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Snakes Alive..!

21 Jan

Warning: This post does include shocking images and live snake footage, so not for the faint-hearted.

But I’ll start you off gently with some prettiness…IMG-20180110-WA0000.jpgIMG-20180115-WA0001.jpg

IMG-20180115-WA0000.jpgSome mild scariness…IMG-20171229-WA0000.jpgIMG-20180103-WA0000.jpg

And some too close for comfort wild fires…IMG-20180111-WA0000.jpgIMG-20171230-WA0000.jpg

Just over the road. South Africa of course.

But back to the snake story. Our man in that other, warmer hemisphere did say there were a lot of snakes about…IMG-20171129-WA0001.jpgIMG-20171211-WA0000.jpgIMG-20180118-WA0000.jpgWhatsApp Image 2017-11-10 at 17.27.45

You may need to big up some of the pictures though to actually see them.

Most of these pics were sent to me with a caption – can you spot the snake? Wasted no end of time / gave me hours of fun. Hope it does the same for you.

You ready for the big one?

Sure?

Sure you’re sure?

OK, here it comes…

 

Bet you didn’t have one of those in your Christmas tree..!

John is well known for his snake handling ability and often gets roped into catching and removing unwanted ones. He’s very fond of them and always returns them to somewhere suitable for the snake and far away from where it wasn’t wanted. So, be assured that no snake was harmed in the making of this video.

Loving the health and safety footwear.

Now, in order to soothe your nerves, I shall break with tradition and bombard you with cute, cuddly cat images…

WhatsApp Image 2017-11-10 at 17.26.54IMG-20171208-WA0000.jpgIMG-20171221-WA0000.jpgIMG-20171218-WA0000.jpgIMG-20171217-WA0001.jpgIMG-20180115-WA0002.jpgIMG-20180111-WA0001.jpgAnd a couple of battle-scarred ones…IMG-20171224-WA0001.jpgIMG-20171224-WA0000.jpg

Aw..

Meet Ginger. Thought to be feral and refusing to be sociable with other humans in the neighbourhood, but succumbed to John’s cat whispering technique.

He likes to hang about with John in the bus and garden and even goes walking in the bush with him.  A great companion.

I want one now! A ship’s cat.

I always said I wouldn’t; litter trays and all that on a boat – no way. But, if anyone knows of a boat trained/water-loving/ever so cute one that is able to swim and use what would pass as a cat-flap on board and just happens to be looking for an exciting new home…

Hobo and I are surviving all that the elements can throw at us – even the wind which can be a bit wild on a boat – especially if everything isn’t tied up or nailed down. But I learned that the hard way. It’s amazing what can be blown off the roof if not suitably secured!

We were separated, Hobo and me, between 23/12 and 02/01 while I did a house sit. A nice little earner and some unaccustomed luxury for me, but poor Hobo suffered and was freezing cold and damp on my return. A few kind words and a roaring fire soon saw me forgiven though.

And, in case you were wondering, all the weird shit seems to have stopped now. Bugger, shouldn’t have said that out loud..

This was the culprit that took out my 12 volt…IMG_20171223_132252.jpg

A burned out in-line fuse located at the back of the fuse box which, despite all my investigations and those of helpful neighbours, proved elusive. I ended up fetching a friend from Huntingdon who knows Hobo’s wiring intimately and, indeed, fitted it in the first place – a belt and braces measure.

It took him all of two minutes to uncover AND fix. Thank you Steve. It’s so good to have normal service resumed.

And, in other news…

Mud. That’s pretty much it.

 

 

 

 

An arrival..

29 Nov

As we pulled into Hartford Marina I, at the helm, was nervous…

I knew a few people there and felt under pressure to not look a total twat be in control, appear competent, to glide serenely by.

There was a small plastic boat in front of the arrow that showed the way to the sales pontoon, where I was to report, so I chugged unknowingly down a blind alley. On trying to turn around I, to my eternal shame, bashed one of the moored boats, panicked, leaned on the throttle and fled.

As I was explaining to Lorna how I missed the big red arrow, we passed said yoghurt pot on which a man was fishing. He laughed and said it was he who’d inadvertently sent me the wrong way…and sort of sniggered.

So, rather than a landing, it was an arrival – as they say in aviation circles. My only hope was that everyone was comatose/out to lunch/gone fishing or seriously not paying attention. (No-one ever mentioned this incident but I suspect it was very quickly the subject of the towpath telegraph.)

