Sunday, 27 April 2008

Lee Enfield
Yes the Lee Navigation goes through Enfield and if you are in the market for an elegant lock cottage the one at Enfield is unoccupied.

Yes the Lee Enfield rifle was manufactured here at the Royal Small Arms factory.
However the name has nothing to do with the navigation. This phenomenally successful gun was developed by James Lee in 1907 and was standard issue to infantrymen in both World Wars. To appreciate the impact of its ability to achieve 12 well aimed shots per minute in the hands of a trained infantryman consider this. At the battle of Mons the Germans estimated that 28 machine guns per battalion were being deployed against them. In fact there were only two.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Bangers and mash
Waltham Abbey is a charming little town. The Abbey church is worth a visit and so too is the Royal Gunpowder Mills. It is now a museum which opens at weekends during the summer. It appears to be run by volunteers and has the feel of Bletchley Park in its early days as a museum. Entrance is not expensive and the ticket is valid for two consecutive openings, so if you are not confident of the weather make your first visit on a Sunday and the ticket is valid for the following Saturday which gives the Met office time to sort things out for you. There are five miles of canals within the factory grounds used for moving explosives and ingredients around although they are not all in water now. The boats were either man-handled or pulled by unshod horses to avoid sparks. Many weekends there are enactments involving suitably costumed militia firing blunderbuss's and canons.
Amongst the many items of interest is one particularly intriguing listed building.

This is claimed to be the only remaining example of Victorian corrugated iron.
What we generally apply that description to is truly galvanized steel. This, therefore has been listed by English Heritage and the museum is not permitted to interfere with it. However we know what happens to iron if you do not interfere with it, don't we?

In the town square there is a Pie & Mash shop where we enjoyed a dinner of pie, mash, eels and liquor. There is also a tattooist with a sense of humour - the salon is called OUCH! We did not sample the offerings there.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Goosey, Goosey,Gander
We have just been castigated for denigrating the goose at Stonebridge Lock. Firstly, it is apparently an Egyptian Goose and secondly the odd behaviour we observed is because it has lost its mate. I feel humbled. Please watch the video.
Sad News
Today we arrived in Hertford. A charming town with many interesting features including a a Woollies with curved glass windows and wood strip flooring. When the plague hit London during Queen Elizabeth 1st reign the parliament would take an awayday or the equivalent and set up shop elsewhere until the bugs abated. One of these temporary locations was Hertford. Hence it boasts a Parliament Square.

Our spirits have been dampened considerably by the news today that Humph has died.
In the 1990s we saw him at Ricky in concert with Helen Shapiro and only last year in Bath double billing with Acka Bilk. At various other times in the more intimate surroundings of a pbu bar we have been enraptured by his jazz and humour. On the radio he has kept us in stitches first with I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again and later with I'm Sorry I Havn't a Clue. How he managed to get away with the double entendres in this show is a mystery. He was a keen calligrapher and a fine trumpeter. One characteristic which always struck me was that when a member of his band were playing a solo he always stayed on stage listening unlike some musicians who take this opportunity to go off for a drink or chat with the drummer. I think this was also the secret to his success with I'm Sorry - giving every member their head but keeping them within a team.
I think there should be a plaque erected in Mornington Crescent to commemorate his contribution to fun in life. We will miss him.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Turn, turn,turn
The technology employed to construct the canals was rather crude - gangs of 'navvies' with hand tools digging and building. Likewise the paraphernalia of operation - ratchets, levers and the like.
In the 1970s a nascent H&S movement suggested that it would be much safer if there were no exposed machinery particularly on the locks. The solution was, they claimed, was hydraulic power. This died a death but was resurrected on the Kennet & Avon recently. Hopefully it will not have nine lives but will be laid to rest permanently soon. We arrived at Stonebridge lock this afternoon and had to operate it manually as the electric gear was out of use. A local boater said it had been so since November 2007. At least BW are keeping the paintwork pretty. To work Gecko through the lock using only one gate in and out required 1840 turns on the windlass. But hydraulic power is so safe. If there had been an emergency of any kind how does one reverse the operation quickly?
We heard our first cuckoo this morning so that compensated for the arm-ache.
Opposite our mooring for the night was a pump out station in gleaming stainless steel and a mongrel goose caught sight of its reflection.............

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

A Passport for St. George
We left Paddington Basin this morning (St. George's Day) and ventured for the first time along the Regents Canal.More evidence of the growth of interest in waterside location for business, recreation and residence. As usual some of this is sympathetic and some raucous and out of place. Turning into Ducket's Cut (the Hertford Union Canal) we skirt Victoria Park much ignored by those who shun the London east of the City. Perhaps this is because it is not a Royal Park. However it is still attractive and popular with local residents. Turning left again, this time into the Lee Navigation we now follow the eastern edge of the park.
I am not going to join the debate on whether the correct spelling is LEE or LEA. It seems common practice for the river to be spelled LEA and the canalised navigation to be spelled LEE but as they are inter-twined for most of the route to Hertford I shall use either or both as the whim takes me.

