Saturday, April 14, 2012

Spring 2012 London trip – Day #13

We started the morning by assisting Linda through Kings Langley lock as I suspect this lock in almost Linda aboard Earnest leave Kings Langley lock impossible to work as a single handed boater due to excessive leakage through the bottom gates that make the top gates very difficult to open unless you can apply force to both gates at the same time. We waved farewell to her and then set off northbound ourselves. The locks were all with us, due to no other movement this early in the day and having had all night to empty themselves, until we reached Apsley. The first lock was full to weiring level and whilst checking to ensure no southbound boats were round the corner I spotted a pair of boats ascending the next lock ahead of us. We are not sure where they went because by Apsley top lock there was no evidence of any boats travelling in front of us. Above the top lock here Graham found a message in a bottle floating about in the IMGP3495 detritus that gathers above the top gates. We opened it up and it contained a treasure map that sadly has no Pirate identification upon it. Shame! We are unable to find out whether they want to split the booty or even need rescuing from brigands. I think I may try and use Facebook to find the Pirate who created this map. After Fishery lock we found the rest in our favour and had a smooth run home to Bourne End.

We have had a really lovely ‘summer holiday’. We’ve not been more than two hours car travel from our house, but since we decided to become tourists we have enjoyed it all as if we’d been abroad. We’ve eaten exotic foods, met interesting people and heard so many different languages; but the good old British weather has kept us guessing. Vive la staycation. And finally, for the first time in over 30 years, no cats to welcome us home ;^(


Friday, April 13, 2012

Spring 2012 London trip – Day #12

What a lovely day weatherwise!

We set off from the Coy Carp just in time to find two boats descending Coppermill lock and leaving it in our favour. We, again, passed through every lock solo today although while we eat our lunch moored below Cassio Bridge lock we espied another Northbound boat approaching so asked them if we could share the Olympic waterbuslock with them. “We are just winding below the lock” came the reply. Is it us? Do I need to shower a bit more often?

We had stopped for gas, diesel and a pumpout at Bridgewater boats and had witnessed the first of the Olympic water-buses being craned into the water at the P&S yard. It then filled with diesel, once we had vacated the wharf, and set off towards London. It was the first of 15 we were told. Maybe they are what all the empty mooring pontoons at Limehouse basin are for.

Passing up through Cassio bridge lock we found a grey boat Inconsiderate mooring moored up on the lock landing with his nose partially blocking the lock exit. It was a good job that the new widebeam waterbus was heading South and not North.

As we ascended Iron bridge lock in Cassiobury park the usual gaggle of on-lookers gathered. Two young mothers with their kids stood lockside. A child asked “ Mum, why is the water going up in that thing?” The mother looked at her friend and said something like “how the duck should I know!” She then turned to her child and announced, very confidently, because the man said so!  The child was happy with that explanation. No need to teach physics in our schools any more then.

We continued on through Cassiobury park to Kings Langley where we found Linda on Earnest (Yes, that one) moored up above the lock so we moored up adjacent to her and should have a micro-GiG tonight once she’s been for her evening meal.

Restaurant revue for Woody’s vegetarian establishment at Apsley from Linda  – a limited menu of mainly crepes and pizzas with two specials, it was very busy lunchtime and evening with a great atmosphere and good service at about average prices. Very good for an organic establishment. Linda had received a recommendation from another boater and would heartily recommend it to anyone else.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Spring 2012 London trip – Day #11

T’was a cold night, so we were pleased to set off this morning in bright sunshine although heavy and cold showers were forecast as the day went on. We made good progress so decided that we’d take a trip up the entrance to the Slough arm Slough arm – new territory for Jannock. As we made the turn into the arm,  urban canal turned into something much more rural. The sides are too shallow to consider mooring before the first winding hole but then the proximity of the M25 means most peeps are unlikely to want to do so anyway. After this point the banks are good and the edges dredged to mooring is not an issue. We winded after bridge 9 as we wanted to make Coppermill tonight so we didn’t go all the way to the terminus. I went inside to make lunch just as the first shower of the day passed overhead. Graham was amused as a pedestrian making his way along the towpath with umbrella up was surprised by a very close clap of thunder, he then questioned the sense of holding a metal object above his head in a thunderstorm, closed the brolly and rapidly headed back the way he had come. Graham made good use of his new(ish) short boat hook by retrieving some items we had passed, floating in the canal, on our way up, a bucket and a screwtop plastic pot complete with lid.

