Sunday 30 September 2018

Not spring

Last night's sunset over Tixall Wide gave promise of another fine day.

In fact, it's been rather dull and grey, with the occasional bit of drizzle in the air. Autumnal, as appropriate for the last day of September. I almost felt like getting out my hockey stick again! We walked up to the café at the Canalside Farm Shop in Great Haywood for lunch.

It's in a fine setting, with a balcony / patio at the back facing the canal through the trees.

The food was standard café fare, but very well cooked. Afterwards we called in at the shop itself because they sell a range of loose frozen produce from which you help yourself to the amount you want. We took some summer fruit mixture back to Erin Mae to have with custard for dessert – yummy!

On the walk we noticed the way that NB Smine was tied up.

It obviously isn't a normal "spring" arrangement, but perhaps it has the same effect. They'd used it at the stern as well.

The fact that the line runs through the eye at the end of the chain, rather than being being fastened to it, presumably allows for a bit of bounce, while still providing something of the control that a spring gives. Perhaps I'll try it with Erin Mae sometime, to see what the overall effect is.

Meanwhile, the cold and wet has given me an excuse for doing nothing to further the varnish project on the stern rail. Snug and warm inside with a good book has been the order of the afternoon.

Saturday 29 September 2018


Readers may remember that I was really worried about tackling metalwork painting on Erin Mae, but that so far it has gone pretty well. What I hadn't expected was difficulties with the woodwork.

I've been varnishing the rail at the stern, and most of it has been fine. But the section nearest to the camera in this shot has been giving problems. I thought I'd rubbed it down OK, but then some odd surface blemishes appeared overnight. When I came to rub it down again, the previous layer(s) didn't come off cleanly.

I'm trying to work out what the issue is. Perhaps the original or some subsequent coat of varnish wasn't put on well. Perhaps the overnight dew is causing problems – the days are not hot but the sun is bright and humidity doesn't seem high. I'm thinking that I'll have to go back to bare wood, but I haven't had to do that with most of the rail, just this first section on the right-hand side.

The photo above also shows the damage that happened to one of the pram-hood fasteners years ago, as we were coming down the Ashton flight into Manchester. The current at a bend took me into a wall, and I was extremely upset. Thinking back, it felt the same as when we lost the side panels in the wind last week. Two weeks ago, returning from our trip up the Shroppie, I was trying to manage Erin Mae as we came out of a lock, so that my best beloved could hop back on as I emerged from the bridge hole. What with wind, current and lack of attention, I damaged the equivalent fastener on the left side of the boat.

I was annoyed, but not devastated (that would come later when we lost the panel it held in place!). I rang Keith Wilson, and he put a couple of fasteners in the post. Unfortunately they have so far not arrived at Great Haywood PO – and this was two weeks ago. However, we shall meet him in Great Haywood this coming week to discuss replacing the lost panels, so hopefully he'll bring a couple of fasteners with him.

Meanwhile, it's back to rubbing down the woodwork…

Friday 28 September 2018


Well, here's the second coat of varnish.

There were fewer bugs and bits of dust than I feared, so I gave it a very gentle rub down with 320 grade paper before today's coat. I found the easiest way, and best for my back, was to do sections starting by the control column, so that I could rest my left hand on the rail as I moved around. Looking out this afternoon from Erin Mae's interior to the sunlit back deck I can see all sorts of things in the air that I hadn't noticed earlier. So there might be bits of debris for tomorrow's final rub down – we shall see. But I doubt there's anyway you get a perfect surface when painting or varnishing a boat out of doors, at whatever time of year.

In spite of the sunshine there's been a real nip in the air, so I've had the fire gently going for most of the day. It's been really nice to have the combination of fresh air from the open side-hatch and the warmth from the fire. My best beloved also prepared some most delicious home-made soup and soda bread for lunch. We are well content!

