Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Someone IS Listening

A few days ago I wrote a piece entitled Preston Lesson in Wasting Money     where I suggested some  attention could be directed at clearing up the detritus in New Hall Lane instead of erecting signs saying that the council was improving the local area.
Well, Preston Council may be deaf, but Friends of Fishwick and St Matthews have announced they will make funds available for local businesses to smarten their shopfronts. See this report in the local paper.  
Grotty Shops in New Hall Lane
I don't suppose I was the only person to entertain this idea but  this is not the first such coincidence.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Beer for Breakfast

There are parts of London which live in different time zones from you and I and the wholesale markets are some of them. Back in the 1980s I worked in Goswell Road, London which is close to The Barbican and, more relevant to this story, Smithfield Meat Market Through the night lorries arrive from all over the UK with carcasses of beef, lamb, pork and more exotic fare. And in due course this meat is shipped out again to butchers and meat processors all over the country.  This is tiring and thirsty work which is recognised by the local licensing laws  which allow the pubs in Smithfield to open at 3am. From time to time colleagues of mine would arrive a couple of hours early for work and go to the pub for (a very meaty) breakfast. This usually included several pints of Guinness.  Work output on these days was always rather suspect both in quantity and quality.  I was reminded of this by two events: Farnborough Air Show which opened to the trade this week (our work in Goswell Road was defence electronics) and the line-up for the Saturday night ceilidh at Scarisbrick Marina Festival was a band called Beer for Breakfast.  To accompany this Irish group there was a hog roast. There was not much dancing but I guess that was because most of us had had a busy day around the marina.
In addition to the usual bouncy castle the army had brought their assault course version for the larger kids. Unfortunately they said I was ineligible.After being rejected by the army I made my way to the marquee where I could hear music emanating.. This turned out to be a troupe of Morris dancers (is that the correct collective noun?) Very entertaining but a little too  stressful for my artificial hips.
This was not an issue for some of the audience who were encouraged to join in.

Even er indoors was tempted to trip the light fantastic.

I think she was attracted by wielding a stick.

The vigour and enthusiasm she put into whacking the staves had me worried.


So I withdrew and went to admire the 1915 Ford parked up by the craft marquee.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Scarisbrick Marina Festival

Four years ago the crews of  a dozen boats moored in Scarisbrck Marina got together one summer's evening. This year the   number of boaters has been restricted to 200 and the Scarisbrick Marina Canal Festival runs from Friday evening July8 to Sunday July10.

For the past couple of days there has been a steady stream of visiting boats arriving and many have remembered their bunting and lights.

Friday night kicked off with  a boaters-only evening with music and food.

Over the weekend the Marina will be open to the public with a ceilidh and hogroast on Saturday night. Craft stalls and visiting bands will keep the public entertained  in the two marquees.
2016 is the 200th anniversary of the completion of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and this promises to be a worthy start to our celebrations.

In two weeks time we will be attending the Blackburn Canal Festival which is also in its fourth year.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Pop Goes the Weasel

Last week I underwent an annual checkup at a hospital in City Road , London. I have been attending this hospital for 52 years and during that time many changes have taken place in that area of London. As I had a little time in hand I jumped off the 205 a stop early and walked down the road.

These buildings weren't here 52 years ago. In fact I don't think they were here two years ago.

There is a space between them which has existed for over 200 years but has only recently been opened up for the travelers on City Road to see-
City Road Basin of the Regent's Canal
With the sun shining, a tune came into my mind (and has still not gone a week later!)
It is a nursery rhyme:

Half a pound of tuppeny rice
Half a pound of treacle
Mix it up and make it nice
Pop goes the weasel

Up and down the City Road
In and out of The Eagle
That's the way the money goes
Pop goes the weasel

Every night when I go out
The weasel's sitting on the table
I take a stick and knock it off
Pop goes the weasel
There are various claims for the origin of the rhyme but all agree on the last line.  It refers to the habit popular since the 1700s,  of East End workers popping or pawning their best coat (weasel and stoat is Cockney rhyming slang for coat) in order to enjoy some luxury.

Almost adjacent to these new apartments is -

The Eagle pub.

With great self control, I resisted the temptation to pawn my coat and spend the proceeds on beer.

Of course you have spotted that this building is not 18th century. It was built around 1900

and replaced a music hall of the same name.

Whatever your view on the merit or otherwise of these changes I have experienced one change which has not been an improvement. With all the new technology and medical research it takes twice as long to carry out the same checks that I had 52 years ago. Such is progress!

Those of you unfamiliar with the rhyme might like to listen to Anthony Newley's rendition from the 1960s

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Preston Lesson in Wasting Money

Budget cuts in Lancashire are currently threatening to close the world's only steam-powered weaving mill at Queen Street, Burnley and the spinning mill at  Helmshore.  Both were due to close in March but have received a stay of execution until September.

Meanwhile Preston Council has seen it fit to waste money erecting these signs all along New Hall Lane.
From our flat we can see three on this side of the road and more on the opposite side

If they really want to improve the local centre how about clearing up this mess?

Joey Found

You will be please to know the Joey stolen in Birmingham recently has been found at the top of Brades Locks

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Canal Boat Stolen in Birmingham

Sometime in the last few days the boat in the right of this picture was stolen. If you are in the Birmingham area please go for a walk on your nearest bit of canal and keep a look out for it
Contact Mike on
if you see it

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Gecko's New Home

A fairly lazy morning ahead. We are only 4 miles from our destination with a couple of swing bridges to negotiate.
As we passed through Bursgough we admired this old mill, now converted into flats - sorry, apartments.

