Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Progress at Lock 12

Despite the weather forecast, it is sunny here today and I decided to take a look at lock 12 (the one that collapsed back in March).
Repairs at lock 12 (Red House lock 13 in the distance))

It is not possible to get close to the lock but it appears that a concrete lining has been installed and that this is being faced with brick.

I understand that the lock gate repairs should be completed next week and so a completion date of November 25 is still realistic. 

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Up,Up and Away

Yesterday was the great day: Gecko was lifted out of the canal in Milton Keynes and transported by road to her winter moorings at Circus Field in Aylesbury.
For those who are not up to date with the story so far, here is a reprise.
In March, lock 12 on the Aylesbury Arm collapsed due to inexplicable neglect of maintenance over at least eight years to my personal knowledge. C&RT promised it would be repaired in time for August Bank Holiday.  In April they lifted out 24 boats who were stuck in the town basin and put them back into the canal in Milton Keynes.  For the next six months C&RT made no repairs but paid a team of men to guard the lock 24 hours a day. In August the completion date for repairs was revised to October 25.  In September C&RT revised this date again to November 25 and lifted eleven boats back from MK to Aylesbury. This left a number of us still out on the system with a repair date which moved away from us all the time like a mirage.  Hence the lift out yesterday. Originally there were 15 boats requesting a lift but some have decided to make other arrangements and so there were just five of us.

First out was Exe. Weighing thirty tons, a special crane was required which accompanied her to Aylesbury to put us all back in the water.

Next was the hotel boat Earlswood.  The continued closure of the arm upset the itinerary for their last guests of the season.  The destination was changed to Berkhamsted in place  of Aylesbury.

To keep the  lifting team on their toes the next boat was a V-bottomed Springer - Black Swan .  This had to be carefully chocked on the lorry to prevent it rolling off.

The only one of us with a traditional engine, Jarrah was lifted next: watched closely by the owner Nigel who fitted it out himself.
The most important boat was kept to last
In order that the boat is lifted in as level an attitude as possible the lifting slings have to be carefully aligned. This is traditionally done after stomping in thick mud before assuming the appropriate positions on the boat roof
As Gecko is rather tail-heavy she was loaded facing backwards on the lorry.
The exit from Willowbridge Boatyard is not generous and appears rather scary.  It was probably here that the contents of our 'fridge  decided to relocate to the kitchen floor.

As we arrived at Circus Field we passed a boat on its way in the other direction.

Shortly after, Gecko was returned to her familiar medium.

This is where we will be for the next five months.

Thursday, 24 October 2013


Please feel free to append your comment to any post that interests or annoys you.
Many people do so but I suspect that their contribution may not get as wide an audience as the original post.  This is becasue the comment appears at the end of the post concerned and often this is not the latest one (some go back years)
To redress this, here are a fe of the recent comments with a link to the original pos

 Hi Peter I agree with your comment quote - Early morning dog walkers and joggers, commuting cyclists, anglers, weekend mountain bikers, mid-morning pushchairs and Sunday family strollers all bring something - unquote. Except there is one thing they don't bring - £££££ James on An Illustration of C&RT's Attitude

 Exactly! on An Illustration of C&RT's Attitude

48hr moorings with nowhere for your rope, the sign off things to come. I've just bought a new 16mm drill bit for my hammer drill so I'll be all right :-) on SUCS to C&RT ! 

 I thought of tying Gecko to the trees. And that 48 hr post looks quite sturdy...... on SUCS to C&RT !

 This is awesome! on An Illustration of C&RT's Attitude

 The people from South Wales are wonderful people. Paul, Chris & Ivy on Audlem Lock wheelers

This family were wonderful. The lads, espcially James thje younger one was so inquisitive and intersted. They both had rides on Gecko through a lock and were great. they were on a two week holiday and appear to have spent most days on or near the canals.They live near my cousin and know the local chippie. However I would not go so far as to say that all people from S. Wales are wonderful - there are one or two odd ones. on Audlem Lock wheelers 

From Graham Greene - The End of the Affair" - "I remember Henry chose a Vienna steak - it was a mark of his innocence. I really believe he had no idea what he was ordering and expected something like a Wiener Schnitzel. ... he was too I'll at ease to comment on the dish and managed to to ram the pink soggy mixture down." on Vienna Steak 

I found The End of the Affair so moving that when I later bought the soundtrack to the film (which I have not seen) I could not listen to it without getting upset. If you have not heard the music I suggest you borrow it from the library in case you, too, find it too emotive. on Vienna Steak 

 I didn't know that. And I doubt many of the software engineers I worked with in the 90s knew that either. Mo on For the Love of Ada or Was Babbage a Cabbage?