Thursday 27 September 2018

Not going home

Keith Wilson indicated that he's due in Great Haywood on Tuesday, so that's when we need to be back in the marina for him to measure up the pram hood cover for new side panels. This meant we could turn left at the junction and head down to Tixall Wide (again!) to enjoy the environment and do some maintenance.

I'd been trying to ring Harworth Heating, who know all about stoves like Erin Mae's Squirrel. Tying up at Tixall I finally had a signal strong enough to do so. The issue was that the exploded diagram of the stove I downloaded from their website shows a couple of washers to be used when changing the glass, as I did last week. But the person I spoke to couldn't see them on her diagram at all, and even said that the part number shown was not on their system. Eventually it transpired that two diagrams, both presumably supplied by the manufacturer Mørso, had conflicting info, one with the washers and one without. A fitter who happened to be in their office said not to worry about them, so I won't. I just don't want the air conductor (which I had mistakenly referred to as a baffle) to fall off!

This afternoon's warmth provided good conditions for varnishing the wooden rail on Erin Mae's stern, so I set to with sandpaper and brush. There didn't seem to be many insects around or dust in the air, but the new surface looks spotty in the evening light. I'll rub it down in the morning, get a second coat on, and see if that does any better.

Meanwhile this is a good place to moor up, very peaceful, with a red sky promising a nice day tomorrow.

Wednesday 26 September 2018


We moored up last night about half a mile short of Haywood Lock, overlooking the Shugborough estate. We've often dropped in there for coffee, or to stroll around the house or grounds. Today, whatever your sociopolitical predispositions may be towards big country houses, it looked splendid in the morning sun.

By the time we got there it was half-way between coffee time and lunchtime, so we had not just coffee and cake, but one of their home-made tomato and basil sausage rolls as well. It was scrumptious!

As visitors to Shugborough Park will know, there are various follies and towers dotted around the grounds, mostly inspired by Thomas Trail's visits to Mediterranean parts in the early 18th century, and financed by his brother George's plundering of Spanish ships laden with gold from the New World. In our previous wanderings there were one or two of these architectural wonders that we'd never located, in particular, the Lanthorn of Demosthenes. Since it was an excellent day for a walk, we determined to find it.

Demosthenes was a statesman and orator of ancient Athens and, among other things, ran a Theatre. The edifice on which this was modelled is the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates, which you can read all about yourself. The version at Shugborough appears to be missing most of the tripod which should sit on top, to support a flame-carrying bowl. Since such a tripod and bowl appears to have been the original monument's raison d'être, this is a bit of a pity, but perhaps the National Trust are doing something about it. They've certainly been hard at work in the interior of the main house since we were last here, creating an exhibition space celebrating the lives and work of the Trail brothers.

Walking to the Lanthorn, we passed Hadrian's Arch on its hilltop, so visited that on our way back.

Probably when they built this, you could see the house down in the valley. The trees that have grown in the intervening years obscure the house and the arch from each other, but both the arch and the view are impressive.

It was hot walking today, and we were glad to get back to Erin Mae and have a cuppa. But the sunshine meant we got a load of washing dry and that I shan't need to run the engine to charge the batteries. It's quiet on this stretch this afternoon.

Tuesday 25 September 2018


To the boater, Spode normally means a stretch of the Trent and Mersey between Rugeley and Kings Bromley. The canal passes Spode House, which was linked with the Spode family of pottery fame. Then, coming towards Rugeley, you enter a narrow stretch which, inconveniently, has a bend at one end so you can't see what might be coming the other way.

There's only room for one boat and, unlike the narrows near Autherley Junction, there are no passing places. So, if you're fortunate enough to have a crew member, they get off and go to check all is clear – or to have a chat with the crew member of the oncoming craft.

Once through the narrows, you come to the Spode long-term moorings – here seen looking back from Erin Mae, with the bridge from which we had emerged in the background..

Normally, at this end, there is an odd life-sized figure on the bank, and I thought I'd take a photo of it as we passed. But it wasn't there! It's been in the same place every time we have come this way, until today. However, 100 yards further on we found it.

