Thursday, 22 October 2009

Gecko has landed
Arrived at our winter mooring this afternoon.
Reedley Marina is built at the back of Barden Mill with views across to Pendle Hill.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Rings and Things
Our first canal trip was in a boat hired from Canal Cruising Company in Stone. 1976 was the year of the drought with hosepipe bans in force from mid-February onwards. James Brindley II was in the vivid green livery still used by CCC today - it was 36ft long and slept six.
Yes, six.
One bedroom also doubled as lounge/diner and when the table was erected it rendered the front door unusable. The toilet was flushed by pumping a handle at the side with drew water in from the canal and returned it along with your deposits. In order to get our money's worth we drove ten hours every day and so reached Llangollen in six days which gave us ample time to replenish the crew and return to Stone within our fortnight. It was a very memorable trip for many reasons many of which I would be too embarrassed to recount here. One thing which still sticks in my mind was the tunk, tunk which accompanied the evening birdsong as fellow boaters hammered mooring pins into the dry ground. This year we made our second trip along the Llangollen Canal although we could not venture past Trevor with a draught of 33 inches. Of the changes we noted the most remarkable is the profusion of prepared moorings - rings, piling or bollards - we didn't use mooring pins once.
Canal Cruising Company is still hiring boats and gained some publicity recently when they prepared Terry Darlington's boat Phylils May for its ridiculous channel crossing which he chronicled in Narrow Dog to Carcasonne.

Giant Haystacks Time
Around the time of this first trip on the Llangollen Canal was the era when Grannies all over the country would spend Saturday afternoon shouting at the TV as the likes of Jackie Pallo, Mick McMannus (not to be confused with Mark McMannus who starred in Taggart) and Giant Haystacks pretended to beat the **** out of each other in what was called professional wrestling. It was fortunate that the commentator, Kent Walton, was heard and not seen as he must have found it difficult to keep a straight face describing their antics in such a serious manner. The entrance to the Llangollen Canal is guarded by what claims to be the narrowest locks in the English system - at Hurlesden. A local farmer has been adorning one of his fields each year for the past decade with sculptures built from straw bales. These have included The Millennium Dome, the London Eye, an ice cream cone, a Jersey cow, a windmill and Jodrell Bank.

This year his offering is St. Stephen's Tower, Westminster ( see Blog post - Who has seen Big Ben - 6 June 2007)

Some things have not changed

We were surprised to find the butty Saturn on the bank at Ellesmere with its elum removed. I did not realise it was still around.

Boats in the Sky (for Denny & Nikki)
The highlight of such a trip has to be the two aqueducts at Chirk and Pont Cysylte. After waiting for 30 minutes to capture a photograph of a train and boat crossing their respective structures simultaneously I gave up.

She who must be obeyed
had more luck than I.

Flying Boats (for Dave)
The most unexpected event occurred in the Bridge Inn in Chirk Bank. Dave's research discovered that Wednesday night was quiz night so we tried to mingle unnoticed (unsuccessfully) with the locals for an evening of humiliation (successful). The only question I thought I knew the answer to proved incorrect. The first trans-Atlantic flight was made by Alcock and Brown in June 1919 in a Vickers Vimy which had been assembled in Leighton Buzzard on the canal-side site now occupied by Tesco. Or so I thought. Apparently about a month earlier a US Navy Curtiss flying boat made a crossing from new York state to Lisbon. This took 10 days 22 hours with two stops in the Azores. Over that period the plane was in the air for 26 hours 46 mins. Alcock and Brown, of course, made their crossing in one hop of 16 hours 12 mins. Despite my efforts we managed to finish one place above the bottom which seemed to satisfy the locals. They were a little less satisfied when Dave's ticket was drawn and he masterful playing of Play your cards right netted the jackpot and cleaned out the quiz kitty.
We may have to wait another 30 years before we venture that way again.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Name Check
For the past week we have had guests aboard - Dave the Rave & Margaret and so we made a diversion from our intended route to visit Pont Cysylte. Highlights of this trip will be posted shortly. However we did meet a few old friends. Before we left Nantwich Di and Martin came to visit us with their (new to them) dog - Jake. Poor old Charlie died a year ago but his successor is a lovely fellow. The next day we passed Tantler who had been on the BCNS Explorer cruise wit us. At Wrenbury we saw Bimble from Stourport and the next day we saw Micky Jay at Grindley Brook (she was built immediately after Gecko). We also saw a rarity - one of the boats built by Midas - Dorcas. Midas was set up by Darren when he left Severn Valley but they only produced four boats. At Whitchurch Chough was tucked away in the town arm. When we were in Thrupp back in July they saved us a space on the 14 day moorings so we could go to the weeding in France. On our return journey Mañana, which Brenda and Paul sold recently, was moored above Grindley Brook.
Ladbroke Grove
Tomorrow will be the tenth anniversary of the tragic railway accident near Ladbroke Grove and I expect that the various arms of the news media will commemorate it in some way: 31 people died and over 400 were injured. The subsequent enquiry found Thames Trains and Network Rail each guilty of breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act and they were fined £2m and £4m respectively.