We eventually tied up in the appropriate place where  a friend and new neighbour was waiting to greet us – I’d texted him our ETA – and his young daughters presented me with a card and bottle of sloe gin. What a welcome!

I checked in and was given a choice of two berths (adjacent) so decided to decide which one when we got there and crashed slipped into the one that was easiest to negotiate. No more heroics today. A neighbour appeared, grabbed the ropes and tied us up. We shook hands and he offered help if needed – now or at any time.

How nice was that?

Little did I know that within the hour I’d be knocking on his boat because all my electrics had failed. He was as good as his word and sorted it out. My batteries were dead and I would need to buy a battery charger, which he would fit for me.

We’d had problems during our journey there. We’d cruise all day but the lights would dim soon after we moored up. I should have twigged the batteries were knackered but, like I said, I was a complete muppet novice.

Rewind a little to when Lorna and I stopped in March on the Fens. We went to the Tesco Express there for top-ups and look for candles. Couldn’t find any so Lorna suggested I should ask. Having already come to the conclusion that we must look like a couple of dykes on a dyke there was no way I was asking for candles!

Funny looks all around as we collapsed in fits of giggles. Fen folk can’t help looking funny – don’t be rude! We didn’t immediately take to March but I’ve been back to the Fens many times since and love it. Old-fashioned shops, totally barking charming people and those great big skies.

Marina life was great. It was like a village down my pontoon, a real community; friendly and helpful. Despite my car being parked only a hop, skip and a jump from the boat, it could take hours to get home. That’s because everyone chatted to you. And by the time you did get to the boat, it was only to fetch a chair and a glass because you’d been invited to the pontoon party.

Drinking and boating do seem to go hand in hand and some were better at it than others. I won’t name names but they were the ones who (if they were lucky) fell in the hedge on the way back from the pub/club – or the lake if they weren’t. But there was always someone on hand to fish them out or check they’d made it safely back to their boat after a session.

Bit of a theme emerging. But it’s not all about the booze. Really.

Every time I entered the marina on my return from work, one look at the lake and my shoulders dropped down from around my ears and, more often than not, audibly sighed. And it didn’t take me long to figure out that work was getting in the way of my life. I actually enjoyed the boatie chores, even the more unpleasant ones. It all made me feel so alive, in charge of my own destiny and much more in tune with nature and the elements.

That first summer was hot hot hot and people jumped off their roofs and swam in the lake. Evenings were abuzz with folk who chatted for England, BBQ’d, strummed and sang, making the most of those long, hot, sultry evenings.

The flip side of this was the winter, though even this was special for me. I learned how to keep my woodstove going 24/7 and that if you had a brilliant neighbour as I did, he’d rev it up when he returned from work (around 4pm) so it was toasty for me when I got back around 7pm. He even put a kettle on top so there was boiling water ready for a cuppa.

We became good friends and often cooked for each other, swapped stories and had many a good laugh. He taught me tons about boat life, maintenance, safety, how to tie knots and which to use where.  He worked on my boat as and when necessary – electrics, plumbing, stove and flue work and even fitted a new kitchen for me. And, in Billy-no-mates times, he’d crew for me.

I think it was the winter of 2009/2010 when the temperatures really plummeted. Minus 17 at one point. Water taps on the pontoon froze for days…

12

And I became adept at water conservation. Who needs to wash anyway?

The marina became magical…

Austere beauty at the marina63Iced in at the marina

And, to the untrained eye, boats looked cold and icy…

Winter in the marina-but cosy inside

But look close to see swirls of smoke from the chimneys and know that those in side were cosy and snug, so warm in fact that sometimes doors and hatches were thrown open and clothes discarded in order to cool down. True. Ask any liveaboard. And the smell of wood smoke is right up there with freshly cut grass and coffee brewing.

I always felt safe and secure on Hobo but new noises would  dement me until I could identify them. One that took me a long time was the ducks nibbling on the bottom of the boat – I was convinced for ages that I had hobnail – booted rats in the bilge or a body banging against the hull.

That winter we were all frozen in with sheets of ice inches thick…

Swans and their cygnets walking on water

Giving rise to another previously unheard sound. It was a weird one, sort of underwater and echoey. Spooky. It wasn’t until I spotted a chap across the water attacking the ice with a pole that I cottoned on. He was breaking up the ice so it didn’t damage the hull. Strange how sound travels under water.