The figure is holding some sort of light. Its gender is indeterminate, and I can't decide whether it's meant to be a witch, or Scrooge's associate Jacob Marley, or simply an old person in their night attire. And why it should have been moved to someone else's plot 100 yards along was not at all clear. Perhaps the people who moor here take it in turns to host this character. It did strike me today that it might be one of Tolkien's blue wizards that we discussed yesterday, a little lost and trying to find his way home.

So much for Spode. There are unfriendly moorings on the towpath side – a concrete edge and no rings. You never see anybody moored up there. But today, for whatever reasons, there was a flotilla at anchor as we neared the end where the canal turns sharp right through a bind bridge hole towards the Ash Tree pub.

Monday 24 September 2018

Blue wizards

Following yesterday's post and Kath's comments about the colour of NB Mithrandir, I tried to remember whether there was a blue wizard in Gandalf's order. On a page in the Tolkien Gateway website I found that there were, in fact, two.
"Alatar and Pallando, also known as Ithryn Luin, the "Blue Wizards," went into the East and do not come into the main tales of Middle-earth."
The webpage gives a little further info about them, for those who might be interested in such things. We are not told whether, like Saruman and Gandalf, they acquired other names among men and elves. I doubt whether I shall find a narrowboat named "Alatar" or "Pallando", even a blue one to match the wizard.

Well, today we definitely did not go into the East. Somewhat prosaically we have sauntered back in a sort of north-westish direction to territory we are well acquainted with, in the hope of eventually arranging with Keith Wilson to have our pram-hood restored to its former glory.

Sunday 23 September 2018


J R R Tolkien had an extraordinary talent for naming. There are countless words and names in Lord of the Rings, in one of the languages he himself invented, which, once you have assimilated them, never seem anything else than utterly appropriate for the object or person in question. At Fazeley, for an enjoyable weekend with other members of the BCF, we came across this boat.

Mithrandir is an Elven name for Gandalf, which translates roughly as "Grey Pilgrim", "Grey Wanderer". It's not used a lot in the book(s), but both as a description of Gandalf and on the tongue it feels perfect. The first syllable "mith" means grey, and is also found in the word "mithril" – the silver grey metal of which was made the coat of mail that Bilbo was given, and which he passed on to Frodo.

Why, therefore, NB Mithrandir should be painted blue is a mystery! But it is yet another to add to my collection of Tolkien-themed boat names, which has now grown by three this year.

Arwen Evenstar
Bilbo Baggins
Earls of Rohan
Frodo’s Dream
Lord of the Rings
Many Meetings
Riddles in the Dark
The Arkenstone
There and Back Again
Tom Bombadil

Saturday 22 September 2018


Having got the new glass for my fire in place, I was very pleased to get a fire going, after a few days without. All went well for the first half-hour, but then I noticed it was getting difficult to see the flames – the glass was blackening up on the inside. I'm used to cleaning soot off, so the next day I got out the cleaner spray. Nothing had prepared me for what I found on the glass.

It was covered in a bituminous deposit that the spray didn't touch, not even with a hard scrub with paper towel, cleaning cloth or nylon scrubber. It seemed like volcanic rock! In the end I took a Stanley knife to it and managed to cut pieces off, scrape by scrape.

I've been trying to think where it came from. The obvious source was the smokeless fuel, but this was from the end of a bag of Supertherm which had given no trouble before. The only new thing introduced to the fire was some copper grease I used in the holes for the screws holding the glass in. But there was nowhere near enough of that to have created this mess.

Eventually I had cleared about half of the deposit before we really wanted to have the fire going so I left the rest to another day. My chief worry is not the time expended, but that I might be leaving scratches on the glass that will make it more susceptible to breaking.

However, this weekend we are at Fazeley for a BCF get together. Peter of NB Sonflower assures me that (a) the deposit has definitely emerged from the fuel, and (b) it will eventually burn off if I get the fire running hot enough. If he's right, great. But I hope I don't burn out the sitting area doing so!