No, me too. Although I am not surprised. Appalled yes! But not surprised by the idiocy of the law! If the magistrate had his hands tied by the law couldn't he at least have made it a custodial sentence? And surely, if a dog is dangerous and out of control it doesn't matter where it is! Kath (nb Herbie) on I Don't Understand 

 Hi Peter Here is a bit about Esther if you are still out there. There is a Face Book group which is trying to save Esther. Esther is a sail trawler. This is her web page http://www.erflyn.com/esther/home.html Below is her Face Book page. https://www.facebook.com/groups/179003422289273/ I would be pleased if you could join her Face Book group and tell your friends if you think this is a good cause. Kind regards Eugene Forrester onA Boat Too Far?

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Stop Locks

This is not a new protest campaign.
The canal 'network' in England was never designed as such.  Although James Brindley  dreamt of the 'Silver Cross' of canals linking the rivers Trent, Mersey, Severn and Thames most canals were built by local people to satisfy local needs. The Duke of Bridgewater built his canal in 1759 to transport the coal from his mines in Worsely to Manchester more cheaply than by road. Where a longer canal was mooted, such as the Trent and Mersey, its supporters all had their own personal axes to grind: one of the original proposers was Josiah Wedgewood who sought an improved method of moving fragile pottery from Stoke-on-Trent to the rest of the country. The success of the Bridgewater Canal stimulated a mania for canal building and dozens of canals were built in the next half century: many more were proposed but did not get built. There is one over-riding rule of canal operation which was difficult to avoid: water  travels downhill.  A constant water supply is required to feed the canal but, whether it comes from reservoirs or rivers, it always drains away at the bottom of the hill. The route which Brindley surveyed from Worseley to Manchester has no locks and crossed rivers by aqueduct.  Very few subsequent canals were able to emulate this and so locks were employed to carry boats up and down hills. Whilst this enabled boats to climb hills it did not prevent the water from heading the other way.  Water supply, therefore, became critical to the success, operationally and economically, of any canal. The individual canal companies were very protective of their water supply and when a new canal proposed linking its route to an existing one protection of each company's water supply was high on the agenda.
This narrow channel in Gas Street, Birmingham is known as Worcester Bar.  When the BCN and the Worcester & Birmingham Canals met here goods were unloaded from one canal and transshipped to the other across a short land barrier: there was no water connection between the two canals!  Later this costly and inefficient practice was abandoned when a pair of lock gates was installed ensuring that a lock full of water passed from one canal to the other only when accompanied by a boat. This too has been abandoned now and the water is free to go where it will.
 A short way out of Birmingham this guillotine lock prevented Worcester & Birmingham water from taking the Stratford-upon-Avon canal down to the River Avon.

Stop locks were employed all over the system: wherever two canal companies met they were used.


At the southern end  of the Bridgewater Canal, where it meets the Trent & Mersey the stop lock not only controls the water but also prevents broad-beamed boats which can operate to the north from entering the T&M canal by tapering the lock chamber.

This device for keeping two bodies of water apart is also employed where a canal and river meet.  Rivers have a tendency of changing level and flow, characteristics not common to canals.

The southern Oxford Canal is joined several times by the River Cherwell and these lozenge-shaped locks prevent changes in the river conditions from affecting the canal.

Tomorrow we will pass through this stop lock at Fenny Stratford.
This was not built to protect one company's water supply from another: it is in the middle of the Grand Union Canal.

When the canal was built, work started at various points on the route and each team of navvies worked towards the others.  When they met at Fenny Stratford it was discovered there was a discrepancy in the level of the two navigations.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Where are they now?

When we first moved onto Gecko we spent two winters moored on the canalbank in Stourport. There were a number of liveaboard boats there who we came to know and who would meet for curry night at the local  J D Wetherspoons each Thursday.
Where are they now?
Dream On is in France and for sale (see details below).
Cloud Nine went to France, came back and was sold
Rainbow Lorikeet was sold and we see it around from time to time.
L'Attitude Adjustment was sold last year but we have not seen it again since
Manama has been sold twice and we have seen ita couple of times.
Plum Crumble was sold. We saw it last week on its new mooring.
Uisce Beatha we saw last summer on the SU.
Puddleduck we believe is still around but our paths have not crossed.
Dolly Day Dream was sold and we saw it last week re-christened DayDream by painting out Dolly.
Free Spirit we think is still in the original ownership and we have seen it from time to time.
Max Babe we think is also still in Stourport
We are coming to the end of our eighth year on Gecko. Perhaps we will visit Stourport next year for a Wetherspoons curry.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

