Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Blow Up
Sunday morning 9 am
Activity around the basin.

Men in overalls laying out lines and setting up lights.

Cameras ,and people dressed in black with clip boards.

Could I just move the boat as there was to be a depth charge just - There!!

So I hauled Gecko around the corner on the ropes beyond the expected shock waves.
A short action film involving a giant humanoid robot shooting at a famous TV actor, no less.

Having no TV the actor was not famous to me. But he did do the running up stairs bit well.

Five hours waiting for the explosions and then I got one shot of smoke before the camera battery died. Oh the frustration of film-making!

I hope the film crew were more successful.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Coventry to Oxford in One Day
The train from Coventry to Oxford only takes 50 minutes so I left Gecko behind for this day trip.
I was viewing flats for Marcus who is moving back to UK from Germany sometime soon now that Olga has finished her studies. Macus's employer has an office in Oxford and they have agreed that he can carry out his duties as effectively there as in Mainz.
Douglas, the younger one, aslso has a connection with Oxford. After graduating and before training to teach, he worked for a Chartered Surverors on Oxford Castle and Prison. The castle was built in 1071 and was a working prison until 1996. Ten years later a National Lottery grant made it possible to excavate the area and subsequently the prison buildings were converted to an hotel.

Before the work began, the site was in a fairly run-down condition. This photo was taken during the survey.

Excavation in progress.
Photo coourtesy of English Heritage

Looking a lot smarter now as a boutique hotel.

Where people pay to sleep in a prison cell.

Click here to download a brochure about Oxford castle
Reader Response
"If this bridge really looks as elegant in the daylight why not show us"

So here it is and the houses still muscle in on the scene.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Not Alone
I really felt as though I had been sent to Coventry today: The three boats who shared the basin with me last night all left. Including Whio which belongs to a Kiwi couple who moor it in Aylesbury over the winter. About four pm a Yellow Peril arrived as I was going into town for some bits and pieces. When I returned they were setting off again leaving me all alone. This has happened a few times whilst I have been here. I have checked my aftershave and religiously have a shower each month whether I need it or not so I assume that some people do not realise that the city is only two minutes walk from the basin. If the lights around the basin were switched off during the day the city could afford a sign of some kind to encourage the visitors to stay and spend money.
Coventry is a compact city. I can walk from the basin which is just outside the ring road to the railway station which is beyond the ring road on the opposite side of town in 15 minutes. For its size Coventry saw more destruction than most industrial towns in WWII. Perhaps this was because the Industrial Revolution passed the city by and the industry which did develop here was the more recent technologies - internal combustion engines, aeroplanes, bearings and the like - and more relevant to modern warfare.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Sent to Coventry
When I arrived at Sutton Stop on Saturday morning it was choc-a-bloc. I had hoped to moor near the service block and car park for the convenience of the generator engineer due on Monday. However, I had to continue to the next bridge , turn round, and grab a spot on the way back to the junction. Fortunately a little later in the day a space came available close to the junction and I was able to move down. Off to the shops: In this case the giant Tesco store near bridge 8. Bus route 30a takes six minutes but only if you get one going the right direction. This I did not. Forty minutes after boarding the bus I was back where I had started; Six minutes later I was at Tesco. I have stated before that we always check our supermarket bills and find that one in three of our Tesco bills is incorrect. Why haven't I leaned? Yes, this bill was wrong again! Strangely enough these errors are always in their favour. Usually it is special offers advertised but not materialising at the till. Perhaps it is time to kick Teso into touch or send them to Coventry so to speak. This expression stems from the English Civil War when Coventry was staunchly neutral. When the Parliamentarians forced a garrison on the town and brought with them prisoners from the Scottish borders the locals were not pleased. The prisoners were free to walk around within the walled city but communication between them and the Coventrians was minimal possible because their accent was unfamiliar and difficult to understand. Hence they were largely ignored which gave rise to the expression.
With the generator duly serviced I shall return to Coventry basin to await She who must be obeyed. I have not been completely alone here, though. On Sunday Ali & Elaine from nb Ellie Mae came over to see me. They have just moved Ellie Mae from moorings at Calcut to Kings Bromley for a change of scenery.
The elegant bridge (cast in Deerby) at Sutton Stop is attractive day or night but is not enhanced by the houses built alongside the Coventry Canal.