Thursday 20 September 2018


Yesterday, as many will know and some will have experienced, was windy. Very windy. Not ideal conditions for taking a narrowboat out and about. But today was expected to be wet. Very wet. And we had to be at Fazeley by Friday. We had a choice – wet, windy or both.

Of course, if I hadn't broken a filling, or we hadn't decided to go south to get it fixed, and arrange for a haircut for my best beloved, etc, etc, we could have set out earlier and simply found some quiet spot to hole up for a day or two. As it was, we had a limited time-frame. So when yesterday's rain had relented and the worst of the wind was supposed to be past, we left our berth – around 4 p.m. I managed the tricky business of getting out of the marina fairly well – the wind is always in the most complicated direction! Then we set out down the Trent and Mersey, to get at least a couple of hours in before nightfall. Once we were travelling, the wind was manageable. But around Little Haywood, disaster struck.

We always collapse the pram hood canopy when on the move – it folds forwards very neatly. To do so I remove the side panels, fold them and put them on Erin Mae's roof weighted down with three spars that I "just happen to have". The wind was flicking at the edges of the panels but, as we were passing a few moored boats, a strong gust blew them off the roof and into the canal. I put the engine in reverse immediately, hoping to be able to fish them out of the water, but they were sinking rapidly. As any boater knows, having your engine hard in reverse when there's clutter in the canal is a recipe for getting all sorts of things tangled round your prop, so as we came level with the sinking panels, I had to go into neutral, and then reverse back gently to where we thought they were. But twenty minutes of fishing with a boathook produced no results, and in the end we concluded they had gone – probably to catch round some other boater's prop at a later stage.

Having the pram hood cover fitted had been a great decision. It had provided both protection over the stern from the sort of weather we've had today, and a extra degree of security. I was concerned that we would not be able to replace the panels with the same material, but when I rang Keith Wilson today he implied that it might be possible. It all means that after our weekend at Fazeley we will need to return to Great Haywood straightaway and arrange with him times and places for measuring and fitting this new set of clothes.

I was extraordinarily upset yesterday about it all. It felt as though something very special had been irrevocably spoiled. But then I thought of so many going through real trauma. For goodness' sake, I chastised myself, how does this misfortune compare with a dozen situations you can read about today on the BBC website? Death, disease, bereavement, torture, the effects of the wind in the Philippines and America – how can losing a pram hood cover compare with such things. Of course, it was my calamity, which is bound to make a difference. But it's good to get things in perspective.

Monday 17 September 2018


This morning I took to our local garage our malfunctioning car engine (along with the rest of car, of course). That was when I discovered I would have to pay an extraordinary amount just to have it tested on the special diagnostic machine. All to do with the extraordinary cost of the machine, apparently, but not what I was expecting. I have good reasons to trust this particular service centre, so I bit the bullet. While the driver ran me home (part of their service) we discussed the evolution of engines, comparing the one in the car to Erin Mae's Isuzu 42. He was well-informed. He even knew exactly what it was like for some friends to help me change the engine in the Triumph Herald I had in the early 70s.

Later the garage rang to say that one of the pipes linked to the turbo was split – the origin of the whooshing noise we'd heard. They'd also found a coolant leak from the temperature sensor – one of those situations where the replacement part (an O-ring) costs peanuts but the time to change it costs about 100 times as much. Oh, it all makes work… It doesn't make any sense not to do the work, of course – it would eventually result in a failed MOT.

Later again they rang to say there had been a problem with the computer inventory and they couldn't complete the work today. So while we were expecting to get back up to Erin Mae mid-morning tomorrow, it will now probably have to wait until after lunch, too late by the time we get there to set out towards Fazeley. Meanwhile, I'm left to ruminate on how much more than expected I'll be out of pocket. Perhaps it still won't be quite as much as I'm going to have to fork out for dental treatment in November.

Nevertheless, adding to what I said on Thursday – double ouch!

