Sunday, 30 December 2012

Last cruise of the year

Last night, John and Jan came round for a drink after dinner, and we spent another enjoyable time chatting.

This morning was beautifully sunny.  We set off at 9.15, pulling out past Jubilee, heading for Cosgrove Lock.

Because of moored boats and fishermen, the vast majority of this short trip was done on tickover.

It was pretty blustery at the marina, but at least the wind was blowing along the jetties, so spinning the boat and reversing into our berth went well.  Just under an hour after we set off, we were tied up on our pontoon.  We had a cup of tea, then Adrian packed up and headed down to his mum's.

This afternoon, I had a sleep for a couple of hours, ready for night shifts, which start tonight.  I've already packed; before setting off for work, I'll prepare the boat for possible cold weather.

1.5 miles, 1 lock.  (17 miles, 2 locks)

Saturday, 29 December 2012

A meeting

It was exceptionally windy last night, and when we looked out this morning the canal had waves on it.  We were expecting a visitor, so had a pretty relaxed start to the day.  We weren't exactly sure how our visitor was arriving, but at about 9.45 we heard a boat going into reverse as it came past, and sure enough it was Jubilee with John, Jan, and Ali on board; they knew where we were moored, but never having seen Briar Rose in the metal before nearly failed to recognise her!

They moored up behind, we went for a look on board Jubilee, then John and Jan came for the tour of BR.  We spent a while chatting about boats, the BBC, and other things.

We set off at about 11.20, by which time the wind had dropped quite a bit.  On our way through Milton Keynes and Great Linford there were just a couple of exposed spots where the wind caught the boat.  Just before New Bradwell, the promised rain started;  at Wolverton, it absolutely lashed it down and I considered stopping.  But I was already wet by then, so we carried out to our planned mooring, just after the Wolverton Aqueduct.

We had lunch, and I dried out.  In the afternoon, we finished the series of Last Tango in Halifax; I understand it's been recommissioned, so the second series will be worth looking out for.  By late afternoon, the wind had dropped completely, and there was even a lovely sunset.  In the gathering gloom, just a few minutes ago, Jubilee arrived, and has moored in front of us.

7 miles, 0 locks.  (15.5 miles, 1 lock)

Friday, 28 December 2012

Milton Keynes

It was pretty dull and grey this morning, but at least it had stopped raining by the time we set off at 9.30am.  We decided to head south, and we were soon at Cosgrove Lock.

We didn't really have a destination in mind, so we carried on through the familiar sequence of Wolverton, New Bradwell, Great Linford and Milton Keynes.  The only boat we met was, of course, at a blind bridge hole.  The moorings as Giffard Park were full, and it was also busy at Campbell Park.  We carried on to Bridge 82, where we winded.  Just beyond was a decent bit of towpath, so having turned we reversed back past a boat and tied up.

After lunch, we went for a walk down to Willen Park.  There was drizzle blowing in the wind, so we went back to the boat and stoked the fire up.  There are trees in the way of the satellite here, so we've been watching episodes of Last Tango in Halifax, which Adrian had downloaded from iPlayer.

8.5 miles, 1 lock.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

An arrival

The weather wasn't nearly as bad as forcast today.  There were just a few showers, some lasting a couple of minutes, the longest half an hour.  In between, the sun even shone occasionally.

This morning I put some washing on, and decided to check the batteries.  It turned out we had only a splash of top-up water left.  Only about four of the twenty-four cells needed any water, but that still required more than I had, so I jumped in the car and got some more from Halford's in Milton Keynes.

After lunch I prepared a red cabbage for braising, and put it in a pot on top of the Squirrel stove.  Adrian arrived at about 3.30 -- much later than planned, after a frustratingly slow journey.  It seems that today was the day everyone decided to return from wherever they'd been.  It was already getting dark, so we decided to stay in the marina for the night, and we'll head out for a couple of days tomorrow.

This evening we had our Christmas dinner: turkey, chipolatas, roast patatoes, carrots and parsnips, braised red cabbage and sprouts.

After all that, we thought the Christmas pudding could wait until another day;  we'll have a slice of cake instead!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Boxing Day

Another 4.30am alarm, and on the road at 5.15.  If anything, there was less traffic than yesterday.  Work was pretty uneventful -- the only interesting thing was meeting Bobbie Pryor!

I got back to the boat shortly after 4pm.  Adrian had been due to come up this afternoon, but he's staying with his mum a bit longer.  He may be up tomorrow, in which case we'll head out of the marina -- probably getting rained on in the process.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas Day

I've probably worked more Christmas Days than not over the past twenty years, but this one does seem to have been more solitary than usual.  I was up at 4.30, and in the car about 45 minutes later.  As you might expect, the M1 wasn't busy, and nor was central London.  During the morning I phoned my parents, and spoke to my nieces.  Father Christmas had apparently come down the chimney, as evidenced by soot on the hearth!  It sounded like chaos.

The shift went fine, and once I'd handed over to the afternoon person at about 2pm, I popped into the main newsroom to see my colleagues and partake of the Christmas lunch which had been provided -- which turned out to be a middle eastern meze.