The Great Ouse is a fabulous river for cruising; all the way to Bedford upstream and Denver Sluice downstream, with many, many lovely stops along the way. Truth is you don’t have to go very far at all to be somewhere completely different with lovely views, pubs, villages and walks. But that’s the beauty of boats. They move.

There are several tributaries – the Lark, the Little Ouse/Brandon Creek, the Wissey and the Cam – all ripe for exploring. Which we did. But that’s for another time…

For me, those four years in that marina were an ideal start to life on board. I made good friends there, who educated and nurtured me. I was safe, happy and had found the perfect lifestyle for me.

Until I got the urge that is to let go the ropes/unhook the umbilical …

Unplugging the Umbilical

And head for the big,  wide, watery world out there.

P.S. Great that so many of you wanted to hear more of my early adventures. Thank you both.

 

Out of Hibernation..

1 Apr

Clocks on, longer days, sun out and temperature rising. All of which make Hobo and me happy bunnies.

And of course, Mother Nature has a thing or two to say…100_3004

This is what I see as I come home. Dogdirt Alley at its best.

Not just the daffs, but the May blossom in the distance is marvellous.

And on the way out…100_3005

These ‘fried egg’ ones are my favourites…

And – keep it under your hat – I’ve nicked a few for the inner ship…100_3011

John found these on his travels…IMG_20170330_095115551 (2)

A chocolate box shock.

Magnificent Magnolia…IMG_20170330_100333106 (2)

And a bit of everything in Upwell/Outwell…IMG_20170313_161245684

I’m never sure which is which.

Not that it’s been a bad winter, but the onset of spring always fills me with joy and energy. I feel like I’ve been bundled up and shut away for months.

So I’ve started to tackle the giant cleaning task that is Hobo post winter – inside and out both being grimy. Sleeping under a tree means she gets a coating of green on her roof and cabin sides…100_3008

As you can see here.

Though the lovely Emily is doing her best to distract you…100_3007

Isn’t she gorgeous? Also needs a clean.

A stove that burns 24/7 leaves a smoky/sooty film inside. Everywhere. Call me a lightweight, if you will, but I’m not quite ready to stop this yet. I don’t do cold. Time is near though when I will let it go out and find those firelogs brilliant in the interim…100_3018

You simply toss the whole lot in the stove, set fire to the packaging for instant heat that lasts about two hours, so perfect for those chilly evenings/mornings. They are available in all the cheapie shops and only £1 each (funnily enough) from the pound shop.

In any event, it will have to go off soon so I can clean and paint it!

And just about everything else needs painting too. It’s not that I’m at all houseproud or anything, and more than happy to turn a blind eye to a bit of muck; bugger I’d be forever cleaning otherwise. Life is way too short and, besides, I hate cleaning.

It is a little harder to ignore though, now I’m sporting spectacles full time, I can actually see it.

It’s a job to be tackled in bite-size pieces – the hardest part is making a start. Like a lot of things. And, like the proverbial banging your head against a brick wall, it’ll be good when it stops.

Shame there isn’t a floating car wash type arrangement. Or an army of offspring I could bully into helping.

I’m not the only one getting stuff done…100_3015

Smart new gates for the yard.

My neighbours are back…100_3003

Dinkeys. Bit manky looking but really friendly, nice creatures.

Talking of donkeys…100_3016

My smart new butch barrow, which is more than good enough for carzy carrying and, indeed, pretty much anything else. Good investment.

Apart from the change of season giving me the will to get things done, I swear I’m walking differently too. More upright and shoulders back – now unecessary to hunch against the bitter wind and/or rain.

I expect its not so different for the house dwellers among you, although I doubt you have far to walk to your car from your home… out the front door and straight onto the drive, mostlike. Whereas, I for one, have a field and a muddy yard to cross before reaching mine – also thoroughly grubby and muddy inside and out.

And those of us who cruise continuously will, more than likely, be faced with the towpath trek with all its associated hazards… but that’s another story.

We boatie folk are more in the line of fire from the elements but, you know, that’s fine by me. In my view, a whole lot better than the alternative.

Nene-course it will

Each to their own.

Reflections..

27 Dec

100_0886Good name for a boatie blog.

But this isn’t that; it’s just what I do at this time of year – me and millions of others I suspect – reflect on the year that’s passing.

I hate to be negative but 2016 hasn’t been a great year, one way or another.