In 1983 Fuller, Smith and Turner had 127 pubs. I know this because over a period of five months in that year I drank a pint of bitter in each of them. The purpose of this sojourn was to gain a confirmation in my Fullers Passport of each pub visited in order to receive a box of goodies. And so Dave and I would set out one night a week from the Youngs dominated Battersea to seek a few more of these 127 pubs. I was reminded of this when we chugged past the Anchor and Hope in Clapton today.
The challenge of this exercise was not the consumption of beer (although this was a terrible chore) but actually finding the pubs from the scant addresses provided.
When we arrived at the Anchor and Hope late one dark Thursday night after touring some of the seedier parts of the East End it did not seem quite as attractive as this picture would indicate.
We did out duty (St. George would have been proud of us) and beat a hasty retreat to an area we felt more comfortable with. This is not a project to be undertaken lightly especially as Fullers now have over 360 pubs.

Whilst on the subject of passports don't forget that the definitive history of that document was written by my brother Martin Lloyd. Imaginatively titled The Passport it is available at bookshops good and bad. If you favour nepotism them go to Marcus's website, click on the link to Amazon and order it from there. That way Marcus will earn a commission and I will earn some brownie points.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Down the Plug?
Regular readers will be familiar (fed up ?)with my views of the current fashion for local authorities to create water features in place of functioning waterways. On our previous visit to Paddington Basin we were impressed with the redevelopment but upset that again appearance seemed to be the mantra. Mooring rings are difficult to trip over but equally difficult to use and too sparse to be particularly convenient. At the end of the basin surrounded by new apartments was an small basin equipped with mooring rings and staging but boats were prevented from using this area by a tubular bridge.

It seems someone has
misunderstood the term basin
in this context as it now
has no water or staging
but does have a plug!

If you agree that this is getting ridiculous then consider the following:
- Daventry council are planning a canal basis to attract visitors to the town
but they have no canal and never have had!
- It is rumoured that one of the architects involved in the redevelopment of the canal area in Stourbridge has complained about the colour of the water it isn't blue enough!

Whilst I am in this mood I feel you should be advised that the police in Burnley have asked British Waterways to close the towpath along the canal embankment because yobs are throwing stones at the cars on the road below . As a reciprocal measure I shall be asking BW to request that Middlesex constabulary close the road bridge in Harefield whence two youths threw stones at us last August, hitting a friend of ours from Germany and also the boat.Sauce for the Gander?

Monday, 21 April 2008

Oysters for OAPs
One of the benefits of being 60 is the bus pass with which we could travel from Land's End to the Scottish border for nothing so long as we use local buses.
A further benefit we discovered when in London is that if you have a Senior Railcard and an Oyster card then you are eligible for a discount of 30% on the maximum daily charge on the Oyster. It is necessary to take both cards to an Underground ticket office (not a BR one) for the discount to be loaded. You will also have to register the Oyster if this has not been done.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Where is the River Ux?
For both my readers I would like to explain that Cowroast almost certainly originates from the days when cattle drovers would stop outside a major town to bring their stock up to condition before taking them i to market. Hence the COW REST was corrupted easily into its present form.
The Tring Summit of the Grand Union Canal has always been dogged by water supply problems hence the reservoirs around Tring and the Wendover Arm which served as an important water feed.s On the southern descent to Uxbridge there are rivers everywhere. First the Bulborne flows in and out on the way down to Boxmoor. At Two Waters the Gade joins in and just by Batchworth locks at *Ricky the Chess comes steaming in. From here on they unite to form the Colne and just as we reach Denham the Misbourne adds its pennyworth. However none of these rivers give any clue to where the River Ux (as in Uxbridge) is, was, or has been. I am afraid there is more corruption to report. This time the origin is Saxon - the Wuxen apparently bridged the River Colne here and that's why I can't find the River Ux.
Another event which should be appended to the Official History of Uxbridge is that we overstayed the 24 hour mooring limit and received our first parking ticket.
*Apparently Ricky is not widely understood as the diminutive of Rickmansworth

Whilst you were away......
Before attending Marcus and Olga's wedding we spent a couple of days in Panama where they also have a canal. Vessels on this canal are somewhat larger than those on the GU. However they do have one concern in common. The Grand Junction Canal which linked London to the Oxford canal was built with 14' wide locks to accommodate boats capable of carrying 70tons. This was not adopted by the Coventry, Oxford ant Trent & Mersey canals with which it linked and so was unsuccessful in this quest. In Panama they have found that locks 1000' long and 110' wide are too small for the latest ships and so they are building additional larger locks and widening the canal cutting. As the canal operates round the clock and there is always a queue this seems to be a guaranteed success.

