Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The View from the Cheap Seats
After a couple of nights in Apsley where there used to be paper mills we have moved down through Kings Langley to the grounds of The Grove.
With rooms starting at £270 and guests arriving by helicopter we feel a little like Bill & Ben at the bottom of the garden. But the view is just as good from down here.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

A Good Egg in time for Easter
Some bureaucrats lose touch with reality and believe that their bureaucracy is an end in itself. When we sold Leeward and moved onto Gecko we established the PO Box in Bath for correspondence. This did generate some entertainment for us as various bodies tried to come to terms with a concept that half the world's population seem to accept quite readily. Two organisations in particular excelled in their response. John Lewis credit card which we had been using for many years decided that it was "safer" to send our statements to an address that they knew we did not live at than to send them the the PO Box. As a result we had to close the account and when I asked where we should send the settlement cheque they said "PO Box 99, Southend"!!
DVLA Swansea had another angle. To change the address of a driving licence they required a street address "to prove residency" They said, however, we could use a relative's address, or indeed any address. So why would they not accept 10 Downing Street? Whilst insisting that we give them any street address they would not admit that this implied they were happy to accept a false one. The logic of this escaped me.
Last week Margaret applied to renew her passport and the lady at Peterborough Passport Office really put herself out to make the bureaucracy work for us. So if anyone out there knows Joyce of Passport Office Peterborough please give her a big cheer from us.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

When is Friday?
Most of our entertainment over the winter has been provided by BBC Free Ticket department.
We have enjoyed a variety of radio shows, the highlight of which must have been the Discovering Music series for Radio Three which have been recorded at the Colliseum (was Town Hall) in Watford. These have been superb. Last week, however, we were at the Colliseum again on Monday night for a recording of Friday Night is Music Night for Radio 2. The following day we were at St. Paul's Cathedral in London for the recording of At the Foot of the Cross which will be broadcast on Good Friday. Although I was singing exceerpts from The Messiah I did not make any mistakes sufficiently loudly to be identified in the recording.
It seems that if you are a Radio 2 listener living in Watford that Friday occurs somewhere between Sunday and Tuesday but if you live in the City of London it occurs a day later.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Ready for The Off
All the library books have been returned, farewells said to boaters and other species, tanks filled with diesel and water, toilets emptied of this and that, larder filled with cakes and ale......Yes, we are off in the morning.
This afternoon we shuffled the boats around in order to extract Gecko from its cosy mooring in the corner of Aylesbury canal basin. This always reminds me of the game I was given as a child: a pictre of Windsor Castle made up of 15 square plastic tiles in a frame with one space. By sliding the pieces about it was claimed that the picture could be composed. I never managed it. However we were much more successful today with the boats. After two weeks of sunshine we managed to find the only 40 minutes of torrential rain and hurricane winds this month to carry out the exercise.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

If at first you don't succeed..
..Change the rules
Well that is what the ever glorious BW seem to think.
Alrewas is a charming village on the Trent & Mersey canal. Its charm (except when the Trent is in flood) has not gone unnoticed by canal users and some are tempted to overstay the 14 day limit for mooring. This winter this selfishness has been blatant to say the least with several boats staying 5-6 months. One boat has even connected his hose permanently to the water point. Whilst these freeloaders are occupying a stretch of canal with made up footpath and convenient water point, those who pay for winter moorings on the off-side with no path or water point have justifiably raised their concern with BW.
If you wish to look away at this point and make a guess at the solution determined by BW please ensure you are sitting comfortably before you read the next bit.
BW has changed all the moorings from 14 days to 48hours limit!
It seems to me that the problem is the lack of enforcement of the current rules . Boaters who are prepared to stay 6 months on a 14 day mooring are not going to consider the change in rules pertinent to there situation. All this change achieves is to penalise the majority of boaters who abide by the regulations and deprive The Crown, The Old Boat, The George & Dragon etc of their trade.
I have been studying this school of philosophy (Bwism) but I am experiencing some problems getting to grips with the nuances of it. I must try harder.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

One that got away....

The Battle of Jericho (October 2008)
I first learned of the district of Oxford called Jericho in January 1987 when John Thaw (aka Inspector Morse) appeared on the TV screens in the first adaptation of the stories by Colin Dexter.
Twenty years later it appeared on my radar again when BW decided to sell the Castlemill Boatyard in Jericho to developers.
Despite opposition from the boating fraternity, the local residents and Oxford City Council, a proposal was made to build flats on the site .
On our return to Oxford last summer after a trip up the Thames to Lechlade with Robin and Carole in nb Inanda we spent a few days in Jericho. Our stay coincided with a public meeting to discuss the appeal which was about to be considered following the refusal of the original planning application. It is not uncommon when plans are made to develop canalside sites for public opinion to be split between the boaters and the local residents. Often the outcome is that building goes ahead and boaters' interests are ignored. At this meeting I attended in Jericho a question was asked of all present "do you really want a boatyard here with all the noise this entails?"
The unanimous response was "Yes we do"
If there were no other reason to oppose this development that response should have been enough!
The following pictures may help you understand the context.

Castlemill Boatyard as it was

...as it is now....

...and how the developers see the future.

The observant readers will have noticed something missing from the future, apart, that is, from any boat life. (Presumable the bollards in the development were ornamental as they often are nowadays)
Where is the church?
The church of St. Barnabas was built in 1868/9 for the benefit of the workers at the newly relocated Oxford University Press and their families. The architect's brief was that he "should design a church to hold a thousand people for as small a sum as possible" with the proviso of course that he "should be able to produce a dignified interior, no reasonable expense was to be spared in first securing strength , solidity and thoroughly sound construction in every part; and not a penny was to be thrown away on external appearance and decoration"
The original plan was to use concrete but this was too expensive and local stone rubble was used. Although Portland cement had been used in the new London sewers some twenty years previously it was hardly a common building medium at this time . However, it did not happen that way.
The 130ft campanile which was completed in 1872 quickly established itself in the Oxford skyline and is mentioned in Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure and John Betjeman's poem Myfanwy. Betjeman went further and wrote a poem dedicated to the church.

St. Barnabas, Oxford
How long was the peril, how breathless the day,
In topaz and beryl the sun dies away,
His rays lying static at quarter to six
On polychromatic lacing of bricks.
Good Lord, as the angelus floats down the road
Byzantine St. Barnabas, be Thine abode.

Where once the fritilliaries hung in the grass
A baldachin pillar is guarding the Mass
Farewell to blue meadows we loved not enough,
And elms in whose shadows were Glanville and Clough
Not poets but clergymen hastened to meet
The redden'd remorselessness Cardigan Street

The artist's impression of the Jericho development is detailed enough to include some foliage in the foreground but somehow fails to indicate that the Oxford skyline would be changed irrevocably by obscuring the iconic tower of St. Barnabas.
Again I leave you with some pictures of St. Barnabas and hope that when you next go to Oxford you find time to wander between the artisans' cottages of Jericho and take a look at what a church built cheaply for 1000 people looks like.

PS. The appeal was dismissed and last week the developer went into administration so the future of this site is up in the air again.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Very Grand Children

Mia-Rose at six days

My favourite picture of Dominic
- at 12 months
Gecko's progress will be plotted on a map so you can see where we are/have been/plan to be.
Click on the link in the right-hand panel for more excitement than you have ever expeerienced whilst sitting at a table