Friday, 28 September 2012

Water Weddings

One afternoon during our recent stay in Paris we returned to the hotel to freshen up before tackling the nightlife. Our ablutions were interrupted by music emanating from the canal below our window. Investigation soon discovered the source.

A bride was making her way to her wedding in a small steam launch.....

.....Followed closely by a larger steam boat with steam organ pipes on the roof playing music

Some people are so romantic!

On our way up the Shropshire Union Canal last week this couple were being photographed as we passed.

Some people are so romantic!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

A Tribute to Wiggo

Bradley Wiggins - the best road cyclist we have had for a long time - is known to share the ideas of the 1960s  Mods so here are a few scooters we have seen recently.

Canla Breach

We were planning to spend the winter in Burnley this year but a major breach in the Trent & Mersey Canal may scupper those plans. See it here....

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Price of Staples

You may recall I had a  *GOM session last December about some business practices at the stationery company Stpales.  If not, then here is the linkSmaller Staples

This week I had to purchase some more ink for the printer.  The pack I bought last time is to the right in the illustraction below.
It has four cartridges and cost me £21.45.
This is no longer available and so I had to buy the one on the left.....
It has only three colours and cost £20.99
To make the full set I would have to buy the Canon original black cartridge at £14.50
Grump, Grump, Grump.......
* GOM= Grumpy Old man

Monday, 24 September 2012

Chester Raft Race

For the past 37 years Chester Round Table have held a raft race on the River Dee to raise money for their chosen charity.  This year the charity was MacMillan At Home.  This usually takes place in July but the river was so high this year that it was postponed until last Sunday.

For some it was about winning.........
For most, however, it was all about having fun......
Some went just to watch.......

Saturday, 22 September 2012

More Floating Trees

Before we leave the 19th Arrondisement we should take a brief look at the three canals  which come together at La Villette -  St. DenisSt. Martin  and  de l'Ourcq. 
When we talk of lift bridges in England we think of the back-breaking structures built by canal companies when funds became too tight for elaborate brick or stone structures.
rue du Crimee bidge fully raised for the trip boat
On the Canal St. Martin the rue du Crimee road bridge is lifted by electric pulleys to allow the passage of canal traffic. Pedestrians are not inconvenienced as there is an adjacent arched footbridge: cars have to exercise a little patience which is not a characteristic frequently encountered in Parisian motorists. 

If you want a free boat trip on the Canal St. Denis then take the short walk from the canal junction at la Villette past the first lock to where the Ave. Corentin Coriou crosses the canal. Here you will find a shuttle boat (navette fluvial) to take you to the shopping centre - Le Millenaire .

Powered by electric thrusters and running every ten minutes for twelve hours every day these little water buses will whisk you under the Peritherique and turn sharp left into  a redundant commercial basin where something over 140 shops occupy a modern shopping mall. (yes, I do US English too!) Total journey time about six minutes but it is free

We were fortunate to discover this around 7pm on Saturday night and so avoided the shopping crowds.  We also avoided spending any money as the shops were all closing up by the time we arrived.

Not to be outdone by the floating trees recently launched by C&RT  the Canal de l'Ourcq has its own contribution. 

It is rather limited in its cruising range being powered by a single outboard motor and also being tethered to one bank of the canal. 

Of course you cannot trust the French to play by the rules and so this installation (that's what they call art nowadays) is a pedestrian bridge which is moved aside for the gravel boat to make its way. 

Friday, 21 September 2012

Butte Chaumont

Another attraction of the 19th arrondisement is the third largest park in Paris after Tuilleries and Parc de la Villette. Prior to 1860 this was not in Paris: it was annexed by Napoleon III who commissioned Haussman to transform this disused gypsum quarry into one of the most interesting places to spend a morning.

The 61 acres are laid out with Chinese and English gardens, a grotto, a waterfall and a clifftop temple. A suspension bridge links the island to the rest of the park. 

 On a Saturday or Sunday morning it is not unusual to find Tai Chi exponents near the temple accompanied by taped Chinese music. (I was recently asked what taped music was which brought home to me the speed of technological change)

One notable aspect of this park is that it is completely artificial - the grotto, waterfall, cliffs and even the 'wooden' steps and fences. This does not detract from its charm in my view and occupies second place in my list of Paris parks behind Parc Monceau. That, as they say, is another story.

