Friday, January 30, 2015

Reasons to cruise to Northampton

We haven't yet decided where to cruise this year, but if the weather is favourable and we have enough time, we'd like to go back to the Nene and the Great Ouse and the little tributaries thereof. The Nene in fine weather is a lovely river, but neither of its main towns, Northampton and Peterborough are exactly tourist magnets. However, today we have found a very good reason to make a stop at Northampton.

Rick and Marilyn took us to look at the museum where they have a large section devoted to shoes and shoemaking. Very interesting, but no, that's not it. After the museum we found our way to the Malt Shovel.

Wow! What a really great pub.

Warm atmosphere, interesting beer related bric a brac, very tasty cheap nosh and thirteen well kept real ales on hand pump. I had a pint of the Phipps IPA which was as well kept a beer as you could wish for.

What's not to like? They have regular events, including live blues bands, a quiz, special menus on match days for the football team's supporters etc. and it's only a short walk from the river moorings by Morrisons.

Five minutes stroll at the most. If we do go down onto the Nene, we'll make it a must to pay the Malt Shovel a repeat visit.



Thursday, January 29, 2015

Gongoozling in the snow

At last I have something boaty to blog about. Today, because we had nothing better to do, we were in Braunston with Rick and Marilyn. Just as the snow started we were sitting cozily aboard the Gongoozlers floating cafe and tucking into one of their brilliant breakfasts. Yum!

Here's how it looked when we emerged from our feast.

Apart from the Gongoozlers we had gone to look at the dewatered canal where the CRT guys are working on lock repairs.
This is the lock adjacent to the Admiral Nelson where they were putting finishing touches to what looked like new cills for the bottom gate and also doing something or other to the bottom of the escape ladder. The poor guys looked very cold and wet, but it least it hadn't started snowing at that time.
All this canal draining of course means some boats can be left high and dry.
The canal down here is surprisingly deep in some places. Please remind me not to fall in next time we boat through.
Today was also our first chance in a couple of months to pop into Crick and visit Herbie who sits patiently waiting for our next trip. I'm pleased to report that she is fine, albeit a little chilly. Even at this gloomy time of year the solar panel had kept the batteries at 100% charge.
Now as more snow falls around Rick's house in Long Buckby we have decided to abandon our plan to drive out to the Old Olive Bush at Flecknoe for their Thursday quiz, so we have resorted to doing jigsaws. Hey ho, it's just nice to be away from home and family for a few days.
Toodle pip.




Wednesday, January 21, 2015


No not the blog. Panic ye not.

In my days at work we learned about different people’s working styles.  I can’t remember it all these days (thank goodness) but there was a category of folk called Completer Finishers. Various psychometric tests I took demonstrated what I already knew. A completer finisher I am most definitely not.  It’s all about attention to detail and I really can’t be doing with all that.  Despite all the hard graft we put into painting Herbie, I could take you now to little hidden places we missed. Only tiny and hidden mind, but I know they are there. It is the same reason why Herbie has one fresh glossy painted handrail on the port side and a rubbed down but still peeling one on the starboard side.  ( I will do that next chance honest). In any project, once I have solved the major problem and broken the back of it, my mind goes onto the next thing.  I know this is immensely frustrating to the completer finishers around me but there it is.  Mea Culpa.

Why do I tell you all this? Because today I have been struggling with something that is trying to force me to complete something in excruciating detail and I am ready to scream.  Let me start at the beginning.

Do you remember my book Jobs for the Boys?  Of course you do, I have been labouring hard not to let you forget it. Well last night I was gently chiding a friend who has downloaded it but not yet read it.  Her excuse, and it is a fair one, was that she would rather have a proper paper book, and she cant be doing with reading a whole novel off a screen.  So today I thought I should bite the bullet and sort out how to get it available in print.  In theory this is easy.  Amazon have a service called CreateSpace where you can upload your book, format it, design a cover and make it available for cheap printing on demand.  I haven't yet calculated the cost but no more than yer average paperpback.  Not bad as I (as the author and publisher) would have no up front costs.  As usually of course nearly all the money goes to them and I continue to starve in a garret, but that's another story.