On our return to the mainline all went well until we arrived at Denham deep lock. I took Jannock into the sharing a lock with ducks lock and Graham noticed a mother duck and seven ducklings swim in behind. He alerted me so I kept the boat well back and over while he filled the lock as slowly as possible. So far so good until the stupid mother duck decided that the level had risen sufficiently for her to jump up onto the lockside. Her babies went crazy, calling for her as they were unable to make the jump or even see her from within the lock. She came to the side and called but they were unable to get up the wall no matter how hard they tried. Then a drake flew in and decided he fancied his chances of procreation. Mother duck was not interested but he was determined. We could see that she was likely to be drowned during his attempts so Graham chased him off. A dog walking family arrived lockside and were a little upset to find Graham harassing ducks so we had to explain the scene. At that point Jannock started moving across the lock such that the ducklings were sure to get squashed.  The dog walking lad took a rope to hold the boat back whilst mum and daughter shooed the ducklings to safer waters. Mother duck recovered her dignity, remembered her parental responsibility and jumped back into the lock. It was full by now so we took Jannock out expecting her to bring her brood out after us. Oh no! The mother duck then jumped up onto the top beam of the bottom gate and all her ducklings followed her. She then jumped down the  11 foot to the lower level where she’s started out from. The babies went frantic again, one had the courage and took the leap after her but the rest just stood on the bottom gate and cried. There was no way they could climb out of the lock and they wouldn’t swim away from mother and out of the open top gate. The dog walkers couldn’t get to help them either. As we left a Southbound boat arrived so we explained about the distressed stranded ducklings on the bottom gate . They went into the lock slowly and seemed intent on rescuing the ducklings. While all this was happening the heavens had opened and we had got drenched – thanks mother nature, you certainly took your eye off the ball.

A little further on, and in glorious sunshine again, two lads of about 13 were happily feeding a couple of moorhens and swans. They waved and assured us that all was right with the world as there was nothing better than feeding swans on a beautiful sunny afternoon. We gritted our teeth as we passing still dripping from the drenching. Their dad added that during the little (huh! deluge) shower they had just nipped inside his boat.

Blackjacks Millhouse Widewater lock was set for us, just as well as the lock landing was full of moored boats visiting the pub there. We were aware of a boat following us so we waited, and waited, then turned the engine off and waited some more. Fifteen minutes later, just as Graham was walking back down the towpath to chivy them up a bit, they turned into Harefield marina. Sods law that is!

We had supper in the Coy(sic) Carp. All was well until the Desert’s menu (sic) was offered to us. We were discussing the surfeit of appostrophies when the waiter, possibly Portuguese or Spanish by his accent, came over. We’d asked ourselves why anyone would put an apostrophe in “Dessert’s”, he replied “because they are badly educated” He added that English was not his first language “but even I would never do that!” Perhaps that is why there are so many foreign waiters.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Spring 2012 London trip – Day #10

Time to go home, time to go home, Brenda and Graham are waving goodbye! (You’ll show how old you are if you know the tune to that)

We started the day by posting yesterdays blog and checking emails and found a blog comment from nb Mr David, moored just opposite us in Paddington basin asking us to wave as we went past. We set off and winded at the bottom of the basin before stopping again for a chat with David and Brenda who were just on their way out. It’s all in the timing! Nice to meet you both.

The defunct waterpoints we found last week.Off towards the waterpoint at Little Venice only to be beaten there by an east bound boat so we continued on knowing we could fill up at another before we stopped for the night. We continued on along the Paddington Arm in the sunshine with jealous office workers telling us how lucky we were before stopping at the Sainsburys store at Kensal Green to replenish ship’s stores.   As well as much needed groceries I purchased a case of Spitfire as they had it on offer at £1 per pint.