I lost a brother.

Countless celebrities lives ended – we lost such a lot of talent in 2016, many of whom were great inspirations of mine. I suppose we tend to see them as immortal.

Several of my friend’s husbands have been unwell, some having received that diagnosis we all dread. Another friend has suffered throughout the year with infections that the antibiotics struggled to kill. They eventually manage this and now he has to face surgery for renoval of lumps from his chest. And a very dear friend of mine is sruggling with hairloss – most distressing.

I wish them all well for 2017 and good luck with their treatment

And I received a dodgy diagnosis of my own: something called Scleroderma or Systemic Sclerosis – a rare auto-immune disease – which is incurable and needs careful monitoring and management. At least it’s nothing common! Rare = interesting to the medical profession, so at least I’m getting plenty of attention.

It probably won’t kill me but then again it might.

Then there was the trip to South Africa, which saw me in hospital for three days on intravenous antibiotics to treat a nasty chest infection – picked up on the aeroplane I suspect. Not quite what I had hoped for and competely putting the mockers on the holiday. That said, I haven’t smoked since so some good came out of it.

And on coming home, to add insult to injury, the wheels really fell off…

100_2930

The wheels bloody well fell off my carzy carrying trolley. Bugger. However, I should soon take delivery of a new, improved and generally much butcher version. Pics on next post.

Then, the chimney I’d ordered (partly to cheer me up and partly as a Christmas present for Hobo) didn’t bloody fit…100_2935

Double bugger. My fault of course – being a girl misinterpreted the measuring instructions. Easy mistake-a-to-make-a.

Still, the lovely man I ordered it from will replace it (even thought I’ve used it) with the right size for just a small fee and the cost of postage. It’s a company called Smokie Joe’s up in Derbyshire and they produce some pretty spectacular chimneys and cowls – IMHO. First seen on another boatie blog – thanks Steve.

Will post pics of the correct chimney and cowl, once received and fitted… you’ll be impressed, promise.

2016 has been a funny old year, politics in particular: Brexit. Trump. Corbyn. Strikes.

But my friends, be happy and look to the skies…100_2928

Keep the faith.

Vernal Equinox

20 Mar

I couldn’t wait for spring to begin

When daffs are yellow and mood is mellow…100_0650

The days are longer, the sun is stronger

There is no doubt  that the mud will dry out…006 (14)

Meaning less welly boots and lots of green shoots

Now it’s starting to start and lifting my heart

Restoring some pep; a spring in my step

Boats reappear as they do every year…004

What could be wrong with floating along?

And I really oughta get out on the water

I’m longing to cruise and shake off the blues

That come with the weather and being a’tether

There’s no earthly reason with the new season

That Hobo should be still stuck on the quay…022

So let’s be a boater and fire up the motor

Chug off down the river the tiller a’quiver

So there’s cleaning to do; much maintenance too

But won’t let that delay, me getting away

I’ll dust off the crew, boatbird’s cap too…Picture of me 1

It’ll be great, me and first mate…DSCN1437

Back in the groove and back on the move.

Ran out of rhyme…

So here’s to spring – says she, glass in hand. Happens every year but still I marvel at lighter mornings and longer days. It never ceases to delight.  I think it’s all those gloomy, short days and lack of daylight that, come March, has us longing for change.

And the mud. Anyone who lives or spends time in the countryside will appreciate how it can get one down.

In my case, there’s the trek from boat to car (and vice-versa) across what I lovingly refer to as dog-dirt alley. Wet winters mean constant mud, bogginess, flooding at times and forever climbing in and out of wellies.

No matter how hard I try, the gloop always wheedles its way into the car, onto the boat and somehow gets onto my clothes too. The thought of going out and back without having to don/shed layers of clothes and changing in and out of rubber boots fills me with joy. Can’t wait.

Last Thursday was the first time in ages that I went out in normal footwear. Didn’t last but, hopefully, a sign of things to come. Soon.

Mustn’t grumble though. The old Morso Squirrel stove has, as usual, served me well, kept me warm and cheered me up. It’s also pretty damn good at boiling a kettle, simmering soup/stew, toasting crumpets, warming the wellies and drying the washing overnight…

Toasy

But every silver lining has a cloud – it also makes a lot of mess so soon I shall have to start on the spring cleaning. Washing ceiling, walls, curtains – anything that doesn’t move really. I did buy cheap, throwaway mats this time so once the weather properly improves they are all in the bin.