From our hotel bedroom
we had a glorious view of the ships
waiting to enter the
Mirraflores Locks at the
Pacific end of the canal

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Another Tax Year Over!
All the pundits have been exhorting us to put our money into ISAs before it's too late. We found it very easy to resist the temptation to move our millions from under the bed where we can sit and count it every night.
Yesterday we spent the morning painting and blacking where the rust had taken hold on the starboard. In the afternoon we tried to knock as much of it off as possible on our way to Cowroast. I wonder where that name originated - probably nothing to do with roasting cows.
Down to 34F last night but a bright morning so we are off to *Berko perhaps to see a film at the Rex Cinema. This has been wonderfully restored and refurbished. Seats are individual armchairs grouped around tables for your refreshments. Last time we visited The Rex they had a special showing of two silent films with live piano accompaniment. What a great outing that was.
*I have been instructed by the editor in chief (Margaret) to explain that Berko is Berkhamsted.

While you were away......
On Dec 28 Marcus married Olga in Barranquilla, Colombia. We spent about two weeks in Colombia preceded by two days in Panama and succeeded by a week in Peru. (of which more later) The best way I can describe the wedding celebrations is that they were relaxed formal and great fun. The wedding was definitely celebrated.

How do we play these things?

Marcus and Olga at the reception.

Friday, 4 April 2008

2000% Inflation
No this is not Zimbabwe but good old blighty. We are in Marsworth tonight having completed the Aylesbury Arm. We shall stay here for about 24 hours in order to carry out some painting to the port (left) side of Gecko. We were so tightly packed in Aylesbury basin that we could only work on the starboard (yes, you've guessed that' the right side). Having earned an evening pass (I'm not telling you how) I decided to redeem it immediately in a true reflection of our times and went to the pub with Paul from Too Sassy. With elbow room at the bar in close contention we ventured further into the bowels of the pub and lo! we discovered a bar billiards table. However it is no longer a tanner a game but a quid! I wonder who we can blame that on.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Frog Voyeur
Yesterday we left Aylesbury late morning and negotiated half the lock of the Arm in order to spend the night near Wilstone. This was so we could visit our friends Margo and John who live in this small but expanding village. On our way back to Gecko we had to pick our way very carefully as the towpath was the venue for a frog orgy. And they are not silent while they are at it. So we went to sleep to the sound of this frog chorus which was marginally more musical than Sir Paul's version.

While you were away.....
As the London Boat Show got under way it was announced that Challenger Syndicateships had failed. Do you remember Black Prince Hire Boats going bust in the 1980's? That was also owned by Ed and Gill Rimmer. By the way, Ed was a founder member of Aylesbury Canal Society. This time there are all kinds of worrying rumours about the activities oft he company. Let's hope this mess is sorted out without harming too many customers.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Welcome back
The start of a new boating year!
First, the apologies. After the arrival of Dominic last August I am afraid my efforts with the blog deteriorated significantly. He is such a lovely and amenable chap that's all the apology your're getting.
More to come........
The Windsor Castle Shuffle
When I was younger (much younger!) I had a puzzle which comprised a picture of Windsor Castle printed on 15 plastic tiles arranged in a 4 x 4 frame. By sliding them around the picture could be jumbled up and, hopefully, reconstituted. This morning we tried the same thing with narrow boats. To extract Gecko from its winter mooring in the extreme corner of Aylesbury canal basin required more than two thumbs though.
Our departure from this friendly and convenient mooring is the more poignant as it will not exist much longer. As I have written before, BW have sold the site to Aylesbury Vale District Council who intend to develop the area with a new theatre, departments store and flats. The canal basin will then become a sterile water feature with the boats being moved a mile out of town. Only a mile and to a new purpose built marina? I hear you ask. That's an hour by boat and equivalent to 30 miles by car. How many people want to be forcible moved 30 miles from their current home on the whim of some lame-brain in the Council? Some people have lived here for 30 years. One couple are aged 93 and 87. If they were Crested Newts they would be protected!

While you were away.....
Severn Valley Boat Centre which built Gecko capsized on Jan 25 (Gecko's second birthday). According to the Administrator's report there is a shortfall of about £1.2m which means only a few secured creditors will be paid. SVBC was set up about 30 years ago initially hiring boats but abandoning that in favour of building and fitting out narrowboats. As usual in this kind of situation there are many people with part completed boats on which they have made stage payments for work which has not been carried out. One couple have sold their house and made a payment of 25% two days before the collapse of the Company.