We left there just as the Terrapin and moorhens showers started – not so smug, however they were light and caused no problems as they passed quickly and I dried out in the sunshine before the next one arrived. We spotted a huge terrapin basking in the sun atop a submerged branch. It must have been dinner plate sized as the picture shows.

The weather improved as the afternoon passed by and so I washed the port side of Jannock whilst we were filling with water at Black Horse bridge. A little further on we moored for the night at Willowtree park again. Lets hope it’s as peaceful as last week.


Spring 2012 London trip – Day #9

Today the plan was ‘no plan’ and very well it worked too. Being moored opposite M&S HQ inspired me to take the short walk to M&S Edgeware Rd. and spend my Xmas voucher. We don’t have one in Thame (Only the W H Smith voucher I got for my birthday to go, we don’t have one of those either).

Our supermarket of choiceWe did a raid on the local supermarkets for some very un-local treats. We were not tempted by the camel milk, from Holland, but just had to buy a tin of corned lamb! We then took our rubbish for a walk to the skip at Little Venice and wandered back via the office blocks, a small area of green where over-priced sandwiches were being eaten by office workers in the company of annoying pigeons. (If the Tesco next to the bottom of the basin isn’t for you then there is a Sainsburys local up nearer to L.V. The basin also has a Superdrug, Carphone Warehouse and a Post Office next to it as well as all the wonderful shops on Edgeware Rd. which includes a Maplins and a very useful olde w orlde ironmongers for emergencies – like when your corkscrew breaks)

It was decided that we should try at least one local pub so after our lunch on board we went to the Royal Exchange in Sale St. Two hand pumps (both in use), a nice cider and the food menu looked rather good. What we saw and smelled was very tempting – going for an English? Worth a try. It’s almost a theme pub, horse racing.

Edgeware road was our choice for tonight’s meal. We decided on the an electric Hummer?Fatoush (Express), one of two, Lebanese. Here we had the best meal of our trip so far. We’d  picked up a menu from outside their door a couple of days ago so made up our minds before we arrived. Only one course as it was early and we had plans for later. We chose the mixed grill with a side salad and a pot of mint tea. All freshly made to we had to wait a bit (not sure where the Express bit comes from?) The salad arrived, big platefuls, and after a while the grill arrived with even more salad and bread and pickles and sauces. Fuschia pink pickled turnip is just wierd. The salad had been a starter really. We have become so used to the practice of only having the main dish itemised and having to order vegetables as extras. (Extras – hardly) that it was a pleasant and tasty surprise. We ate our vegetables, all of them, and went to pay at which point a plate of Baklava turned up. Yum, so dessert was on the menu, as it were. As we finished the meal, the heavens opened with a thunderstorm so we took our time leaving to let it cease.

a British treasure In the evening we were due to visit the BBC at Portland Place to see the recording of a radio show and had planned to walk from Edgeware Rd. We got there fairly dry and sat next to a chap who had made the same walk due to a tube cancellation but he had experienced the full force of the storm. We enjoyed chatting to him and his lady friend while we waited. Nice to meet you!

Into the Radio theatre and an excellent show recorded in one take; Tom Wrigglesworth – a Sheffield comedian with hair – his series of ‘letters’ to be broadcast In May, 6.30pm on Thursdays on Radio 4. Catch him if you can. The rain held off long enough for us to walk back to the boat. A very good night at the end of a different day.


Monday, April 09, 2012

Spring 2012 London trip – day #8

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 

Today the weather was true to last Friday’s forecast. It promised it would be raining all day and raining is what we got. Luckily we had re-scheduled our weekend plans accordingly and so today’s entertainment was to be the “British design 1948 – 2012” exhibition at the V & A museum in Kensington.