So I shall be busy, one way or another, but be back soon.

Elsan-ity restored..?

31 Jan

I’m hoping it will be.

My last blog post, a bit of a mild rant about (the lack of) facilities available to London Boaters, pleasingly produced quite a bit of comment and creative thought. If you haven’t already put yourself through this  read through this thread, you can pick it up on the LB facebook page entitled Shit Happens.

And, if after you’ve trawled through all the comments and ideas, you also feel you have something constructive to contribute to the debate, please do read on.

A few of us have decided to get together to brainstorm this, with a view to forming a ‘working party’ to collate ideas and form firm, well-researched proposals that will be presented to C&RT. Kate Saffin, Alex H. Richards,  Colin Ives, myself and John will be at the department of coffee at Spitalfields Market next Wednesday (3rd February) at 2.30pm.

http://departmentofcoffee.com/locations/spitalfields-market/

Helen Brice and Mikaela Ldn Mooring Ranger have also been included in conversations so far – for information purposes – though they are more than welcome to attend. Neil Boat, another keen contributor to the conversation, is unfortunately unable to be there.

So if you too feel you have something concrete to contribute, why not come along on Wednesday..?

 

 

Shit Happens..

5 Jan

It’s a fact.

Put two or more boaters together and, in a flush (remember that whoosh of water that came with the pull of a chain as the flush fairy disappeared your bodily waste like magic?) they’ll be talking toilets/bantering about bogs. So put them all together in a facebook group…

For my land-based readers who believe that life on the water is all roses and castles: idyllic, blissful, one long holiday, a delicious escape from reality and one way to keep under the radar – I confirm this. It is.

But..

It does come with some less than desirable little jobs, so to speak, not least the emptying of the loo. A small price to pay, in my book, for the privileges this lifestyle affords but not one I look forward to – I’d have to be one seriously sad sicko if I did.

For those of us with a cassette type or porta-potti arrangement, the best one can expect is that a disposal point – or tip out as I call it – is within easy reach, clean and at the very least not full, overflowing or blocked. And for those with a pump-out system, I imagine they’d want similar – plenty of and in working order.

Sadly, this clearly isn’t the case.

Shite is the plight of the London boater it seems, as voiced by LB Jacqui..

“My lifestyle, that of a liveaboard boater, means that I have accepted certain challenges and inconveniences like emptying my own “heads” and limitations on weekly water consumption in accordance to the size of my fresh water tank. This I am ok with.

What strikes me as not “ok” is the fact that although my community is growing – 300% in London – over the five years I’ve been on the water, the powers in charge of maintaining the waterways for this country have, in that time, been allowed to close facilities in London. This means going further for water and elsan points and much greater strain on those facilities that are still in use. In real terms, over the past 4 -5 weeks it has meant three of the five elsan points (where one can safely dispose of toilet content) and get fresh water along the 20+kms of the Lea River have been “out of service”.

I live in Britain, the fifth wealthiest country in the world, yet must travel, sometimes hours, to obtain water and dispose of my loo.

Yesterday I was at fields weir elsan. I was there going through the lock. In the time it took me to moor, set the lock and enter it, four other boaters, two by car had been and used the elsan. The folks in the car, from two boats had three cassettes and had come from Broxbourne to empty them.”

And Jess, also a LB said..

“In ten years, this is the first time we’ve really been up shit creek (literally). We’ve now got three full cassettes. Send help.”

I’ve singled out just a couple  from many comments aired on the LB facebook page, often more graphic and occasionally accompanied by pictures but I’ll spare you that..

This is nothing short of criminal and, as a liveaboard boater myself for ten years, a subject very dear to my heart. Whilst I’m not a continuous cruiser (though will be when I can secure an income without having to commute) I do live on the London waterways, albeit a bit in the sticks and with a home mooring (and a reasonably acceptable ‘tip out’).

That said, I have cruised through the city a few times now and have also chugged around a fair bit of the rest of the network so am all too familiar with the problem. There was one rather epic journey when I moved my 47ft of loveliness from Cambridgeshire to Hertfordshire in 2010 – epic because of the time it took as we were jumping a van along with the aid of a bicycle in order for John to travel to work. I made many homes along the riverbank along the way, as work got in the way of boating, as it does.