Away at 6.30 and ready to open the bridge an hour later. Unfortunately Crabtree Bridge did not want to play - the wedges had stuck and we had to call an engineer out.  Two hours later he had it open and we resumed our passage.

The chap who lived opposite the pub was not impressed."when we had the wooden bridge, they came twice a year to remove the weeds and give it some grease. This broke down three times last week"

It seems that vehicles over the 7.5 tonne limit (what's wrong with an English ton?) damage the sensors.

By 11am Gecko was safely moored in her new home which is only 10 minutes by bus from Southport.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Whio Meet Again

Bank Holiday Monday. After three days of peaceful cruising today is something else.
A charming setting with abundant  blossom. This is a long and deep lock with attitude. Much of the lock gear is inoperable and it took us 45 minutes to fill it.  Usually, if conditions are still,  I sit in the channel and wait for Margaret to prepare the lock. Here I moored up and had a cup of coffee. If there had been any bacon on board I may have made a second breakfast.

When the lock was ready, the boat was not. The lock had taken so much water that Gecko was now aground.
At one time an alternative pair of shallow locks had been built to accelerate passage  but these are now defunct.
At Parbold the world seemed to wake up and we found ourselves in the middle of a parade of nine boats all headed our way. This made passage through the swing bridges interesting as the first boat crew would operate the bridge for all of us  and then rejoin the flotilla at the back.

Along the Kennet & Avon Canal there are a string of pillboxes built in WWII for defense from invasion. I did not realise that invading forces were anticipated so far north as to require such preparation along the L&L.
This two-storey pillbox reminded me of another war-related construction.  Whilst seeking out prefabs in Hertfordshire in the 1980s I discovered some two-storey ones which was a surprise to me.
As we progressed boats joined our flotilla: some out for the day, others headed for Liverpool to attend the IWA rally.
When we reached the junction with the Rufford Arm we decided to call it a day and moor up .
This is the route for those wishing to navigate the Lancaster Canal.  The canal joins the River Douglas before its confluence with the Ribble which has to be crossed to enter the Millenium Link on the north side of the river. As soon as you turn into the Rufford Arm you start your descent  to the Douglas valley.

Hopefully with more success than this cruiser.

This  junction shows evidence of being a busy commercial site in the past. This derelict dry dock was large enough to accommodate two Liverpool Long Boats simultaneously.
Maneuvering  such craft  in through the entrance at the far end of this picture must have been quite tricky. Once inside the dock, the first boat in could not leave until the second boat moved.
We picked a spot to moor and started washing the salt off Gecko whilst the Bank Holiday gongoozlers  strolled past with ice creams.

Later in the day we were accosted by Don, a kiwi we know who moors his boat in Aylesbury. He and Val cruise the summer over here then return to New Zealand for the summer over there. In all the activity of extracting ourselves from the flotilla and mooring we had not noticed that their boat Whio was moored 25 yards behind us (the blue boat in this picture) And so we spent a pleasant evening with Don & Val before they set off for Lancaster Canal and Liverpool.
Whio (Blue Duck) at Staglands, Akatarawa, New Zealand.jpg
The WHIO is a blue duck from New Zealand

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Gecko on the Move - Plank Lane to Crooke

Another bright and dry morning. Away at 6.30 heading for Wigan. Not to climb the daunting flight of locks towards Leeds but to turn left towards Liverpool. This is new territory for us.

The first lock we encounter after our left turn has a fairly new road bridge over it. There is no footbridge on the lock so to get from one side to the other Margaret has to climb up to the road, cross this bridge and descend the other side. I can't imagine it would have added much to the cost of the road bridge to add a footbridge to the lock, but who cares about canal users?

As we descend the three locks in Wigan we pass Kennet, an original Liverpool Short Boat which worked the canal in its commercial days. It now belongs to the L&L Canal Society and is used as a floating classroom. As 2016 is the 200th anniversary of the canal opening it will be busy this year. The locks between Wigan and Leeds are 60ft long and Kennet was built to operate this route.

Immortalised by George Orwell, the legendary Wigan  Pier occupies a tight turn for us and we head westward out of the town, descending more rural locks.

Here and there the May blossom is pink

In this fine weather and lack of boat traffic we are making good progress so decide to moor up early enough to explore our locale.
As we approach Crooke we pass this extraordinary construction. It appears to be a communal area for three houses providing a sheltered quayside retreat. Notice there are doors in the back wall - beach huts?

Cruising through the village, we find a lovely peaceful spot just out of sight round this bend and tie up before noon.
There is no traffic in this area o f the village and the whole atmosphere is somnolent which, after our early start, is tempting.

Our exploratory walk reveals that, away from the main road, it is indeed a charming village with a small marina and a substantial pub - The Crooke Hall Inn. We decide to treat ourselves to Sunday dinner here later.

When driving on roads we have learned that it is pointless asking directions from service station staff as they are all clueless. Being unsure of our actual location, we asked in a local shop which village we were in and the shopkeeper did not know! He printed off a till receipt with the address of the shop for us but this, I think, was the registered office address.
The meal and service at The Crooke Hall Inn was excellent. I was immediately impressed by the bar staff who recognised the intention of another customer to jump the queue and deftly ignored him until his allotted turn. Margaret had the roast sirloin whilst I had liver and bacon. Both meals were generous and perfectly prepared, as was the selection of vegetables. The rich gravy on my dish had whole mustard seed in addition to the traditional onion. Very tasty.
Out in the pub garden the Liverpool Long Boat Ambush was moored. This operated between Liverpool and Wigan but is too long to take the route to Leeds. It is now owned by Derek who plies his trade of fuel supplier along this section of the canal. The sister boat, Victoria, is permanently moored on his wharf at Bursgough.