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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.

 

 

 

 

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.

Ijsvogel

27 Nov

Pronounced I-c-e-v-o-g-u-l and translates to Icebird for those non-Dutch speakers among us. It’s the original name of the little boat and not one that John feels he could live with. I think, he being a tropical flower, it’s the ice part he has trouble with.

Tradition/superstition has it that it’s OK to change a boat’s name when out of the water so, if he ever makes up his mind which name that might be, it won’t bring bad luck.

Remember when we waded on board in those early days of just having acquired the little boat… ?100_3100

Well amongst all the watery wetness, we found a handwritten letter from the first owner to the one before John…001

How lovely, what a find, and joins up a few dots. There were also some old photographs of her build, launch, test run and subsequent trips on the water. Shame about the missing engine room pic – would have answered a few questions. Water damaged and curly edged, we rescued these and stowed in a safe place – ie Hobo – until such a time that we (I) could be bothered to scan them on to the computer.

Having found that time yesterday afternoon (and shelled out on a new printer/copier/scanner to replace my old defunct one) I am now in a position to share these with you.

It’s quite something to have just these few pics – a little bit of her history.

This one shows the armature construction in April 1976, according to the back of the snap…IMG_20141126_0007

Sadly, many of the build shots were too damaged; hard to make out from the photo so wouldn’t scan so well I figured.

These show her being loaded for transport – November 1976 – to the river Kennet…IMG_20141126_0006

IMG_20141126_0005The hull, engine and cabin completed.

And her trial run on the Kennet…IMG_20141126_0002

Also November ’76. What a beauty and cutting along by the looks.

The sharp end is quite different now…IMG_20140530_133436

Much needed extra cabin space having been created by the previous owner. This makes the bow tiny from the outside – barely standing room – but does make a much more usable space inside…

As she is now…IMG_20141117_210515
IMG_20141126_180045

A lovely space for the John. He’s gradually putting his stamp on it by adding a desk, restoring the little stove which works very nicely..IMG_20141126_180110And John’s hand-crafted chimney doing the business…
IMG_20141124_090507

And will look the business too, once he adds the copper strips.

There’s many ideas/good intentions/plans/stuff still to do in the cosmetics department but all this has to take a back seat until the major things have been dealt with. Notably the engine and hull.

Much has gone on that can’t be seen: like pulling 12 and 240 volt wires through, connecting (after first unblocking) the fuel lines and painting the under-bed storage spaces white – and filling them with stuff. It makes such a difference when you are looking for something under there.

And of course, that perennial problem with boats, finding somewhere to put everything. Just his tools would fill an aircraft carrier. Twice over.

But it’s coming.

On this one, back in the day, the sailing mast is visible…IMG_20141126_0003

And here in use for a family trip on the river Kennett, summer 1977…IMG_20141126_0004

You’ll note that windows have been added by now.

Much of the work that John is gradually now doing is of the not very photogenic variety. As in the engine. He’s found a couple of snags – things sticking that shouldn’t stick and bits that should be bolted on that aren’t. He’s just discovered that it’s the fuel pumps that are jamming up the works, so they’ll be taken to bits now and inspected.

He’s very methodical and takes great pains, which is good, to ensure all is as it should be before he winds her up. Thus avoiding any calamities. Both dying to hear her going though and hoping that the Lister sounds good and is as bombproof as we think it is.

So, we have the proof that she floated and ran once upon a time. Lets just hope she will again. Soon.

At the End of the Day…

14 Nov

The end of this day…100_2389

Looked a whole lot better than the beginning.

A beginning that saw me – wellies on and hood up – squelching through the mud down at dog-dirt. In the rain. It was that wet sort of rain, falling steadily, just as I was off to my little early morning job. Nice.

I have no picture of this morning. Not inspired to capture this particular element as I was being attacked by it. And it was before 07.30 and I’m really not at my best then.

To make up for that, here is another shot of last light tonight. Ever so slightly different view…100_2390

From my front door.

Nothing more than that really. Just wanted to share the moment.

Walking on Water

7 Jul

Hobo, the John and BB are now back on the riverbank and once again floating/walking on water. So to speak.

Marvellous. All is as it should be in boatbirdland and life carries on as (I almost hesitate to say) normal.

I may have told you that John is doing a little work on the farm here and, being multi-talented as he is, his daily tasks vary enormously. Just the way he likes it.