I Don't Understand

The new director of the Football Association, Greg Dyke, has set up a commission to consider how to improve English football. Yesterday the only female board member of FA made a public criticism of the commission's composition because it is comprised exclusively of white men.  She says that the FA is letting down black and ethnic minority people by doing so. Heather Rabbatts felt she had to make her views public because there had been "a refusal to understand" her position in private.
Well, I don't understand, either.
Is she implying that white men will not consider players on their merit but on their skin colour or ethnic origin?  Can she see the irony in her exhibiting the racial prejudice she is condemning? Does she want black and  ethnic members on the commission because they will not be biased in any way?  Or does she agree with the new sports minister, Helen Grant, that "sports governing bodies must reflect the makeup of the diverse society that we live in "?
I hereby put myself forward for membership of the commission as a representative of those in our diverse society who know nothing about football and have no aptitude for picking good players.
Who could you represent?

Saturday, 19 October 2013

I Don't Understand

On 26th March 2013 a fourteen-year-old girl named Jade Lomas-Anderson was mauled to death by four dogs at a friend's house.
Yesterday the owner of the dogs was given a 16-week suspended sentence for causing suffering to animals.
Why was the owner not locked up the with four mad dogs for life?
1)     Apparently there was "insufficient evidence"  to prosecute a case of manslaughter.
2)     The much-criticised Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 did not apply because:
                a)     The dogs were not  a banned breed under the Act.
                b)     The attack took place on private property and the dogs were not "out of control in a public place"
I do not understand how a so-called civilised society can do nothing to punish someone obviously responsible for the horrible death of a young lady but can hand down a derisory sentence for the causing suffering to animals.
Am I the only person who finds this 
impossible to understand?

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

A Female Genius

In writing the blog this morning about Ada Lovelace I came accross reference to a recent book about her.
ada, lovelace, book, lord, byron, daughter,
I have not read it but it may be woth investigation if you would like to know more about our Ada.

For the Love of Ada or Was Babbage a Cabbage?

Today is Ada Lovelace Day

To understand why Ada Lovelace, nee Augusta Ada Byron, is celebrated on October 15 each year it is important to understand a little of the history of computers.
Until the end of the 19th century the term computer applied to a person who calculated things. During that century the work of Charles Babbage caused people to realise machines never get tired and can perform calculations much faster and more accurately than any team of human computers ever could.
If we ignore the abacus then it is generally accepted that the first mechanical computer or automatic computing engine concept was Babbage's Difference Engine of 1822.Unfortunately, because of funding he was never able to complete a full-scale functional version of this machine. 
Analytical EngineHowever, in June1991  the Science Museum in London completed the Difference Engine No 2, using Babbage's plans, for the bicentennial year of his birth and nine years later completed the printing mechanism. 

Babbage went on to propose the first general mechanical computer, the Analytical Engine which contained  an Arithmetical Logic Unit, basic flow control and an integrated memory.In layman's terms, this was the first machine which could hold a programme and process calculations using that programme. (If my  simplification of this is inaccurate please forgive me).  What I mean to say is: this is the first machine which I would call a computer rather than a calculator. Once again Babbage was unable to fund the construction of his theoretical designs and it was left to his son, Henry, to have a stab at it in 1910.
Now we can consider our friend Ada.
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, was born Augusta Ada Byron on 10 December 1815 as the only legitimate child to the poet Lord Byron and his wife
Anne Isabella Byron. All of Byron's other children were born out of wedlock. Byron separated from his wife a month after Ada was born and left England forever four months later, eventually dying of disease in the Greek War of Independence when Ada was eight years old. Ada's mother remained bitter at Lord Byron and promoted Ada's interest in mathematics and logic in an effort to prevent her from developing what she saw as the insanity seen in her father.  Ada, however, remained interested in him despite this and was, upon her eventual death, buried next to him at her request. Ada was employed by Babbage to translate a report on his Analytical Engine by the Italian Menebera which she did whilst adding 20,000 words of her own commentary. Her notes reveal that her understanding of what computers could do and might be capable of was much greater than her employer's. These notes on the Analytical Engine include what is recognised as the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine: because of this, she is often considered the world's first computer programmer. to illustrate her foresight consider this extract from her notes:
The Analytical Engine] might act upon other things besides number, were objects found whose mutual fundamental relations could be expressed by those of the abstract science of operations, and which should be also susceptible of adaptations to the action of the operating notation and mechanism of the engine...Supposing, for instance, that the fundamental relations of pitched sounds in the science of harmony and of musical composition were susceptible of such expression and adaptations, the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.