Monday, 20 September 2010

What the Lisbon Treaty has done for you
It has created the European External Action Service which by 2013 will have 7000 staff and a budget of £8 billion. The UK contribution will be £1 billion per annum.
This must be an important function as of the 114 senior staff about half will be earning more than our Prime Minister. These are the figures estimated at present but nothing ever comes in under budget nowadays, does it? Well, at least the leader of this new carriage on the Gravy Train is British, ie: Lady Ashton, who, incidentally is now the highest paid female politician in Europe.
Ah yes! What is the role of the EEAS? This is the EU diplomatic department which will be responsible for foreign policy of member states. Now I thought the Foreign and Commonwealth Office performed that task. If not, what do they spend the £2.2 billion a year on that we give them? It certainly doesn't all go to the BBC World Service and you would have to leave a lot of laptops on trains to clock up that much.
Maybe I am missing something here. In the current financial climate why are we creating a duplicate diplomatic service with a budget greater than the FCO? I suppose if we close down the FCO we could save over £1 billion a year by relying on the EEAS to represent us abroad. That must be it!

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Bank Charges
I was reflecting on the fact that we now own 84% of RBSand 43% of Lloyds-TSB after reading the latest estimate of the real cost of the bank bail-out. The total cost has now risen to £850,000,000,000 I think it is more appropriate in red.
This is made up as follows:

£76bn To purchase shares in RBS and Lloyds Banking Group

£200bn Indemnify Bank of England against losses incurred in providing over £200bn of liquidity support

£250bn Guarantee wholesale borrowing by banks to strengthen liquidity in the banking system

£40bn Provide loans and other funding to Bradford & Bingley and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme

£280bn Agree in principle to provide insurance for selection of bank assets

£671bn Total Government spending in the financial year 2009-2010

In addition the government has also paid the following in financial advice:

£32.9m Slaughter & May - Commercial legal advice

£15.4m Credit Suisse - Financial advice on a range of measures, including Bank Recapitalisation and the Asset Protection Scheme

£11.3m PricewaterhouseCoopers - Advice on APS

£8.7m Ernst & Young - Due diligence on APS, Northern Rock

£7.7m KPMG - Due diligence on APS

£7.4m Blackrock - Valuation advice on APS

£5.3m Deutsche Bank - Financial advice on a range of measures

£5m Citi Financial - Advice on Aps

£4.9m BDO Stoy Hayward - Valuation of Northern Rock

£4.5m Goldman Sachs - Financial advice on Northern Rock

£1.5m Morgan Stanley - Financial advice on Bradford & Bingley

£2.5m Other advisers - Financial advice on a range of measures and proposals to revive Britain's ailing economy

As I walked around Coventry I came across a cluster of banks. I know it is unscientific and unjustified and maybe even mischievous, but does the opulence of these bank buildings not tell us something?