When we were in London in May this year I visited the area and walked down Barlby Road.
In 1903 the Earl of Shrewsbury established his Sunbeam Talbot company here in Ladbroke Hall. This later became part of the Rootes Group along with Hillman, Humber and Singer.The site of the Sunbeam Works is now a small housing development but retains many links with its previous life in road names and building decor.

During their life each marque achieved fame in one field or another. In 1952 a Humber Super Snipe (remember the vicious bonnet trophy?) was driven from London to Cape Town in 13 days, 9 hours, 6 minutes. This was obviously before the M25 was built. In 1926 Sunbeam was the first car to exceed 150mph and the following year held the world land speed record at 203.44mph.

In later years many Rootes models were remembered for achieving an unprecedented speed of rusting.

Ladbroke Hall is still standing and belongs to the Workspace Group who renovate old industrial and commercial buildings and then let them as office or light industrial units on terms of one month upwards.

The Pall Mall Deposit on the opposite side of Barlby Road us a Workspace building.

On my way back to the canal I passed a piece of ground displaying this sign. I was not aware that the Channel Tunnel extended as far as North Kensington.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Gotcha !

Of all the wildlife we see on our perambulations the most elusive to photography is the Kingfisher.
Today we got one.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Enemy Action ?
Four days ago I mentioned a boat named Thalia(Name Check - 15th Sept)
This boat moored opposite us and then behind us in Paddington Basin at the beginning of May. We then sighted it repeatedly as we travelled up the GU, round to Aylesbury and on to Braunston. We leap-frogged each other all the way down the Oxford Canal and back to Braunston. At Banbury we spoke to the gentleman for the first time and30 mins later he moved 100 yards up the canal away from us. We saw him around Rugby and in Coventry Basin and then on the Ashby Canal. back on the Coventry Canal we lost him for a while but found him at Curdworth as we joined the BCN Explorer cruise. This was in August. Yesterday we passed Thalia moored near bridge 139 on the Trent & Mersey Canal. To quote James Bond -
Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence and three times is enemy action.
Should we be taking evasive action of some kind?

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Where are the Welsh?
Apparently some of them are on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Westport Lake. My meagre attempts at research, however,h have come to nothing. I have been unable to discover how many Welsh speakers there are using the canals in Stoke-on-Trent. There must be more than I had thought otherwise BW would not have gone to the trouble of producing these signs in Welsh. I have spoken to everyone moored here tonight and not one of them responded in Welsh.
Teacher, teach thyself
As we left Stone this morning she who must be obeyed spied this all time bloomer.
Being a law-abiding soul it was not she who made the corrections.
Pass the Bottle
I don't usually do requests but after providing the definitive gen on the Floosie in the Jacuzzi I feel obliged to demonstrate to Jane that we have seen some bottle kilns in Stock-on-Trent today.