This trip took in the River Ouse, Middle Levels, River Nene, GU, the London Canals and the Lea and Stort navigations. It was brilliant, with notable highlights – one being the tidal crossing from Denver to Salter’s Lode in order to access the Fen ditches from the Ouse – but that’s another story.

To keep on topic, it was the facilities at Denver Sluice I wanted to mention here. I’d been led to believe they were superior  as well as having plenty of mooring and a good pub. Perfect. Not..

Around 90% of the mooring space was cordoned off with that orange plastic stuff, presumably in readiness for some improvement or other, with no sign of actual work being carried out or offer of alternative tying up space. Eventually we located the Elsan point, first priority as ever, but struggled to find a suitable place to park while we (I) did the deed. We ended up having to tie to railings around the slipway, thereby blocking it, but needs must – we wouldn’t be long..

A tortuous and treacherous trek led to a building (locked and chained as if a nuclear facility) in a field. My EA key did, surprisingly, open the padlock and with John’s help I managed to unleash the fortifications and open the door. All this time we stood in a lake of liquid that looked and smelled disgusting and on entering the Stygian gloom – no lights thankfully – a leaking and decidedly unsanitary tip out was revealed. I’ve never seen anything as horrid – before or since – and I have seen some grim sights.

Needs must so the deed was done. I walked just around the corner, by way of taking in some fresh air, to discover the Environment Agency offices – state of the art building surrounded by a huge and very smart car park full of extremely swish motor cars, which no doubt belonged to the fat cats of the EA quango. Did they even know what was less than 100 yards from their plush suite of offices? Did they even care? I doubt it. Obvious where their priorities lie.

To the pub then, where we hoped we could moor, but no rings or other means of tying up. On asking a member of staff, handily clearing glasses outside, were told that mooring had been stopped for health and safety reasons. My fuse, already considerably shortened, had nearly burned out. But what can you do? We spun her round and trawled along the opposite bank, which looked decidedly private/club-like, until we found a Hobo-sized gap, where we smacked in the pins regardless, secured her and wandered off in search of the bridge that would take us to the pub.

All along the way there was a vast amount of new fencing adorned with EA health and safety notices. Not shy of spending money on that then.. of course not!

The London waterways come under the care of The Canal & River Trust but, other than in name, I see little difference between them and the Environment Agency when it comes to upkeep, maintenance and attitude towards the need of the boater. And given that a licence that allows navigation on these waterways, depending on the length of boat/waters navigated, can easily be in excess of £1000 per annum, I for one think it’s shocking that such low levels of maintenance and, in certain cases, total deterioration, are allowed and so little is forthcoming in return for our money.

I don’t rant without good reason or criticize without offering a possible solution. So how about this..?

What if those big old rusty barges we see about, some used for rubbish dumping, were converted to swallow our human waste? They could be moored on the offside, to discourage potential vandalism, boats could tie alongside and tip out… simple! And with a little ingenuity, some sort of hose and pump arrangement to facilitate the use of canal/river water for rinsing. Or even some simple structure – like a low lever water tower maybe – it doesn’t need to be high tech.

Then the (in my opinion) under-used C&RT/EA barges and workers could be adapted to empty these. Regularly.sunrise

 

 

East – West… Hobo’s Best

21 Dec

A real John-ism to be sure, something he said earlier as I trapped off about my horrid journey home this afternoon and unadulterated pleasure at finally getting home. Home to my cosy cocoon: Hobo the boat.Old West-Streatham

Despite abandoning the couple of errands I wanted to do on the way, it was worth the sacrifice, just to escape the madness.

I’d planned a little foray into ‘Arlo, where Aldi stock my coconut water at a fraction of the price charged by the local health shop. I do this every Monday, pretty much, without trauma. And I’d pick up a paper and have a rummage through their bargain bins.

From the A414, ‘Arlo is approached from the right-hand lane of the dual carriageway, whereas home is left hand lane. My mind must have been elsewhere as I joined the queue on the right and it took me a full 60 seconds to realise I was even in a queue (not being one that enjoys this sport at all whatsoever) and that the road off the roundabout into town was bumper to bumper as far as the eye could see. The left hand side that leads into the sticks was clear.

No brainer. Long – as opposed to quick – squint due to the appalling visibility (yes, raining too) into the nearside mirror and I’m gone. Water will wait for another day and I can pick up a paper at Bludgeons in Sawbo.