The birthday cake she didn't buy me Due to it being Easter Monday and pi$$ing down with rain, South Kensington station and all of the museums close by were heaving as the world, his wife and family looked for indoor entertainment. Luckily most (not all) of the screaming kids were taken to the Science or Natural History museums and not the V & A. The design exhibition was a bit pricey but enjoyable none the less, showing a lot of connections that existed between various iconic designs and how a lot of designs that we thought were fresh when they were introduced to us were actually based on ideas from years before. the birthday cake she did buy me

Having survived the melee at the V & A we moved on to Leicester Square in search of a birthday lunch in a Chinese restaurant. We decided on Gerrard Corner at the top of Gerrard street.  Excellent food but the sesame prawn toasts were not up to the same standard as the Melur Malasian on Edgeware road last Friday night.

We returned to the boat having purchased some cakes from a Chinese baker for my birthday tea. Paddington basin is very windy tonight with quite high waves lapping against the hull and rocking the boat about as if we were at sea.


Sunday, April 08, 2012

Spring 2012 London trip – day #7

The theme for Easter Sunday has been Trains, Boats and Planes.

We started out with a visit to King George V lock so that Graham could see it from the land in daylight – the King George V lock last time he was here was on a TNC cruise that locked up into the dock with a collection of other narrowboats in the dark whilst sharing the lock with  HMS Grafton and associated tugs. As we crossed ‘Sir Steve Redgrave’ bridge  Landing at London Docklands(I bet he was under-whelmed with that one ;^) we watched the planes passing immediately overhead and  landing at London Docklands airport. Then it became a walking tour of the east end. We went to Limehouse and strolled around the basin admiring the yachts just like we do on more exotic holidays. Bonus of our ‘staycation’  as there were narrowboats and barges too! 

The Grapes The need for lunch led us to The Grapes where we had some good beer and food. The lunch menu was Sunday roast, pork or beef, with apple crumble, bread and butter pudding or ice cream – 3 scoops. The roast was very good served with an excellent cauliflower cheese and the best horseradish sauce I have tasted for years. Graham had what was the best bread and butter pudding we’ve come across, fragrant with vanilla, light and swimming in cream. I had ginger and lavender ice creams. As we finished, a local diner told us that Charles Dickens had lived in the building and had probably written ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ in the very room we were eating in. Revolution was in the air again as another diner was spotted with a plate of sticky toffee pudding. She was interrogated as to how she had come by it. It would appear that she had asked what was for dessert and had been offered it as one of the choices. They had forgotten to put it on the menu. The waitress returned to the room and we reminded her about the fatewalkway constructed over the river of Marie Antoinette over a few ill chosen dessert related words.

Back onto the Docklands light railway and up to Stratford to get a  good look at the Olympic site before too many tourists, sports fanatics and athletes clog up the view. We spotted why the Bow back-rivers have been closed to navigation. A section has been boarded over as it passes under a bridge in order to create an access path the full width of the waterway.

Then – off to see Westfield shopping centre just because. It was closed to shoppers and no worse for that. Not a place I would ever want to go again (If I need shops like that Birmingham beckons). Back to the tube and then the boat where there’s a cuppa and some washing to be done.


Saturday, April 07, 2012

Spring 2012 London trip – day #6


One day a year, first opportunity for either of us so it had to be the Varsity boat race tMorris dancersoday. Not the most exciting prospect on a dull morning – but it got better. Picnic packed we headed off to the Surrey bend. There was a lovely party atmosphere th ere but we decided we were unlikely to get a good view and so we crossed Hammersmith bridge and found ourselves a vantage point inside the bend, a rowing club slipway. A crowd joined us, including an 8 year old greyhound celebrating it’s birthday, and a party atmosphere came too. The pre-race race got us all excited, we enjoyed the RNLI, the Police launches and helicopters, even a Goodyear dirigible and then they were off! We Here they come could hear the boats app roaching by the ‘Mexican wave’ effect of the crowd noise on the opposite bank and then Giving pursuitthose on the bridge. They swept past with Cambridge ever so slightly ahead. And after them came a flotilla of support vessels, the press and dignitaries, and then they were gone. All over in less than a minute. So we headed back to party central on the opposite bank for a beer -  but what’s this? All the Police and St Johns Ambulance bicycle mounted staff , who had cycled back toward the start were returning. Their little legs doing 18 to the dozen towards the finish. A rumour that  all  was not well murmured. We found a TV cameraman , he’d know, so we asked. He told us that he’d just Furnival Park heard that the race had been stopped and that there were problems – but NOT to tell anyone else yet in case it was wrong. We continued our meander back across the bridge and found that tDoombar in usehe 2012 boat race had got exciting. Someone was in the water, that we had seen Police checked and safety checked, and they seemed intent on going in front of the crews. The race was stopped and re-started half an hour later. Then the two boats clashed oars, Oxford had a blade snapped off and were now the Oxford seven against the Cambridge eight. Unsurprisingly Cambridge won. We had the unusual experience of watching the boat race from both sides of the Thames – the finish being shown on a large TV screen in the Furnival gardens on the north bank. An Oxford crew member collapsed and was taken to hospital. Cambridge did the sporting thing and decided they didn’t want to be presented with the trophy there and then. No prize giving – one in hospital – one in custody  -  boat race boring? Not today! So, one and a half pints of Doombar (official sponsors of the boat race) please.