We saw fat ones (this is at Middleport Pottery in Burslem)

We saw thin ones

And we saw what I believe are fake ones built to enhance a housing estate.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Name Check
Over the last few days we have met a few old friends:
Days of Elijah who winter in Aylesbury, moved off the water point at Great Haywood for us yesterday
After we moored at Ingestre Nutshell joined us. We first met Ken at the IWA AGM in Lichfield five years ago and the last time we saw him was at Kinver in Feb 2006. He has now re-married Christine and sold the launch which he used to tow around full of timber.
As we approached Stone around lunchtime we met Hadar - the replica Star Class boat which was at the Canalway Cavalcade, Ricky Festival and Wendover Arm Festival with us. They are now selling fuel on the Leicester arm.
Of course once we arrived at Stone and encountered the BCF squad we soon found Trinity who we also saw at Ricky and later on the Coventry Canal.
One boat we have not seen for a few weeks is Thalia. They stalked us from London in April to Curdworth in August via Oxford, Coventry, Ashby Canal, Fazeley. Where are you lurking now?

Monday, 14 September 2009

Win Some - Lose Some
Stafford is another interesting town - in truth we find very few towns in England uninteresting.
If you stray off the tourist trail there are some little gems around.

The Sandonia Theatre was built in 1920 in Sandon Road. It was never very successful either as a theatre or cinema and when it closed in the 1960s is became a bingo hall and later a snooker hall. It is once again up for sale and may not survive this time.

The Picture House, on the other hand, has found a new life as aJD Wetherspoon pub.

Much of the fabric and décor has been preserved

In some detail, too.

One Wren or Two?
On returning to our boat a few weeks ago after a day out we discovered this wren flapping around in the cratch. She (all wrens are called Jenny to me) had squeezed in perhaps to avoid the very heavy rain and could not find a way out. As we were more concerned about her welfare the quality of the picture suffered a little.

Two years ago when we visited Ingestre, Staffs, the church was surrounded by scaffolding and we were unable to see much of it.Today we trekked up to the village and were rewarded by an absence of visual obstruction apart from bushes and trees. We still did not get inside as it is open on Wed and Sat afternoons. John Roper, in his Guide to Staffordshire Churches declares that "Ingestre is probably the finest Renaissance church in England outside the city of London" It is widely believed to have been designed by Sir Christopher Wren but there appears to be no documentary proof of this. One of the north windows was made by Morris & Co but we will have to view that another time.
A Veggie Diet?
People (and I am not excluding myself) often drool over little babies, sometimes with comments like 'she's sweet enough to eat'
And I have noticed that a newly bathed and powdered baby can have a smell and texture reminiscent of Turkish delight. However I was just a little surprised that the Asda baby talc which we recently bought carries a logo and statement affirming that it is suitable for vegetarians.
It is rather scary to realise that someone is actually reading this stuff.
A few days ago I rang someone whose home mooring we were approaching to see if they were around and was admonished for deviating from my published itinerary.
Today I have received tie following erudite and learned answer to my question posed on August 27 in 'Birmingham Luminaries'
Who was the Floozie in the jacuzzi?
The main focal point of Mistry's scheme for Victoria Square is the monumental female figure of The River, situated beneath the façade of the Council House within a pool, and acting as a fountain which sends water cascading down to lower pools at the level of New Street. Rapidly nick-named 'The Floozie in the Jacuzzi' by the local press,the nude's proportions are descended from those of Matisse's figures, whilst as a reclining nude she points to the precedents of Giogione, Botticelli and Picasso's Vollard Suite. The waters that spout from the ball that she holds flow down to the youthful figures below, so she acts as a giver of life in the way that the Indian River Ganges is revered as a goddess because of its fertility. This is in contrast to the European tradition of masculine representations of river gods, though sources signifying the life-giving effect of water are also often surmounted by female nudes, possibly associated with Diana/Natura. She stares out into the surrounding space, neither challenging or inviting. In this way she follows in a long line of encapsulated female nudes in painting and sculpture, though the civic body has been criticised for this display of patriarchal domination through the enclosure of a passive female form in such a traditional manner. The sandstone pool that she reclines in has six large salmon carved in bas-relief on its floor. This acts as a cryptic explanation of the whole water scheme: the pool is filled by the rays of water (sunlight) from The River's orb; the lotus, being associated with the tranquillity of Buddha, sets a calmness over the entire scene; the figures of Youth are reflected in the water as emblems of its life-giving qualities; then once the cloud has passed, the cycle can begin again.
Thank you Jane for your research. I wish I was as accomplished a researcher.
A humble blogger.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Famous Author Writes Again!