It could be anything from rowing dinner across the river…010 (2)

 

012013015To the Highlands that live over there…017

To pulling a boat out and up the slipway…IMG_20140628_103816

And parking it. Somewhere amongst all the other projects that live on the hard.

Or it might be building a donkey shelter…002

Very friendly donkeys who just love their new shelter…IMG_20140703_185331

Which doubles as a scratching post it seems.

Or dog kennel/run…025

This is his first; the second even sports a porthole. They just get better and there’s more to build. A career in canine architecture.

All made from old wood that has accumulated here over the years. John loves to work with old wood and is making good use of everything that can be found here – sometime he’s re-cycling parts of old wooden boats that came to rest here.

I like that thought – their lives to continue and remain useful, albeit in another guise.

And BB?

Just the usual and when I’m not out at work I’ve been sky gazing…001_stitch 002

009Been some interesting ones of late. Incredible.

Feeding Swannee River…017018015016

He will also take food from your hand, quite gently, but a little tricky to photograph.

Or practising Pilates. Or strumming my guitar – or trying to.

Or cutting the nails of my left hand in order to be able to hold down the strings. Yes, I’ve sacrificed a very handy set of (fast-growing) tools to this cause so I must be serious about it.

BB has also been tending the garden…004

Which has been a picture, with the flowering beans and marigolds.

Sadly, the radishes pretty much all bolted. Shame as they are my current obsession and I go through 9-10 supermarket packs a week! Will keep trying.

I’ve eaten the first of the courgettes…006

Yummy and more to follow.

And the broad beans look ready now…005

The colours have been glorious…009

Just waiting for the nasturtiums to do their thing…014

They’ve started…013

012Funny, I thought I bought red ones.

And Gerry, as ever, stands proud on the bow…015

And his brother…010

Trailing from the roof. Waiting for a neat John- style box to live in.

Red Hot Chilli Peppers…011

For John.

Loving the old clay pot (a slag-heap find) complete with moss.

I’ve also been watching the little birdies…017

Which of course do a disappearing act the minute I even think about thinking about switching on the camera. They have been here though – trust me, I’m a boatbird – now we’ve sussed out how to magpie-proof the fat balls by putting them behind bars.

Does anyone know what this is…?100_2226 100_2227

Not just an ordinary dandelion. Seen at the seaside.

Or this…?IMG_20140627_142334

A most unusual poppy, sprouting magnificently from the muck heaps.

All that AND I’ve managed to put in a few hours on the little boat – MAINSTAY/TITANIC/GYPSY/PHOEBE whatever, still can’t choose. Pics and progress report to follow in the next update. Suffice to say that she’s coming along and proving to be a super, comfy, functional space that is very… John.

Speaking of concrete boats…

A very good friend of mine informed me that there was a community of concrete boat liveaboards at Burnham-on-Crouch. So, always hankering after a visit to the Essex coast, off we trotted by way of research.

Never one to give a bum steer, my old mate came up trumps again.

Though they were all on a completely different scale to our own little version, there was something about them… 100_2222

Individual…100_2224

100_2217 100_2223 100_2220Rustic…100_2216

This one had gorgeous gardens…100_2221

Fore…100_2219

And aft…100_2218

And charming…

100_2215A work in progress with tricky boarding. From instantly hating it, this one has become my favourite. Don’t ask me why.

Take a closer look at that jetty…100_2215

The more observant ones among you may have noticed that not all these boats were concrete – the odd steel one having snuck in.

We had hoped to pick the brains of the occupants but saw no-one about. Must have all been passed out inside out at work. It was a Wednesday afternoon; I suppose most good folk would be.

We spotted another project…100_2225

Beached across the water.

We’d also wanted to see where the Chelmer/Blackwater joined the sea so, after a quick bit of smartphone googling, we headed off to Maldon. A lock-side pub called to us so we sat awhile there before strolling along the beautiful, clear river, taking in the different craft moored there, the wildlife and generally breathed it all in.

Aaaah! Lovely day out.

Back at the funny farm, I’ve made a fabulous new feline friend but more of that in the next post.

Oh alright then…

008

Just a taster.

 

 

Bottoms Up!

30 Jun

Hobo has a very nice bottom. It’s official.