This view of Ada as the superior intellect of the relationship is not without its detractors but when the USA Department of Defence asked Honeywell Bull to design a computer language to replace the hundreds currently in use the name it was given was ADA.  This is an international standard recognised by the US Military.  The Military Standard reference manual was approved on December 10, 1980 (Ada Lovelace's birthday), and given the number MIL-STD-1815 in honour of Ada Lovelace's birth year.
Babbage had some understanding of her ability as demonstrated in his description of her to Michael Faraday as:
 An enchantress who has thrown her magical spell around the most abstract of sciences and has grasped it with a force which few masculine intellects could have exerted over it.

Ada went off the rails a little later in life as she had numerous affairs and took to gambling with some of her men-friends. Her attempts to create an algorithm which would beat the odds failed, leaving her with large debts. She died of uterine cancer aged 36 and during her lengthy  suffering her mother prevented friends from visiting her until Ada embraced the Christian faith.

Notwithstanding her personal failings her significance in the development of computing should not be underestimated.
It is a shame, in my view, that the date chosen to celebrate Ada has no significance  to her life but was selected by the Women's Lib movement and hi-jacked by them thus detracting from the glory which should be Ada's.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Talk Talk can't Write Write

Q:   Why is Talk Talk telling us that
 BT is beating deals from Talk Talk?

A:   Because the copy-writer has adopted the slovenly attitude to grammar that is currently the fashion. If this matter is raised the response is usually something along the lines of "grammar doesn't matter, people know what I mean"
Well, do they sunshine?
If I were to stereotype the copywriter I would expect him or her to speak Estuary English, dropping Hs and adopting the glottal stop.
A hyphen between BT and beating would reverse the current meaning and perhaps please the client more than the competitor.

Why Should I Pay Road Fuel Duty on my Central Heating Oil?

Our home is on the canals and at present we use red diesel for heating and lighting - just like we did when we lived in  a house.
The EU wants to stop this and force all 'pleasure craft' to pay fuel duty and full VAT as we currently do for propulsion. Diesel used in central heating boilers  for houses do not pay road fuel duty and attract a reduced rate of VAT - 5% instead of 20%. Since moving on to Gecko eight years ago propulsion fuel has TRIPLED in cost for us. We have no gas  or solid fuel on Gecko and so 80% of our fuel is used for generating electricity and to heat the boat.When the EU proposed removing the red diesel allowance for propulsion a few year ago the government said they would fight it but they ended up horse-trading it for something to please more voters.
This time they must stand up to the EU.  I do not see why I should pay road fuel prices for heating my home because it is on the water not  on the land.
Please read the following petition and sign it if you agree.


Last day to sign

Friday, 4 October 2013

Kissing at Kingswood Jct

When we pulled in to moor near Hockley Heath on Wednesday there was a young lady sitting on the towpath with her mountain bike. Five miles from home this recent graduate in sports science had a puncture and no  repair kit.  So our good deed for the day was to repair the puncture and send her off home. The spot we had selected to spend the afternoon and evening was sunny and fairly quiet although adjacent to a small road.  During the night, however, we realised our mistake.  Acorns and crab apples make a heck of a noise when they fall on a steel roof in the middle of the night and our sleep was disturbed quite frequently. 
Last night we  made a better choice. We moored outside a house with a sign hanging from the eaves: 
A restful night was  guaranteed!
Since joining the Stratford-on-Avon Canal at Kings Norton we have seen more boats than in the previous month.  Mostly hire-boats from Alvechurch or Tardebigge, they all seem to be headed for the Bard's abode.  

Another canal feature we have not encountered for a time is lift-bridges.

This one is operated electrically.

Others require winding by hand.

Here we helped the single-handed  ex-working boat Aldgate through the bridges on his way home from the Historic Boat Gathering at the museum.

Today we descended the Lapworth flight of 20 locks to Kingswood Junction.

I always think of these as well-behaved locks and then get caught out by the giant by-wash which throws the boat off course as you exit the lock.  Just when you get the hang of coping with these they switch sides and catch you out again.

Kingswood Jct is where the Stratford-on-Avon Canal and the Grand Union kiss on their separate journeys south from Birmingham.

And this is where we switch allegiances taking the short connecting channel to continue south on the Grand Union.

Barrel-roofed cottages are a feature of the southern Stratford Canal but this is the only one we will see this year.