Brenda & Graham

Friday, April 06, 2012

Spring 2012 London trip – day #5

The weather forecast for the next few days dictated that our planned visit to Kew gardens must occur Kew Gardenstoday. Just around the corner to the tube, then onto Kew Gardens station and a short stroll through leafy suburbs and there it was, basking in the sunshine.

Our friend Pat from the garden centre at Waddesden Manor had advised  us to talk the one hour guided walkiIMGP3395ng tour so we signed up for one – leaving NOW!  Good advice indeed. We must have walked miles today and seen many hundreds of plants. We ate our picnic lunch in sunshine so warm that the coaIMGP3383 ts and jumpers were off and we sunbathed a teensy bit. It was a very good visit which we thought we’d round off with a pint at the station pub, but all the hand-pumps were off so we came back to the boat for a cuppa instead.

Aching feet rested a bit, we tidied up and went for supper. The Melur Malaysian restaurant on Edgeware road did us proud. Malay cuisine melds Indian, Chinese and Nonya cooking, best of all worlds. On the desert menu was ABC – a traditional shaved ice with syrup poured over. I couldn’t bring myself to order that as the British Army banned me from eating it, on pain of deportation, when I was about 9 years old. Sometimes I do as I’m told.


Thursday, April 05, 2012

Spring 2012 London trip – day #4

I was up and out at 08:30 on a very cold morning so Brenda stayed abed awhile. She delivered me a steaming bowl of hot porridge and a hot drink once she had got up, but stayed indoors herself. It was a bitterly cold North wind we were travelling into along the Paddington Arm. Having used our copy of Nich’s as a guide we planned to stop at Sainsburys twixt bridges 11 and 12 for a water-fill. When we couldn’t see the waterpoint we remembered that our old copy was also wrong when we tried to do this same action during our last visit. Just past bridge 12 there is a nice new wharf on the north bank with plush new water and electricity points installed – unfortunately they were not operational. London welcomes boaters.

We did manage to stop for water at the entrance to Little Venice. A small group of Christians were leafleting boats and invited us to attend their Easter services. Brenda explained we were not staying and was asked where we were going. She said we were boating but that was obviously not enough of an explanation. Round these parts boats are obviously not for travelling on.

paddington basin Then three gentlemen met up on the sani-station steps and started to chat. They were talking about the attempted misappropriation of one of them’s shirt. The tea-leafs reason was that it was a prison shirt and the chap would not need it as he’d be going straight from court to prison again later today. The talk moved on to the merits of sneaking out your prison clothes at the end of a stretch and selling them as ‘souvenirs’ on Ebay. Would you get caught or not?  That topic exhausted they moved onto the topic of ornithology. What was the differences between a hen harrier and a gyr falcon, how many ghost stories are really barn owl sightings and the rise of turtle dove numbers in London since the 1950s. I wonder what the lag went down for?jellybabies at Marble Arch

We moored in Paddington basin, under St Marys hospital, opposite M&S headquarters. Then we went walkies; onto the Edgware road and down as far as Marble Arch where we found these Jelly Babies.  Then a little walk as far as Selfridges on Oxford Street, but we soon got fed up with the crowds and made our way back to the boat for a cuppa. All of the Persian, Lebanese, Malay and so forth restaurants on Edgware road should keep us fed for a day or two. We’ll no doubt stock up at the ethnic grocers as well!


Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Spring 2012 London trip – day #3

A 9:30 start again, and in bright sunshine; a bonus after the overnight rain. Colder though! No complaints as it seems more northern canals have fallen trees curtailing navigation after high winds and Scotland has more snow than is reasonable for April, especially after their heat wave last week.

spring garden at Coppermill lock We moved down through Coppermill lock to fill up with water and then we joined by another boat  fresh out of paint-dock. Brenda felt like she didn’t really want to share locks – too risky for them! but we shared with them to Uxbridge where they were stopping to pick-up some parts that they had ordered – a pleasant arrangement.heron at Coppermill lock

We have entered parakeet territory after  listening to woodpeckers last evening. As we entered Southall we avoided the greening fronds of a willow tree hanging down over the canal. A west-indian boater moored just past the tree asked if we thought we didn’t need blessing. He explained that going under the willow would have bestowed blessing upon us. Graham explained that getting the bike caught in the branches would have deposited it into the cut.

We moored for the night on the Paddington Arm at Willowtree park – blessings be upon us – and fondly remembered Bill Sybley,  who passed away a short time ago, as this was one of his favourite moorings for a BBQ en-route to Canal Cavalcade. We had just made a cuppa when the rain started – it’s all in the timing you know.

Decisions, decisions – roast lamb or steak and kidney for supper? They are both in the slow cooker ready to eat. Mind you, the fab smells here abouts are making us fancy a pile of fresh samosas and some dhal.


Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Spring 2012 London trip – day #2

3rd April 2012 – Kings Langley to Maple Cross

Our overnight mooring was very peaceful being far enough away from the M25 and separated from the railway line by the blocks of flats. Grove Mill We set off at 09:30, the cold being seen off by the sunshine. There were clouds on the horizon though. As we passed yesterdays companions I was sure they’d experience more normal English spring weather today. It was a steady and un-eventful cruise, with a steady stream of northbound craft. Early afternoon we pulled into Rickmansworth Tesco. It was an emergency – I had provisioned for this trip at Majestic last week but then forgot to bring any of the beer I had carefully selected. As we left Tesco it was into the first real rain we’ve seen for a generous couple of months; we’d had a micro shower or two earlier. We moved on a little further and moored up for the night just as more rain started. A downpour, I remember them, just. It’s all in the timing. Not a long day but at least we didn’t get soaked like the crew of Hyperion who’ve just passed us heading north.


Spring 2012 London Trip – day #1

2nd April 2012 - Bourne End to Kings Langley

As we arrived at Jannock’s mooring we noticed Cutweb’s newest member, Helen aboard nb Pippistrelle, passing heading South. She said she was only going to Winkwell so we didn’t rush to join her in the lock as we needed to load up and get straight before setting off. Two hours later we cast off and also headed south, London bound. As I lifted a paddle to empty lock 59 the fisherman sat on the offside iWinkwell swingbridgeimmediately below the lock caught the largest Bream I have ever seen. He claimed that the flow from the paddles had taken his worm right into the fishes mouth.  Winkwell swingbridge is still being worked on so the Galliway contractors had to manually swing it so that we could pass through. We continued solo down to Apsley where we noticed a Black Prince hireboat moored outside Sainsburys whose crew appeared to be busy re-provisioning. As we passed through Apsley bottom lock they appeared above also heading south. I backset the lock for them and we waited at Nash Mills for them to join us. The crew were German and enjoying their trip enormously. Brenda commented to them that the weather they had experienced so far was exceptional. They were surprised as they thought that temperatures in the late teens/early twenties and clear blue skies were normal for England in March. We shared down through Kings Langley (slow fill) lock before we moored up for the night opposite the flats built where the Ovaltine factory used to be. There I managed to wash Jannock’s roof and starboard side before it got too dark.