I have to take a left at a T-junction to go uphill for Sawbo and, wouldn’t you know, another stonking line of cars backed up there. Oh well, have a smoke while I wait – except I smoked the last one an hour ago – cue Simon and Garfunkel. Pox..!

There was some piss-poor interesting parking at the store, they’d sold out of all papers apart from the Guardian (and I’m not buying that) so I picked up some bread and headed for the till. Another long wait by the looks as it was manned by the slowest till tapper in all the world and even the kiosk was beset about by hoards of impatiently queueing  shoppers that had no right to be out in force like this at this time of day.

Bread abandoned, I’m heading for Hobo and the river.Ouse-Pike and Eel

What was all the traffic/extra people about? I left work at three, thinking no school run would equal an easy commute, to find the world and his wife were out in force and clogging up my route big-time.

I know, I know – time of year. I would, if I could, avoid all roads and commercial outlets during silly season. Not so much Bah Humbug as hating the way the world goes mad for shopping, bunging up the roads and making the simplest of purchases/journeys an ordeal of note.

But I don’t do Mrs. Angry any more. I’m in a good place and no longer have to share my space with the crazies of this world…as long as I remember to bail that is. What’s more, I’ve received some lovely greetings via social media wishing me well for the season and I treasure those people and their messages – thank you all.

One, from an old boating buddy, wishing us both a happy solstice and that, to me, means more than any of this other nonsense we get embroiled in – something to truly celebrate. So thanks again for that my friend.

So it’s all onward and upward from here – longer days and a new year. I’ll work the bit in the middle and it will pass as all things must.

To you all I wish the very best for this solstice, the season and for 2016.

Much love, BB

PS: The mud here is frightful as usual when the slightest drop of rain falls but, you know what, let it rain all it likes; I am not made of sugar, I have wellies, waterproofs and my very own ark, complete with one boatbird and one boatbloke.DSCN1437

That’ll do me.

 

 

The Disappearing Desk

24 Feb

I knew when I embarked on this watery lifestyle in a 47ft x 7ft metal tube, I would have to make the odd sacrifice. (That’s doing without something, not slaughtering a child in a white frock on an altar at midnight.)

And these are the external dimensions so, in fact, I have probably only around 264 square feet of indoor living space in total. Any fixtures and fittings on board therefore really have to earn their keep and need to be functional, preferably with multi-use capability. There is no room for ‘passengers’.

Not that I’m complaining. OK, so I miss the bath and the sofa sometimes but a small price to pay to be able to live the way I do. There is of course no reason I couldn’t have the above – it’s mainly aesthetics that stop me adding either or both.

More recently, I’ve hankered after a desk/table to work at…

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Google image

It is, after all, essential equipment for a writer. I’ve managed to date with the laptop on the lap but now I’m getting into proofreading/copy-editing, I need somewhere to spread out the paperwork.

I’m lucky that John is good in the making things department so I designed a desk that works in the boat and he has made it.

John likes to work in 3D models and, having established mk 1 would do the job, he set about making mk 2. It’s a good system that works for us and, when I saw the first prototype, decided the boat could take something a little bigger. Easy peasy, rip it up and start again. (There’s never any waste when you have a wood burner.)

He started with good old potato box ply to make the framework and shelving and then we went shopping for the desk top itself. It had to be big enough but foldaway-able, smart enough but nothing that would break the bank and something that would sit well within Hobo’s ageing mellow and lived-in interior. Something we could up-cycle then.

We took a trip to  the ECCO shop in Harlow to see what was about. There’s a few of these outlets around here (2 in Harlow, 1 in Bishop’s Stortford and 1 in Epping) and they’re brilliant places for a bargain – if you have your creative eyes in focus. Lovely and jumbly. Nice and cheap.

This headboard spoke to me, made of good solid ply with an oak veneer… IMG_20150207_072108

Just the job at £2.

We also bought strip hinges to enable the folding away of and another clever little design feature that means I can have a medium desk…002

With the extension doubling as a supporting leg when in half-size mode, which is rapidly becoming the default position as is also proving to be useful as a table to land one’s drinks, dinner plates, newspapers – you name it, the possibilities are endless.

Or for those big jobs, just pull up to make a massive working surface…008003

As big as many an office desk I’ve worked at.

The really clever bit being that it folds away to next to nothing…005006

Genius. Now you see it now you don’t..!

It sits unobtrusively under the gunwale, getting in no-one’s way, when I don’t feel like working.

