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.

100 Years On
Leo Bakeland was a chemist born in Ghent but emigrated to USA.
His first invention was Velox - a photographic paper which could be processed in artificial light. He sold it to Kodak for $1,000.000
Think that was a good reason to remember him? Then consider this: in 1909 he introduced the world to the results of his mixing carbolic acid with formaldehyde. He called it Bakelite and it is considered to be the first plastic.
Interested? Then get down to Somerset and visit the Bakelite Museum and I can guarantee that you will be surprised by many of the exhibits.
For more information you could do a lot worse than clicking HERE

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Welcome to The National Lottery Awards

The winners and runners-up in this year’s National Lottery Awards were revealed live on BBC1, on The National Lottery: Big 7, presented by Nick Knowles and Myleene Klass on Saturday 5 September.

The 21 Lottery-funded finalists from around the UK were all celebrated on the live BBC1 show, and the winners were presented with their Awards by a host of celebrities and special guests, including actress Fay Ripley, Lottery-funded diving sensation Tom Daley, model and presenter Lisa Snowdon and broadcaster John Sergeant.

The winners of this year’s National Lottery Awards are:

  • Best Arts Project: Sefton Performing Arts and Creative Education Centre
  • Best Education Project: Tower Hamlets Summer University
  • Best Environment Project: RSPB Dearne Valley - Old Moor Nature Reserve
  • Best Health Project, in association with The Jennifer Trust's Spinal Muscular Atrophy Outreach Service
  • Best Heritage Project: Restoration of Stourport on Severn Canal Basins
  • Best Sports Project: Community Sports Pavilion
  • Best Voluntary/Charity Project, in association with Woman magazine: Harbour Place Day Centre

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Merry Hell
Thirty years ago Britain still had some industry but it was disappearing fast - motor cycles, shipbuilding, photocopiers, steel - all were being subsumed by Japan and other countries with a more supportive government or financial sector. We are now reaping the bitter harvest of the laissez-faire government coupled with bankers turned gamblers. Before this degeneration became irreversible the government introduced Enterprise Zones to attract new industry to areas blighted by the loss of traditional industry. The Round Oak steel works near Brierley Hill closed in 1982 and Dudley Council established an Enterprise Zone. Unfortunately, like so many others, the ten-year holiday from business rates attracted developers of commercial and residential property rather than industry. However large the shopping centre, it is never going to contribute to the GDP. What really upset the residents around here was that, as its name reflects, this shopping centre was built on the site of Merry Hill Farm, not Round Oak Steelworks. The office development on that site did arrive but some time later. Some time before its closure the steelworks were permitted to use Merry Hill Farm for tipping waste. This was masked from local eyes by landscaping embankments around the site.
When construction of the shopping centre commenced the embankments were levelled resulting in the closure of the Dudley Canal for some years, I believe, until the channel could be stabilised. I remember cruising through the area soon after the canal re-opened.
At the time I was unaware of the controversy surrounding the development but I was impressed then and on subsequent cruises by the monorail which was to carry shoppers form the car park (now with a capacity for 8000 cars!) to the roof of M&S. That seems to have been an expensive failure. £22m and five years later it was dismantled amid concern over its safety. The station on top of M&S is still there but the service is atrocious.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Old Friends
We spent the bank holiday weekend careering around the country in a hire car.
On Saturday we were in Ballinger, Bucks for the marriage blessing of Senta and Wolfgang. Not content with civil and church weddings in Germany they came here for their British friends to witness their marriage vows. We also met many of our former neighbours
When we returned to Gecko at around midnight the Dudley tunnel was lit up and a variety of screams emanated from its portal. The reason became clear when the Ghost Tour emerged.
On Sunday we visited the IWA national rally which was being held near Ratcliffe-on-Soar where we spent a little money and kept bumping into Brian and Diana from Harnser.
Today we left the museum and made our way down to the new Main Line via Factory Locks and through the Netherton Tunnel (3027 yards). to moor at Merry Hill (or Merry Hell as it is often called). Just as we finished our lunch the heavens opened - thunder, lightening, rain and hail. It was so violent that some hail managed to bounce up into the ventilation mushroom and drop down onto the dining table.
On our way here we passed some boats gathered ready for a rally next weekend amongst whom were Jjinad, Potwell inn, Airdale H and Nobody Knows. Kevin was the only crew member in evidence . After a few passing words with him we were ourselves hailed by Danny the painter from Severn Valley Boat Centre who lives on his boat thereabouts. You can't hide from anyone on the canals!