Friday 14 September 2018

Hand protection

My best beloved's hands are normally protected from the risks entailed in paddle-winding and handling line operations by a nice pair of sailing gloves. Unfortunately, when we passed through Norbury Junction a couple of weeks ago, they were inadvertently left in the toilet / shower block, alongside the secondhand book pile she'd been perusing. The immediate consequence was no doubt delight for some other boater who thought they were no longer needed. The longer-term consequence was unsightly damage to the epidermis of my best beloved's pinkie.

Canal chandlers don't tend to stock gloves, so we've taken advantage of being in the south to drive over and visit the chandleries in Lymington, where the yachting fraternity has regular need of such items. The type she had before seemed to be very over-priced so, for the moment, she's settled on a different one which we hope will serve.

Time will tell whether the fabric and the stitching survives the expected wear and tear, or whether we'll have to replace them again. They look very good at the moment. BCF members will have the opportunity of inspecting such damage as may have accrued when we meet up at Fazeley next weekend!

Thursday 13 September 2018


As planned, we drove south yesterday so I could see the dentist this morning. Shortly before our scheduled break at Cherwell Valley, the car dashboard flashed up a warning I'd never seen before – Engine Malfunction. Worrying or what!

We've been experiencing a sort of light whooshing noise from the engine when under load, so I was going to get the garage to look at it during the annual service in November. We shall see whether it has something to do with whatever fault the on-board diagnostic system is detecting. After our coffee break the warning had gone, but I drove the rest of the way at 60 rather than 70.

I'd hoped the garage would be able to look at it today, but they can only see it on Monday, so we're here for the weekend. I'm hoping it won't be quite as expensive to fix as the dentist's quotation for the work she's going to do once we're home for the winter. Ouch!

Tuesday 11 September 2018

Seeking the lost

One of the notable things about Erin Mae's Squirrel stove is that it can be completely dismantled – though I have never tried to do so. Every part comes off, which makes it easy to repair should something go wrong.

We noticed earlier this year that one bottom corner of the glass in the door had fractured. The diagonal break was clean and didn't look as though it would allow noxious gases to escape, so I left it to an opportune moment. But a few days ago the other bottom corner also fractured and last night the glass as a whole came out. I put it back together for last night's fire, trusting our carbon monoxide detectors to raise any necessary alarm, but today dismantled the door preparatory to changing the glass. The door just lifts off its hinges, and I took it to the back of the boat to remove the screws that hold the glass in place.

They came out relatively easily so I cleaned out the holes. To blow away the dust I held the door outside – and forgot that bit about Squirrel stoves coming to pieces. The baffle (shown out of position in the above photo) was no longer held in place by the glass-retaining screws and promptly fell out, down on to the pontoon, and splashed into the water.

Now Squirrel parts are not only easy to take off, but also very expensive. So instead of simply bemoaning its fate, I got out my Sea Searcher magnet and starting trawling along the marina bed alongside the pontoon. In less time than I could have hoped, I'd recovered it, covered in silt from the bottom.

This is not the first time I've had occasion to be grateful for the Sea-Searcher that came with Erin Mae when we bought her. I was so pleased I thought it was time to have another search for the car-roof magnet that I'd lost some weeks ago while working on the window we were re-siting. I worked out roughly where the window would have been positioned, started trawling and in just two minutes had located it. So different from the fruitless half-hour when it was first lost. As the photo shows, it has acquired some staining, but apart from that is perfectly OK.

Not only seeking, but saving the lost!

Monday 10 September 2018


TMS might well stand for Too Many Steps, or The Most Seconds. Needing to be back at home base by tomorrow evening, and seeing the weather forecast for tomorrow, we ended up doing the whole distance from Cross Green to Great Haywood – 18 miles, 12 locks, 10 hours travel. Might have taken a little less time if we hadn't been in one or two queues for locks. As it was, it's the furthest we've ever been in one day.