Then here comes the completer finisher problem.  Their software that checks it out is mega fussy.  Page sizes, margins, gutters, fonts, file formats, you name it.  I wouldn’t mind only four times it’s told me a font isn’t embedded when according to Bill Gates or whoever it is these days in charge of Microsoft Word says it flippin’ well is.  I checked the little tick box to make it do it. Grrrrr.

To add to my annoyance I went back to the version we proof read prior to publishing the book on Kindle.  Several people have tactfully pointed out that the published version has the odd typo.  Kath reckoned most of these were introduced when we uploaded the file and converted to kindle format.  So  I checked that  today, the Kindle version against the final proof we submitted, yep, sure enough their bit of software had actually introduced errors.  I have the proof (literally) ( even that “literally” is literally - think about it).  So I don’t know why their pesky software is getting so picky with me when they are just as bad.

There, that’s got that off my chest before I go back and have another try.  Hopefully I shall prevail, then I can tell you how to get a cheapish copy of the best book I have ever written.  Just try to ignore the fact that it is at the same time the worst book I have ever written.  So far any way. A sequel is on the go.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Happy Birthday blog and a first look at Lightroom software

I notice that it’s exactly nine years ago today that I wrote the first Herbie blog post announcing that we had put a deposit on the boat.  How excited were we?

Well 1294 posts later we’re still here and still owners of Herbie.  There weren’t too many boat bloggers then.  We got the idea of keeping a blog from a chance meeting with Sue on No Problem who if she wasn’t the first, must have been damn near it.  I hesitate to guess how many posts Sue has done and how many page views she has had. We’re on well over a quarter of a million!

This last year we have done rather less blog posts, partly because we’ve done a bit less boating, but more because I’ve taken less photographs.  In that regard I have been lazy, just relying on my phone or iPad to take the odd picture rather than keeping a proper camera to hand. One of the results was I didn’t have many pictures to use for the Herbie blog, and that’s a problem because many of my blog posts are stimulated by a particular photo.

I’m not big on New Year Resolutions, but this year I do intend to do better.  One of the photography things I have been struggling with over the last couple of years has been Photoshop Elements (V.11 in my case).  I don’t really like it, and neither does my computer. It seems to keep hanging my PC and although it can help me do smarty Alec things like this,


I find it generally slow and cumbersome and not all that good at helping me find the photos I want.  Anyway, over Christmas, our son Peter was home and he gave me a demo of Lightroom, which just like Photoshop is published by Adobe.  It looked promising so last week I downloaded a one month free trial and watched the numerous tutorial videos, then had a go at doing the stuff I need to do.  I like it so much more than Elements.  Granted it lacks the fancy layers stuff that Photoshop has but I hardly ever used, but Lightroom is much quicker, much better at finding pictures. I can ask it to find me a picture of Kath that I took in Tring cutting with my Lumix camera  in 2008 and stuff like that. Its also really quick and easy to do the things I actually need like improving how my photos look.  Hardly any photo makes it to the blog without a bit of tweaking.  Things like lightening up shade and getting more detail in skies, straightening building perspective, and getting rid of intrusive lamp posts and telephone wires.  Photoshop can do that stuff, but nowhere near so quickly.  I suppose most of all I like Lightroom’s interface and find it a lot more intuitive.  Of course there is a lot more really clever stuff Lightroom can do too, but for now it does what I need.  The downside of course is that it costs nearly £100, and there are free bits of software that do quite a bit.  I’m going to keep playing and make my mind up at the end of the 30 day trial.

Monday, January 05, 2015

It never rains but it pours

It’s a good job we’re not out on Herbie lately ‘cos I wouldn’t want her to experience the run of bad luck we are having at home. Everything seems to be breaking.  How’s this for a list:

Just before Christmas our freezer stopped working – luckily under guarantee and now fixed

then since Christmas, all of the following

One of our loos (yes like M Lautrec we have two) stopped flushing.  I managed to fix that by making a new valve flap in the syphon lift pump

Our rotary washing line pole broke in the strong wind (now five inches shorter)

Our microwave started acting up so we got a new one

Our fridge (OK it was 20 odd years old) packed up, so today we ordered a new one.

What next? I wonder.