So now it’s back to me for the cosmetics. It needs a little refining, sanding and staining and general titivation but otherwise job done. Apart from re-organising my clutter that is.

Now of course I need a chair that works with the desk so it’s back to ECCO, this time the Stortford store. I really liked this…002 (3)But of course it won’t go low enough. John suggested an entry level typist chair like this…003 (2)Could be used as the base, fitting the top of the barstool to it. I admit I had my reservations but at £3 for the blue jobbie and (after much haggling) settled on £5 for the black leather one (marked up at £15) there wasn’t a lot to lose.

We pointed out the seat was very broken…002 (4)Nothing the John couldn’t fix of course, making what I think is a mighty cool stool…002 (2)

But is it a stool? Or is it a chair?

We’ve decided it’s a hybrid and are calling it a chool.

Whatever. In this position it lets me get my knees under the desk but will also raise up if I want to look out of the window at the river. It’s the perfect spot to watch the sun go down.

I suspect the little boat may gain a chrome based, blue seated driving seat.

As my life evolves, so then does the space around me. I’m busy now working on a design for a unit to complement the new desk to fit on the other side of the boat. I’m thinking something modular, multi-purpose and sleek.

I’m a lucky boatbird to have the John, who actually enjoys turning my designs into real storage solutions. He’s really quite talented and, when he isn’t busy doing stuff for me or fixing up the little boat, he loves to make these…010

Want one..?

PS: You should see the owl boxes…

Out with the Old and In with the New..

29 Dec

By that I mean water pump. Naturally.

I’m hoping this is the last in a long line of things that have become dysfunctional of late in Boatbirdland. In this case though, I’ve been aware the day was coming; just a matter of when really. I excuse my meanness sense of not subscribing to today’s throwaway culture by saying “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” but John’s been nagging me for ages to do something about it. Apparently, I’m a bit stubborn..?

My old Shurflo water pump…003

Has been getting less and less effective over the last months. When the pump fails to produce enough pressure, the gas water heater fails to ignite, resulting in the shower performing a vicious hot cycle/cold cycle routine and only occasionally settling on a constant temperature under which I could bear to stand.

I’ve manfully put up with it (why was that?) until the week before the world as we know it comes to a grinding halt when it became either freezing or boiling, no middle ground. So much so that I stopped showering altogether.

That’s fine except for hair washing – Boatbird’s is very long these days – and, after more than a week of bad hair…images

I was going crazy. With hair in permanent pigtails, I probably looked ever so slightly dotty/a tad eccentric too. The next stage was habitual hat wearing…a-bad-hair-day

But, at least with the weather turning so cold, I think I may have got away with it.

Also, the flow from all taps was now no more than a dribble with the pump taking longer and longer to bother to cut in and surely only a matter of time before it totally gave  up the ghost. I coerced John into stripping the pump so I could clean all its innards (massive limescale and sludge deposits) but despite my misguided optimism high hopes that this would fix it, it damn well didn’t.

No seasonal miracles happening here then.

I was seriously considering the scissor option before I came to my senses and fired up the computer to see who had a suitable new pump in stock. Jones Boatyard in St. Ives came up trumps with a Jabsco that operates between 20 and 40 psi, shifting eleven litres a minute, suitable for long pipe runs and multi outlets. Sounds good to me. It was even on offer at £73.00 and, more importantly, in stock.

I really rate Jones and have not yet managed to find a chandler in this neck of the woods that comes close. It’s just a whack along the M11 – about an hour’s drive from here – though, so worth the trip.

By now it’s the C-word-Eve and they’ll be closing at 4pm (I discovered when I rang them) so John is despatched post-haste to sunny Cambridgeshire.

Once back here it was bish-bosh-bash…002

New pump installed. And again…001

Showing the accumulator, which this pump doesn’t need but will probably work better for it being there.

And all worked wonderfully well once more. I had a fabulous shower, water temperature not deviating a single degree for a single second. Perfect.

So now I wait to see what’s next…

Actually, I just found out and you’ll never believe it. Two more fails – one mechanical and the other directly caused by a very blonde moment on my part. One might be costly and the other making me loads of extra unnecessary/messy work. Both very vexing.

Find out what’s gone wrong now in the next thrilling instalment of Boatbird, coming to a computer near you very soon.

Oh, and all the best for next year. Here’s hoping 2015 brings joy to you all. And an end to all this crazy shit for me!