But actually TMS stands for Test Match Special – BBC's coverage of the final cricket test match between England and India. We had it on the radio during the day and it was riveting and exhilarating (for those who like that sort of thing). Alastair Cook's final innings for England ending on 147, with so many records broken. And then James Anderson's two wickets in the final session, and Broad's dismissal of Kohli. If you don't know what I'm talking about then nothing I say here is likely to change that. If you do, then you'll be sharing the excitement of a very special occasion.

Today, TMS helped me through TMS. It was a day not to be forgotten.

Sunday 9 September 2018

Second breakfast

We had a long stint to do today. It started with the leg from Wheaton Aston to Brewood, which includes an aqueduct over Watling Street…

with some very imposing capitals to the supporting pillars.

We wanted to get to Brewood parish church in time for "Café Church" at 10 a.m. Coffee, croissants (or sausages), orange juice, chatter around tables at the back of the church, followed by an informal service which included a dramatised Bible reading and discussion groups during the talk. It so happens we were at Brewood for their first ever Café Church some years ago, and it was good to see the monthly experiment still working. We chatted over breakfast with Adam and Natalie who had come to talk with the vicar about planning their wedding.

We'd thought about having Sunday lunch in Brewood but the Lion Hotel seemed to have gone rather upmarket, with prices to match, and that wasn't the sort of lunch we had in mind. So we set off on the longer leg of the journey, and made it all the way down to Autherley Junction, and then up to Cross Green, tying up at the Anchor (which was the Fox and Anchor last time we were in these parts). Cuppa soup, a bit of cheese and a banana continued the fortification of the inner human en route, and we shall hope to find something suitably roasted in the Anchor this evening.

Touting for business outside the pub is a waterways trader we haven't seen before – the Candy Boat.

The butty is a sight to behold, shelves stacked with packaged sweets of all sorts, and business seemed reasonably brisk, especially with the children out on this Sunday afternoon.

Parents trying to encourage healthy eating habits were on a bit of a loser. But then, having had two breakfasts today, who am I to talk? Come to think of it, "Second Breakfast" would make a rather nice name for a narrowboat, and one I could add to my Tolkien-themed list, were someone to adopt it.

Friday 7 September 2018


Yesterday I mentioned the Anchor Inn, between the Shebdon embankment and Grub Street cutting. Coming in this direction you encounter it suddenly as you emerge from a bridge hole, so you have to be prepared if you want a photo. I was prepared, but once again had the wrong settings on my camera and had to quickly adjust. So this is not quite the picture I was planning, but it will do.

It was open as we passed it on our journey north-west last week, with people enjoying a drink at tables in the garden. But that was the only time we've ever seen it functioning, though other bloggers have occasionally mentioned stopping and enjoying the facilities. Mostly, nobody seems to understand the economics of this pub's survival, but are glad it's still going.

We've dropped our own anchor (as it were) at the High Onn wharf where we stopped last week and inserted the window I'd had out. That meant ignoring Norbury Junction and Gnosall, where we typically might have stopped in the past. But it's been nice to find a couple of different anchorages on the Shroppie this time around.

Thursday 6 September 2018

Along the way

In view of the rain promised from mid-morning, we set out from Market Drayton just after 7.30. The Tyrley five (sounds like a 60s band!) no longer hold the terror for us that they did six years ago, but the cheeky chappie you pass as you approach the first of the locks still hasn't caught anything.

At the water point at the top of the flight we tried to fill the tank, as we wanted to run the washing machine, but the pressure was minimal and we gave up after about 15 minutes. On the moorings just above the locks is NB Spirit of Phoebe, who would appear to have been a hobbit.

The rain duly came and we decided to tie up at a spot marked in Nicholson's guide as being the location of the Wharf Inn, one of two isolated inns along this stretch about whose continuing existence reviewers have often marvelled. We shall pass the Anchor tomorrow – last week as we came by was the first time we'd ever seen it actually open. But as for the Wharf Inn (not to be confused with the excellent Wharf Tavern some miles back), it is, alas, now merely a private residence (at least, that's what the notice on the door said when we went to look). It's called, unsurprisingly, "The Old Wharf" – probably a very useful name when you come to sell the property.