Natwest (RBS)
84% owned by you and me

43% owned by us all

Invited Middle East investment

No help from anyone

Friday, 17 September 2010

Coventry Sounds
Soon after She who must be obeyed left for her trip abroad, I moved Gecko to the other bank in order to polish her left side. The changeable weather meant that I was able to wash her one morning and polish the next day after the April showers had cleared. I thought about moving back yesterday afternoon but the wind had picked up so left that manoeuvre to this morning. Being Thursday I felt that a visit to the launderette was probably expected of me. On my return the place I had recently vacated was now occupied by The Antidote. We met Paul and Julia last year descending the Stoke Bruerne flight so it was good to catch up with their news
This afternoon I spoke to Dave the Rave and ascertained that he will not be able to join the crew of Gecko next week so it looks like I shall be here for another week. Fortunately BW has been very good about this extended stay.
A couple of nights ago my reverie was broken by a familiar sound. Familiar, that is to someone brought up on black and white war films as a child. I could definitely hear a Heinkel coming over. I jumped up and scanned the sky to no avail. Eventually I focused my ears on the culprits: two Canaltime (or whatever they are called now) boats were doing a dance in the basin as they tried to wind in a wind so to speak.
In a former life, She who must be obeyed performed historical court dances with the Dolmetsch Historical Dance Society and so we were pleasantly surprised to hear a hurdy-gurdy as we left St. Mary's Guildhall on Sunday. The fair young maid demonstrating this fairly new example also plays several wind instruments including the crumhorn. That is, she did not play them all at once, unlike Dick Heckstall-Smith who used to play saxophone and clarinet simultaneously.
Dick was a jazz musician who I saw at various times in: The Graham Bond Organisation along with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker who later formed Cream with Eric Clapton; John Mayal's Bluesbreakers with Jon Hiseman and Mick Taylor; and last but not least with Georgie Fame.
He formed Colosseum with Jon Hiseman, who, incidentally, played the drums as session man, on Procal Harem's first hit A Whiter Shade of Pale.
Not may people know that.

Dick Heckstall-Smith died in 2004.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Better than Google Earth?
Long before Google Earth and Multimap the Romans had a much more detailed system which I discovered recently in Coventry basin. With this mapping system I can show you exactly where Gecko is at present

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

We Meet Again
The day before we came down into Coventry basin I took the bus in from Sutton Stop and visited the basin to see who was there. Harnser was moored down by the gate but Brian and Diana were in the Transport Museum. If you recall these posts....
15 September 2009 - Name Check;
19 Sept 2009 - Enemy Action;
28 July 2010 - Son of Thalia
....you will understand why I was interested to see Thalia moored opposite Harnser.
We met them next day: They were leaving as we arrived.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Handel & Hendrix
Apart from their alphabetical proximity in the dictionary of music, George Fredrick Handel and 'Jimi' Hendrix were close in another way: They both lived for a time in Brook Street, London.
When Jimi moved into the top floor flat of 23 Brook Street in 1967 there was a blue plaque on the front of the building commemorating the previous tenant - G. F. Handel. Whether this had any bearing on his seeing Handel's ghost I could only speculate. However, Handel actually lived next door at 25: The plate has now been moved and Jimi has his own plate. Two weeks ago I had a hospital appointment in London and took the opportunity to visit the Hendrix in Britain exhibition at the Handel House Museum, which celebrates the 40th anniversary of Jimi's death.
The museum receptionist enquired whether I had come for the Hendrix exhibition or the Handel museum which I considered a little presumptuous on her part. I may have been in a minority having both sung The Messiah in St. Paul's Cathedral for Radio 2 and also seen Jimi Hendrix perform at the California Ballroom, Dunstable. However enjoyment of the two styles of music are not mutually exclusive. Amongst the things I learned at the exhibition was where I was on the evening of 28 October 1967?! I well remembered the night but not the date.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Castles in the Air
Further to yesterday's post, there is another Landmark we try to visit whenever we are near Nuneaton but it is not yet available. Astley Castle has been owned by three English queens and was used by George Elliot in Scenes of Clerical Life, where it was called Knebbley Abbey.
Astley Castle was really a fortified manor house which despite its Grade II* listing has been crumbling away for many years. The Landmark Trust has been trying to find a way of rescuing and restoring it for habitation but have reluctantly come to accept that this is not feasible. However, they are embarking on a rather bold experiment. The remaining structure is to be made safe and a new, modern living space created inside the medieval shell.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Want to Live in a Castle?
From time to time I have mentioned The Landmark Trust and assumed that everyone knows about it. As this weekend is the Heritage Open Doors Weekend everywhere except London (theirs is next week) perhaps it is an appropriate time to impart a little more.
If you are old enough to remember SS Great Britain being rescued from the Falklands and brought back to UK you will have heard of Sir John Smith who financed this through his Manifold Trust. Sir John's other passion was for vernacular architecture and his aim through the Landmark Trust was to bring this appreciation into more people's lives. This is accomplished by rescuing properties of historical or architectural importance and restoring them as close as possible to their original condition. They are then let for holidays. Unlike the National Trust there is no membership: all these wonderful properties are available to anyone to stay in. Amongst the properties we have enjoyed are a Victorian water tower on the Sandringham estate, a medieval hall-house, a tiny moated castle inSomerset, and a stone tower in the city wall of Caernarfon with views across the Menai Straits and of course Lundy where all the properties are operated by the Trust.
The Handbook is the ultimate coffee-table book: easy to dip into and gloriously illustrated providing a talking point for any winter's evening. (When you book a holiday the cost of the handbook is refunded.)
As we cruise the canals we seek out Landmarks which are within reach some of which are featured here.