Three weeks ago now, we had the old girl pulled out of the water to have her bottom re-blacked. The last time this was done was four years ago now (and four years before that, just before I bought her). This is probably twice as long as recommended but, I’m happy and relieved to say, that she has fared well – despite mental pictures of lace curtains that haunted me as the day approached.

But none of that – she is fine and in very good shape.

Her first two ‘outings’ were at Welford’s dry dock where I believe they did a splendid job. This time, Welford being so far to cruise to when you are constrained by having to go out to work, it seemed favourite to make use of the facilities here – ie the slipway with its bomb trolley, as John calls it, and the  excellent workmanship of Andy and Jess.

We’ve witnessed their handiwork on many occasions; business here picking up no end since they took on this service. No surprise really as they do a brilliant job.

I was at work when they decided to pull her out and couldn’t wait for me to get back – time and tide waiting for no man (or even boatbird it seems)  – other boats already lining up to take their turn. So I authorised John to skipper the operation to drive her up the slipway. Not that I had any fears on that score; just a bit miffed to miss the event.

Perhaps as well. I can turn into a real old woman when it comes to Hobo’s well-being. And driving into the yard to see her sitting safely atop the trolley on the slipway was a huge relief…003

As Jess made a start on scraping off the sludge…001

Andy pronounced Hobo a very well made boat and her hull in great condition. Music to my ears.

I always thought she was a good boat but there’s nothing like hearing it from someone that knows about these things and is totally unbiased.

They set about grinding her back to the metal, observing strict health and safety regs of course…011

Even the, now eight year old, anodes had stood up well…010

But I decided to add four new ones…008

As I didn’t think they’d go another four years.

On closer inspection, there was one place that caused concern, this being on the waterline where the red stripes around the stern…004 (2)

As much as I wanted to keep this traditional cream over red design, I conceded it would be prudent to lose this to further bitumen. Really quite nasty pitting so best get rid.

Protection over cosmetics every time.

And here it is gone…007 (2)

After all, I can always re-instate it at a later date if I feel so inclined.

Actually, I’m quite liking the green stripe that has been used for masking – called frog tape and apparently brilliant.

On the bow too…009 (2)

We shall see. More work to bring the superstructure up to scratch first though.

I’m getting more and more ideas for decoration and I reckon, by the time Hobo is tiddled up enough and ready for some artistry, I shall have a plan.

The truly marvellous thing when it comes to slipway versus dry dock is that boatbird can still live aboard while work is carried out, courtesy of some giant steps…002

The noise and dust is a bit of a pain but that stops in the evening so not all bad. I do struggle to walk half sharp when she’s not floating though. Feels so weird.

We were so lucky with the weather – the whole three days were glorious, sunny and, most importantly, dry. Well done, for once, to whoever arranges the weather. Just check out that sky…023

Not forgetting the good old digger that pulled her up and kept her there…024

My rudder and propeller. Before…009

And after…008 (2)

Minus the tangle of wire/weed/whatever.

The team in action…001 (2)

Supervised by the John…002 (2)

Looking good now the paint is going on.

Notice which gender isn’t standing around/watching/chatting?

That said, they both grafted furiously. Indeed, once we saw how hard they worked, any guilt at not having done it ourselves (and saving loadsamymoney) simply evaporated. We conceded we are just too old disinclined to undertake that level of physical effort.

A view from afar…

018

Because I can.

There’s even a short/boring/vaguely amusing video of Hobo as she comes off the slip – I was present for this – but I’m too mean to upgrade this site so it can’t be shown here. Maybe I’ll just post it on fishface instead.

There was a bonus too. My kitchen sink has been bloody useless decidedly inefficient since day 1. Any waste drained (or not) into the u-bend then into a thinner pipe, which actually went uphill – I may have mentioned this before – a right royal pain in the arse.

Being on the hard was the perfect time to work on her so we did just that. With Andy’s advice and a borrow of his tools, John drilled another hole (eek) in Hobo’s hull (lower and larger than the previous one) to take a 38mm skin fitting, this being provided by a kind neighbour who just happened to have one going spare. This then linked to a larger hose, pointing downhill, we did away with the u-bend altogether and BINGO – the water now actually drains away. Quickly.  Along with any gunk I happen to carelessly throw down it.

And John has plumbed it in such a way I even have more under-sink cupboard space, which on a narrowboat is back of the net.