The wharf itself is a new mooring for us, and very nice too in the sunshine that eventually came out, though that was a little late for me to continue with any of the painting tasks I have planned. And we may not have much time for painting stops over the next few days, either. Our journey to Fazeley will need to be interrupted when we pass our marina next week – this morning's muesli interacted destructively with a rear right bottom tooth filling. We'll have to call in, pick up the car and pay a flying visit to the south coast.

Wednesday 5 September 2018

Pork pie

We heard about the pork pies from a boater coming the other way at the bottom of the Adderley flight. It was a nice day for boating, sunny but with a nip in the air as we set out from Audlem.

Astute readers will note that Erin Mae's chimney is now in place – September has struck!

Starting up the first few locks of Audlem flight we said farewell to a couple of people who had been at the folk session on Monday night. We had 18 locks to do today, so it was good to find a few boats coming the other way, sharing the task of working the gates. One of the nicest sights is of a boat emerging from the lock you are about to enter!

But what about the pork pies? There was a big box of them on sale at the top lock of the Adderley flight – home-made at the farm through the fence and absolutely excellent. Having done our 18 locks we were ready for some sustenance, so they came at exactly the right time. My only regret is that I didn't get a photo of ours before we consumed it. I suppose we also ought to regret the amount of saturated fat and processed meat product that found its way into our bodies – probably about a month's allowance. I consoled myself by thinking of my father, who absolutely loved pork pie!

A couple of other things of interest on our way back to Market Drayton. First, a flock of sheep with black feet and black faces.

They were all heading back towards the Cheshire boundary, so no doubt that's where they belonged, in black and white country. I suppose the breed is called "black-faced sheep" or something similar. If our friend Iain had still been with us he could no doubt have told us, being something of an expert in such beasts.

The other point of interest was NB Radagast.

That's three new boats so far on this trip for my Tolkien-themed boat name list, which hits the 25 mark.

Arwen Evenstar
Bilbo Baggins
Earls of Rohan
Frodo’s Dream
Lord of the Rings
Many Meetings
Riddles in the Dark
The Arkenstone
There and Back Again
Tom Bombadil

Tuesday 4 September 2018

More practice required

We had a great time, as usual on our once-yearly visits, at the folk session in the Shroppie Fly in Audlem last night. In addition to the usual range of instruments, one guy had a Celtic harp. A long time ago I'd thought about acquiring one of these, until I found out what it would cost. I took along my guitar and piano accordion, but it wasn't my best performance – what with the other things going on with Erin Mae I've not been doing enough practice. I played Phil Cunningham's Kimberley's Waltz on the accordion, and the hurdy-gurdy player joined in and carried on with a repeat when I'd finished. So I put down the accordion and picked up the guitar to accompany him on that. It worked very well – perhaps we'll do it again when we're next up this way.

Today we got as far north as we shall go this trip. A mile out of Audlem is Overwater Marina, where the chandlery stocks Andy Russell's Gunwhale Black.

Andy is a boat painter in the Manchester area, and his proprietary gunwale paint is excellent even if (IMHO) he should have used his spell-check for the label. I may be short of practice on the instruments, but I've been making up for it on paintbrush and roller. So we needed some more, and Overton Marina is about as far south as it is sold. It was very convenient to get a tin this way – I had to pay for delivery on the first lot when I ordered it on the phone.

So at the marina we turned around and will make our way steadily to Fazeley over the next couple of weeks, getting more painting practice as the weather and the timetable allow.

Monday 3 September 2018

Looking forward to the music

The Met Office's promises of rain were more than fulfilled at Audlem. Since Erin Mae's toilet is working fine again there was no need to find an engineer at Overwater Marina, and we stayed put for the moment. We'd have been coming back to Audlem anyway, for the folk session tonight in the Shroppie Fly.