I was back at the boat by 4pm, and I've done very little apart from cook, eat, and watch Strictly.  I'm up again at 4.30 tomorrow morning, so it won't be long before I'm in bed.

Merry Christmas

Monday, 24 December 2012

The icing on the cake

It started raining in the early hours, and by the time I got up it was chucking it down.  At 7.45, I was driving out of the marina towards the M1, London, and work.  There wasn't much traffic, but the visibility wasn't good, and it never seemed to get light.

I got away from work just before 7 this evening, and the roads back to the marina were surprisingly busy.  When I got back to the boat, the fire still had a bit of life in it, in spite of having no attention for more than twelve hours.  I also made the icing (beating it by hand), and put it on the cake.

My worry is that if it's not stiff enough, by the morning it will all had slid off onto the plate!

Because someone's gone sick tomorrow, I've going in to work for a much earlier shift than originally planned: I need to be there at 6.30am, which will mean getting up at about 4.30.  To see whether I get there or not, tune in to BBC 6Music for the news at 7.30 (and each subsequent hour).  If there's silence, somthing has gone wrong.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Baking Day

It rained a lot overnight (in addition to all the rain during the day yesterday), and by this morning the water level had risen.  I knew, because the boat was on a bit of an angle, and I had to go out and loosen the rope that I'd tightened up a bit yesterday.

I had a plan to do some baking today, so first I made a batch of orange pastry for mince pies.  I'd forgotten to bring the recipe with me, but I've made it a few times in the past couple of weeks so I could remember the proportions.  While that was resting in the fridge, I made a fast Christmas cake mix.  I'd forgotten to bring the book with the recipe in it, but I found it on the internet.  Once that was in the oven, I made some mince pies, and cooked them at the same time.

The temperature of the boat oven is a bit all over the place.  The top seems to get very hot, while the bottom is barely warm.  The mince pies were near the bottom, so took about twice as long to cook as they do at home -- and the ones in the middle of the tin still needed a bit longer.  The vagaries of the oven were also making things difficult for the cake.  In spite of a double height lining of baking paper, and putting tin foil over the cake after an hour or so, it was still cooking quite quickly round the edge and quite slowly in the middle.  As a result, the edges are a bit darker than I'd have liked.

I had to pop out after lunch to get some jam to stick the marzipan on with, and once the cake was cold I melted the jam and rolled out the marzipan.  It went on quite neatly.

Apparently it needs 24 hours to dry out before the icing can go on, so I guess I'll be doing that tomorrow after work.  It might look a bit more interesting once that's done!

Also this afternoon, I filled the water tank.  I couldn't remember whether I filled it last time I was here, and I assume I didn't as it took a while.  I also emptied the ash bucket and took the ash up to the bins.

As I haven't had the engine running to make any hot water, and I've done quite a lot of washing up today, I've taken to having a kettle of water on top of the Squirrel stove.  It's not the quickest way of getting hot water and it never quite boils, but it's plenty hot enough, and it's free!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Christmas prep

I came up to the boat this morning, in heavy rain but surprisingly light traffic (except near Oxford, but that's normal).  I'm working over Christmas, and the drive to work is quicker from here than it is from home; Adrian is spending Christmas with his mum.  With a bit of luck, we'll get a few days cruising later in the week.

First stop was the farmhouse where the owners of the marina live, to pick up a card which opens the new electronic gates at the marina entrance.  Once on board, I replaced the shower mixer bar, turned on the water and the electrics, and got the fire alight.  I also put the Eberspacher on for some hot water, and turned a couple of radiators on to help take the chill off.  One nice thing is the boat next door is out, so the outlook is a bit more open than usual.

I had lunch, then while it wasn't raining, went out and turned on the gas, lined up the satellite dish, and for the first time since the repaint put the plank and pole stands back on the roof, in order to get the plank and pole out of the saloon.

 Next it was off to Tesco in Wolverton, for a pre-Christmas shop.  It wasn't quite as manic as I'd feared, and it didn't take long to do the shopping.  The boat was much warmer by the time I got back.  Having unpacked the shopping, I started making the boat look a bit more Christmassy.  I'd brought our cards with me, to fill up the shelves, and I got the battery-powered lights out.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Twelve and a Bit on test

The January edition of Canal Boat is out and, as it traditional, has a snow scene on the cover.  I rather like the more atmospheric look this year.  Anyway, the magazine includes my boat test of the Russ Hubble boat, Twelve and a Bit.

The January edition always has plenty in it, so people have something to turn to over the long Christmas break, so there's Martin's annual quiz, and a piece about Captain Ahab of Wand'ring Bark and his wife, and their Wildside Preserves business.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Moo mini cards

Now that Briar Rose has her new livery, I've ordered some mini cards from to give out so people can find the blog.  I've used moo several times, and the results are always excellent.  You upload your own photos -- so I've made these cards match the headers on the blog.  On the back, I've added a QR code, which takes you to this blog.

If you fancy some moo cards, use the link in this post, and apparently you'll get ten per cent off your first order.  As well as these mini cards, there are business cards, greetings cards, stickers, and lots of other things.