Martin Lloyd the world famous author has recently published another book
recounting his cycling exploits. A sub-title for this could be Pyjama Game. you will need to read it to understand why.

If you are not familiar with this author then here follows a a quick run down of his other works.

The seminal work on the history of the passport. Essential reading for those who have always wondered what that beautiful script inside the front cover of the British passport is all about.

Tales of cycling in Northern France with Frank and Hairy, both of whom are world famous in their own fields.

Tales of cycling in Spain without Frank or Hairy but arguably the better for that

An exciting adventure story which evokes France in the 1970s
I found this hard to put down - due to the sticky cover on my library copy

A romance.
(How can a man be expected to comment on such things?)

....S T O P .... P R E S S

My spies tell me that Martin (World Famous Author) is about to publish another adventure story set in 1970s France. Furthermore it is strongly recommended that you read or re-read The Chinese Transfer first. If my spies are right then you have a few weeks to accomplish that . As this is a bootleg copy of the proposed cover you might be advised to order it by name and not rely on seeing on the shelf.

All these books are or will be available from
Queen Anne's Fan
PO Box 883
Canterbury CT1 3WJ

Monday, 7 September 2009

One Year Later
In the early hours of 7th September 2008 the Stourbridge Canal burst its bank between Middle Bridge and Wordsley Jct, where the Town Arm leaves the main line. By the time BW had managed to take emergency action to stem the flow 1.5 million gallons of water had emigrated from the canal to the River Stour. Two days earlier BW had carried out the annual inspection of this stretch of canal which has breached in spectacular fashion in the past. (On one occasion it took boats with it, I understand). No reason for concern had been noted.
The repairs were accomplished with surprising promptness. Boaters navigating the repaired section , however, complained that the channel was too shallow. Despite the volume of complaints, BW repeatedly assured everyone that adequate depth had been provided.......that is until one of their own boats became stuck. We passed down here without problem on September 2nd 2009.

We currently have a major leak in the Shropshire Union but BW appears to be taking their time over the repairs and exhibiting a rather blasé attitude .

Photo from BW
Ten Years After
My earliest musical recollection is of Sunday mornings when dad would put on the Leak gramophone, which he had bought from James Hadley Chase when that gent moved to Switzerland or somewhere, and played something worthy of the corner reflex cabinet speakers. I recall Berlioz - Harold in Italy; various female singers - Lita Roza, Connie Francis etc; and, above all, Chris Barber. I was hooked on Trad Jazz at an early age which, like snooker, is tantamount to admitting a misspent youth .
Chris Barber has been performing Jazz and Blues (he does not like the label Trad) for 60 years and next year will become an octogenarian. He was instrumental (sorry!) in intoducing UK to the blues and jazz of New Orleans. In 1958 he and his manager, Harold Pendleton, founded The Marquee Club in the basement of the Academy Cinema at 165 Oxford Street,London and in that year Britain saw the first electric guitar when Muddy Waters played with Chris Barber in that club. The Marquee went on to become one of the most significant venues for new musical acts - The Rolling Stones played their first gig there on 12 June 1962. Two years later it moved to90 Wardour Street which is where I remember seeing some amazing stars including The Yardbirds, John Mayal and one of my favourites - Ten Years After. Alvin Lee's guitar work rivalled Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck to my mind. I particularly looked forward to his rendition of At the Woodchoppers' Ball
Chris Barber, meanwhile helped to establish the National Jazz Federation which eventually became Reading Festival via Windsor (1967)

If you were expecting a ten year anniversary of some kind then in July 1999 Marcus, Douglas and I cycled from Land's End to John O'Groats to raise money for The Parkinsons Disease Society.