It wasn't an entirely inactive day. Bits and bobs and interior cleaning. Once the rain stopped I went out to fix the rubber screw cover in its channel in the re-fitted window. I did the top section, but before inserting the section that covers the sides and bottom decided to provide extra insurance against water ingress through the four screw holes I'd enlarged, with some of Captain Tolley's Creeping Crack Cure. This aqueous silicone suspension is supposed to find its way by capillary action into the smallest crevices that rain might penetrate, and set to give a flexible seal. My previous experience with it is not all that positive, but I suspect I was trying to use it for gaps too large to be susceptible to its charms. Running it onto the spaces I've already sealed with Sikaflex, just to make sure, may be unnecessary but can't do any harm. I've at last been able to remove the tarpaulin from where it has been sitting ready to drop over the window. Hopefully this is now one window that is completely water-tight.

So the day has passed and the music is coming. We're looking forward to it.

Sunday 2 September 2018

Sunday solutions

We went to join with Audlem Methodist Church for worship this morning – a friendly bunch of people. In a context significantly different from our own church, I was struck by the organ pipes.

I've always thought of such pipes as being more or less monotone metallic (or wood), but our journeys on Erin Mae have quite often taken us places where pipes have been decorated in most interesting ways. From a distance, these looked rather like pieces of Wedgwood pottery.

We returned to the boat before going down to lunch in the Shroppie Fly, because we had two poo-related matters to deal with. In the first place, the towpath curse had once again struck my trainers – this time a deposit fresh this morning right outside our door. But we had further woes in relation to our own loo. Those of a delicate disposition should read no further. Since last night the pump had been refusing to clear what was in the bowl. With no resolution this morning I called Overwater Marina where we'll call in tomorrow. Workshop lead time is apparently 3 weeks, but the marina office said to ask first thing whether they'd do an emergency job. Next I checked the internet for service engineers and spoke with a very helpful guy who indicated that he might be able to drop in tomorrow if we had no alternative – but it would be expensive. He also made some suggestions about things I could try, involving wiggling brushes around, etc. I had no suitable brush, but I did have a long-handled paint-roller handle, which I thought might just boldly go…

After five minutes of wiggling, the blockage (for such it was) cleared, and we now have our loo back in service. Quite a relief!

This rather unusual Sunday afternoon, in which I retained a sense of normality by following the Formula 1 and the Test Match, was rounded off with epoxy glue, which I applied to the one of the two parts of my re-fitted window that still concerned me (the other is another slightly over-sized screw hole).

I couldn't (or, rather, didn't) do anything about the silicone placed along the inner part of the mitre by someone else, years ago. However, I wanted to make sure that that there were no gaps in the glue I'd used further out towards the apex when tightening this corner earlier, so I fed some over and into the joint where it will hopefully provide a permanent seal. It's not very pretty, but it will all look better when I replace the rubber insert in the channel, and paint over the bits of Sikaflex that have marked the red paint.

Too much excitement! We've discovered that the folk session we plan to go to at the Shroppie Fly is now on a Monday. By tomorrow night we should have recovered sufficiently to be able to thoroughly appreciate it.

Saturday 1 September 2018

All downhill

The sun had come out by the time we got to the bottom of the five locks of the Adderley flight this morning.

That corner ahead is a delightful spot to moor up if you want to remain incommunicado. There's no TV signal and no mobile signal! Last year, trying to post an entry for this blog, we walked half a mile into the village and wandered down a street, open laptop in hand, until we found a BT hotspot from some resident's wifi.

You can tell you've come to Cheshire, the black and white county. Even the cows are black and white!

Another mile, and you reach the start of the Audlem flight. We came down 11 of the 15 locks today, tying up in a spot we haven't moored before, because someone had said you get caught on the shelf.

But the rings were good, so we tried it and it all seems fine. An ideal spot to do a bit more work on the window I've re-sited. I've now put the final coat of varnish on the inside, so the curtains will be able to go back up tonight.