed to get her over cills. Was this due to shallow water and our depth or maybe something around the prop. We continued, investigation could wait for later.

The lovely house on the bend

Chris did another timelapse of our trip up the locks. Lapworth in 30 seconds rather than our 1 hour and 24 minutes. When we reached the long pound before Lock 5 we pulled in. Here is better for Tilly, who was allowed straight out to save her continuing to let the side down with her shouting!

Bookends ready to close the gates

With three quarters of an hour of daylight left Mike and Chris decided to head off to catch a train back to Warwick. It had been a lovely couple of days with them and perfectly timed to help with the locks. Next time we’ll have to get our act together in the summer. We waved them goodbye as they made their way back down the locks to find the road.

Tilly came home after a good nose around. This is where she once lost a collar, but she hadn’t found it today. We’ve had a quiet evening in front of the stove, luckily Tilly has quietened down now that its just the three of us again.

The boys at the top.

15 locks, 5.92 miles, 1 left, 1 right, 1 full water tank, 1 very noisy cat, 1 short tunnel, 4 bacon butties, 1 hr 24 minutes, 4 more locks still to go, 5 back to 3, 1 quiet boat again.

Beardy Crew. 29th December

Cape of Good Hope to Hatton Top Lock

Josh’s odd feet!

On Saturday morning after breakfast the London Leckenbys headed back to London town. This had always been the plan, but they left early as their house alarm had been triggered overnight. It must have been a faulty sensor or a busy spider as the house was fine when they returned. Plans are in the making for us all to meet up in York this summer, here’s hoping the Ouse plays along.

All quiet again

The rest of the day we filled with water and pottered about allowing Tilly freedom of the bank next to the boat.


Sunday morning and a spot of baking was needed. A batch of biscuits were shown the oven and the stuffing for sausage rolls was put together for later in the day. At around 10.30 two figures climbed over the gates of the lock behind us with a large suitcase. This was my old college friend Mike and his partner Chris.

Five or so years ago they helped us climb up Stoke Bruerne Locks and had expressed interest in helping out at flights of locks. We’ve not managed to get our acts together for sometime but with Hatton on the cards and Chris having spent Christmas with his Mum in Solihull a plan just neatly fell into place.

We’d last seen them in Camden when Oleanna was new, so it was lovely to spend some time with them again. Cuppas were turned down and we headed straight towards the flight. At Budbrooke Junction we turned right, the stern of NB Hadar just visible down the Saltisford Arm.

Will they all be empty?

As the bottom lock came into view so did a boat, just pulling out of the lock. Would all the locks be in our favour? We hoped so.


Mike and Chris hadn’t worked paddle gear like this before and were a touch rusty on how to do things. So a chat through and demonstration were given. By the time Oleanna had risen in the second lock we could adjust our method a touch, with only one gate needed to enter or exit the locks people could be used elsewhere sooner.

First lock ascended

By the time the locks were getting closer together we had got into a rhythm with one person heading on to the next lock whilst the other two wound paddles, opened and closed gates to bring Oleanna up. We quickly became an efficient team. Sadly Tilly still hasn’t learnt how to make tea which would have been nice with one of my biscuits halfway up the flight.

Heading up

There were plenty of people out walking the flight. Many making obvious comments about the number of locks we’d got left to do. At a couple of locks I managed to get keen and eager kids to help with gates, one young lad managing to move a gate all by himself.

Looking up the thick of the flight

No boats came down and most of the locks were in our favour, just a couple had refilled themselves and a few just needed leveling out again before the bottom gate could be opened. The sun was out so as we worked our way up hill layers could come off as we generated our own heat.

St Mary’s Church visible down in Warwick

We’d entered the bottom lock at 11:12 and exited the top at 13:37, 2 hours 25 minutes. Not bad.

Last lock of the day in the sunshine

There was plenty of rubbish to dispose of and the water tank got topped up again whilst I made sausage rolls for our now worn our crew for a late lunch. Mick moved us along to a mooring. We’d hoped to reach Rowington for the views today, but it would have been dusk by the time we got there.

The Hatton Arms, just down the way would stop serving food at 6pm which would be a touch early for us. So we decided to stay put, let the incessantly protesting Tilly out and I popped a chicken stew on the stove for us to enjoy later.

The evening was spent catching up on news of fellow college friends and major critiques of Dr Who and His Dark Materials amongst other TV programmes.

21 locks, 2.88 miles, 1 right, 1 boat down, 2 beardy chaps, 2 hrs 25mins, 8 sausage rolls, 8 biscuits, 7 joints of chicken, 1 annoying second mate, 1 battery removed.