Tixall Gatehouse
Sleeps 6
Roof terrace

Staffs & Wors
Viewed from Tixall Wide

Ingestre Pavilion
Sleeps 6
Although the village is accessible from br 78 on Trent & Mersey, the pavilion is easier to get to from Great Haywood

Swarkestone Pavilion
Sleeps 2

Trent & Mersey br 14 (opposite the old Derby Canal)

Lock Cottage
Sleeps 4

Worcs & Birmingham
Lock 31 Tardebigge flight

We haven't yet been down the Stratford-upon-Avon southern stretch where the Trust has a barrel-topped lock cottage.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The Nuneaton Trouser
We made our first foray into Nuneaton on Monday, taking advantage of the sunshine whilst it lasted. Why were we pleasantly surprised? Somehow our expectation had been set rather low. We found a broad selection of shops, some interesting architecture an amazing bargain on Antler suitcases at the Co-op department store and a refreshment kiosk serving all-milk coffee (not made with Camp to produce the ultimate nostalgic drink, unfortunately).

The Scala Theatre illustrates a remarkable optimism on the part of the people of Nuneaton: It was built in 1914.

In this elegant 1930s building we found some Antler suitcases at 25% of original price just in time for She who must be obeyed to pack for her trip to S Africa.

Is this another incidence of illiteracy or sharp practice by offering half a pair of trousers for half price?

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Rainbow Lorikeet

We spent two winters in Stourport on the York Street moorings with Rainbow Lorikeet, amongst others. This picture was taken in February 2007.
It's hard to think next time we see her she will belong to someone else.
Do the Dishes: Not the Ducks
This is the slogan displayed on nb Tia - the Ecover boat - which plys its trade around the south midlands. We hadn't seen it since last summer when we passed it moored at the top of Napton flight
but soon after we returned to Gecko from Nuneaton on Monday I spotted the distinctive ECOVER sign approaching us along the cut. We flagged them down and were able to catch up on some gossip whilst refilling our various bottles with Eco-friendly cleaning and washing products.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Narrowboat For Sale
We have just learned that Craig and Janet who live aboard Rainbow Lorikeet are selling up and moving to Australia. The boat was built at Severn Valley a year before Gecko but is 2ft longer with a trad stern and is in lovely condition. BSS and blacked last year. As they are emigrating they will be leaving everything on the boat including canal guides! This is a rare opportunity to buy a live-aboard boat with all the wrinkles ironed out and ready to go.
Click this link to see pictures and details

We shall miss you, guys!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Marcus in Mainz
Those of you who know our elder son, Marcus, may have wondered what has happened to his blog. He has just freshened it up and resumed blogging so the link on the right will reward you with all kinds of wondrous things.
Those of you who don't know him enjoy your Marcus-free existence.
Shugborough on Sea
Two years ago we left Gecko alongside Shugborough Park whilst we attended a study weekend in Sheffield with members of Watford and District Industrial History Society
On our return we found the area around Shugborough and Great Haywood flooded.

After the rain storm we experienced at the garden party of Sunday I was half expecting a repeat of these scenes.