If you leave by the main gate, taake a few moments to savour the marie of the 19th opposite you.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Real Paris

We have just returned from a couple of weeks in french France so the next few posts will have a definite odour of garlic.
Paris is a beautiful city and its wide streets provide a panorama seldom possible in London without getting a crick in the neck. However I  avoid staying in the city centre which is populated solely by the least friendly natives  and tourists. One area where you can mix with real people is the 19th arondisement.  (see also posts on Jan 29/30) The giant Accor Hotel group used to have a chain of older town centre hotels under the brand Libertel which was when we discovered Libetel St Martin  The hotels were all sold off but four of them, including this one, have been renovated and formed into a new independent group. Just 50 yards away is the large complicated junction of Jean Jaures/ Stalingrad where eight roads, an overhead and underground Metro  line all cross the Canal St. Martin.
Here we sit in the Le Cadran Bleu where we watch the real Parisians making their way home. The restaurant is nothing extraordinary but the people-watching is so entertaining.
If you are a Liverpool FC fan you will be particularly welcome here.

Sunday, 9 September 2012


Update........apparently the first people to view the boat have purchased it !

Last summer we cruised down the K & A accompanied by our friends from Canada - Norman and Margaret - in their boat.  This year they came over particularly to join us on the BCN Explorer Cruise in May but on arrival could not escape from their marina.  If they turned north the Rivers Soar and Trent were in flood and to the south the Leicester Arm locks were closed due to the drought. Such frustration proved to be the last straw and they  decided to sell their lovely boat.
Full steam ahead on the Thames last year
It was built by Severn Valley  a little after Gecko and is on brokerage at ABNB.
The link above the photo will take you to the sale details.
This is a lovely boat in superb condition with a genuine reason for sale. (no pun intended)

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Mont Ventoux

We are visiting M's sister in Provence for a few days and when she asked yesterday if we fancied a ride up Mont  Ventoux to see the monument to Tommy Simpson

I did not expect this !

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Shortest Canal in England?

I am always wary of claims such as this and have found it difficult to tease out the facts from the myths on this particular subject so am quite prepared for a rebuttal.
Middlewich, of which I have written before, has a busy canal junction where the Trent & Mersey and Shropshire Union Canals meet.
Or do they?
Whilst waiting for the SU lock to be prepared for your ascent from the T&M, look up at the bridge and you will see this engraving.
And below it is a cast iron plate sating that this is the shortest canal in England: 154ft long apparently.
Originally the SU Canal Middlewich Branch ended at Sutton Lane and did not connect with the T&M whose owners jealously guarded their canal route. Freight at that time would have been offloaded from the boats one one canal  and transshipped to the other. But in the 1820s railways were appearing and it was in both companies' interest to eliminate the wasteful transhipment activity.  After much heated discussion the T&M built this short connecting canal which opened in 1833.  So why does the inscription read 1829?  Well that was the year it was started.  The delay in opening I suspect was due to the inter-company animosity.
The whole canal in one picture!
In my research I encountered many conflicting 'facts'  One canal planning website claims the maximum boat dimensions as 72ft x 10ft  The bridge is at least 14ft wide and the lock is 7ft so how far would a boat of these dimensions get? I have also read that the length is anything from 150ft to 150yards. Using the length of our boat as a guide I tend to believe the 154f measurement.
One last puzzle: why was it named Wardle Canal?  The only explanation I have found is that due to the animosity between the two canal companies a neutral name was deemed prudent and it was named after the lock-keeper. Any takers on that one?

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Are You a Friend of C&RT?

The Canal and River Trust which has taken over responsibility for maintaining the inland waterways of England is encouraging people to become Friends of C&RT. To become a friend all is required is a regular donation  of cash. The benefits  of being a friend are not clear apart form the self satisfaction of helping to maintain our heritage.
Before you rush out and fill in the Direct Debit mandate just consider this:
Narrowboat World reports that C&RT has just spent £41,000 planting trees in a narrowboat which will cruise around the canals of Birmingham and Walsall for about six weeks. 
How does this fit their mandate to maintain the canals which are falling apart through years of neglect by their previous incarnation - British Waterways?
The project, according to the artist responsible, took 40 people four months to construct and the Arts Council for England contributed £9000  bringing the total cost to £50k.  I can understand the Arts Council involvement but I am at a total loss regarding the involvement of the body who cannot afford to dredge canals or repair faulty lock gates.
For the unititiated let me explain that the lock pictured above has its gates and paddles CLOSED in order to hold back the water.
Perhaps a boat full of trees would do the job better

Saturday, 1 September 2012

NOT 50 Shades of Grey

I understand that there is certain erotic novel around which is attracting a fair amount of attention.  I cannot comment on it further as I have not even seen it. 
I have, however, seen an interesting looking collection of erotic short stories. from Queen Anne's Fan who publish books by a Famous Author mentioned before in this blog.
I make this judgement only from the title page (left) and this dust cover puffery:

unexplained arousal in a cinema in 1950s America.............diabolical instruments which seduce the musicians tempted to play them............a housemaid cleaning the nursery discovers sensual use for a children's toy.........a bored hotel receptionist voyeur who see everything that goes on and imagines what does not........ 

The book is available from 
Queen Anne's Fan
PO Box 883
Canterbury    Kent    CT1 3WJ  

Price:  £15 including P&P