All in all a pleasant experience. And you can’t always say that about routine maintenance.

 

 

Hills, Views, Caves, Stones, Bones and… a Space Turtle?

2 Mar

Our roving reporter is on the case again, sending more shots from his latest visit to the the west coast of South Africa.

They went walkabout into the wild and wide open spaces…100_2720_stitch

Around and about the area where Geoffrey currently lives and works.

They went up in the hills…Southern skies lodge from the hill opposite

And above the Rooibos tea fields…rooibos 1_stitch

They walked and climbed in the sweltering heat, which he said reached a staggering 47 degrees C on occasions, swimming in reservoirs to cool off.

John said he thought it was a bit hot!

They kept an eye open for caves, knowing the signs and getting a feel for finding them…100_2813

Large…bushman's cave

A bushman’s cave.

And small…caves, large and small

Complete with bones, this one. Click to enlarge and have a poke around.

They had a sleepover in one of them…100_2804

Cosy.

A room with a view…

100_2779Especially on a misty morning…cave 2_stitch

Wow.

But sadly no paintings to be found.

Been said John’s a bit of a caveman. Like father like son, I’d say.

Geoffrey douses the fire…

dousing the fire

Where they cooked up sausages and drank  beer. No stomach churning bush tucker trials here, though it’s hardly glamping.

There’s lots of these…100_2761

And these…100_2774

Not sure what either are called but some are found only in this area.

And here’s the space turtle…

Rocks eroded into wierd shapes, space turtle

Or, if your imagination is a little jaded, rocks that have eroded into weird and interesting shapes. 

I don’t expect there’s too many of these about. What do you see?

Speaking of rocks…100_2493

A rare collection of treasures…Nature table R

I imagine the bulk of these were collected by the boys but if I know John, he will have had a hand in a few of them.

He loves all that archaeological stuff. Hand axes, digging stones and so on. John just has a knack of stumbling on these relics and cannot go anywhere without bringing back nature’s souvenirs.

He will spend hours perusing these in museums. We have some fun days out.

We have some back at the bus too – spoils from previous years – obviously irresistible to the John.  

Even back in the UK, we’ll go for a walk and he’ll end up with a pocketful of bits and bobs. Sometimes he even picks up washers, nuts, bolts, rubber bands or other such useful items, which he hands to me like presents to be cherished. And I do,  of course.

Maybe it’s a condition with a name – like Tourette’s. But quieter.

Bless.

Unlike me, John is very much a morning person and captured this…Klipspringer at dawn

Klipspringer – a small African antelope – at dawn.

Some of the panoramas are 2/3/5 or more pics that I’ve stitched together. That really is such clever software.

Now John knows I can do this, he is taking snaps with stitching in mind and I look forward to the next batch.

This one has to be my current favourite…view 1_stitch

Stunning.

Don’t forget, you can click on any of these images to bring up to full size. A further click will enlarge that particular area of the photo, should you wish to see even more detail.

Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain

10 Feb

Just to let you know that the river here is almost back to normal, thanks to a couple of dryish days and some pretty efficient draining onto the land.

I’m making the most though ’cause it’s not going to last – yet more Atlantic lows waiting in the wings, bringing a possible further two inches of rain or so and yet more windy wind.

But you know all that.

And my own personal ark will continue to protect me.

Anyway, I went out today in brilliant sunshine, without the usual bundles of warm layers and serious waterproof  gear. It was heaven. Gorgeous. Not even a breeze.

But every silver lining has a cloud and, just as I arrived back, it chucked it down: cats, dogs, stair rods – you name it. Terrific. A short sharp shower, just enough to make me nice and wet before I’d made it across dog-dirt and on to the boat.

By the time I’d changed out of my totally unsuitable clothing and slipped into something more comfortable – and dry – put the kettle on and made up the fire it had stopped. Typical. Should have waited in the car.

Anyway, good time to nip out and fill the coal scuttle.

And there it was… 001

003

Whoa, never mind  silver lining, how about that?

Had to be stitched…002_stitch (2)

Bugger, didn’t even see it at first.

That twirly drier taking centre stage. How could I possibly have missed that?

But, with careful cropping and more patience than a score of saints,  it was wiped…002_stitch

How good is that?

It’s a bit of a cheat, but hey, why not? We have the technology.