Friday, April 28, 2017

Plenty happening where nothing ever happens

Look at this. Can you tell where I ran out of wax polish? Of course you can. It's quite striking isn't it? That's Craftmaster for ya.

We're back in Banbury having had a very good trip down to Heyford and back. We all know it's been cold this week, but during most of our cruising it's been sunny and the countryside is looking gorgeous. Funny how we set off, just the two of of us, and ended up having quite a social time. On Wednesday we caught the train from Heyford into Oxford to see Julius Caesar. Turns out we were 2050 years or so too late of course, but there was the Bill Spokeshave play about him being broadcast to the Odeon, so we satisfied ourselves with that. Typical Spokeshave play, dead bodies all over the stage at the end and I get distracted by wondering how they get all the bloody costumes washed and ironed before the next performance.

Earlier, while we were strolling among the dreaming spires a text came in from dear old / (young actually)Mort Bones simply saying "I spy a Herbie". Well we had left the boat just up the path from her famous barque. Sadly we were out cavorting until very late, so we agreed to meet up aboard Herbie for a breakfast cuppa at 8am next morning. Even at that early hour she arrived bearing cake. What a star! We do like Bones.

Sadly, we had to depart all too soon because Rick and Marilyn had arrived to crew us back to Banbury and we needed to get there in time to plan an assault on the Reindeer Inn quiz that night. Next time Bones we'll plan a proper do.

We did alright at the quiz, but not good enough to get in the prizes. Frustratingly, the quizmeister admitted that he had planned the music round to be on 50s and 60s stuff. We would have cleaned up! But he changed his mind that day and played 90s
Indie tracks instead. Bad oh. We managed to recognise Blur, Oasis and Pulp between us which might be more than you can expect of old farts like us, but anyway it wasn't enough.

Then today came a knock on the boat and auld acquaintances from home Bob and Fran off Nb Song and Dance appeared out of the blue and so we all had tea. So our quiet "just us two" cruise had turned out to be a lovely week meeting friends. Good innit?

Tonight I embarrassed myself by tripping over a kerb outside Tesco Express and falling flat on my face on the pavement. There was a loud bang as the big bag of Kettle crisps I had just bought burst under my prodigious weight. I'm comforted to tell you that several kind young folk emerged to help this poor old bugger to his feet. I suspect that they thought I might have had one too many sherberts, but I assure you that I had not. I just tripped. Honest. The crisps were still edible but somewhat crushed.

Saturday, April 22, 2017


At last we've managed to sneak off to Herbie for a week while nobody at home was looking. Well amost nobody. Of course that Mr Schafernacker on the telly must have spotted us because the weather is due to turn cold on his instructions.

Days when we move out to the boat are always the same.

0800hrs. I lie in bed and wish I had got stuff to take ready yesterday.

0900hrs. Large piles of this and that accumulate in the hallway ready to load into the car. I look at it and doubt we'll ever get it all in.

1000hrs. I am amazed. It's all in the car and the boot isn't even full. Easy peasy. I feel good.

1005hrs. Kath reminds me of all the stuff we have to take from the fridge and appears down the stairs carrying bags of embroidery stuff, a laptop computer, and a lot of clothes on hangers. I remember we still haven't packed shoes, what seems like 50 different types of charging leads for all our gubbinses , our coats and raincoats, and two boxes of firewood. It'll never go in. I feel bad.

1015 hrs. I wedge the final item into the car's boot, sadly having to leave behind an Oxo cube we had no space for.

1030 hrs. We're on the road. Five miles from home, Kath says, "I know what we've forgotten." I turn the radio up and keep going.

1900 hrs. So here we are on Herbie. All is unpacked and stowed away. Kath is reheating the remnants of yesterday's spag bol. "What happened to that Oxo cube?" I turn up the radio and pretend to study a Nicholson's guide.

Tomorrow we head south first to Banbury, then next day to where the phone signal and the Internet and TV reception are a distant memory. They'll never catch us there. Never mind, we still have a box set of Broadchurch series 2 to watch.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Herbie’s unique gun deck revealed

You may know that you can look up a register of all the licensed boats on our inland waterways.  The list currently resides on Canalplan if you haven’t noticed it before.  All kinds interesting things can be seen there, some of them very surprising.  Who would have thought that there would be 32 boats called Hakuna Matata but only two steel narrowboats called Herbie! There’s a Herbie II and a Herbie III and a number of GRP Cruiser Herbies including a Herbie IX.  “Oi up”, I hear you say,” the title of this post says Herbie is unique, and there are two of ‘em”.  Ah, but read on for the literally incredible difference in our boat.  Yep, I do mean LITERALLY incredible.  Note this is NOT written on April 1st, it is genuine.  If you don’t believe me look it up for yourself.

Looking into the detailed record of our boat in the listing, I confirm things I spot every year on our licence application, but cannot change.  In Herbie’s dimensions section we see the following:

“Length : 15.24 metres ( 50 feet ) - Beam : 2.08 metres ( 6 feet 10 inches )”  so far, so good, but wait, –

Draft : 5.48 metres ( 18 feet )”.!!!

Blimey, no wonder we run aground now and then.  I thought we had plenty of headroom inside, but the bilges must be enough for an extra couple of decks below.  Maybe that’s where the cannons ought to go and then we could have the powder magazine in the Orlop deck like on HMS Victory.

Reading on we come to the details of the propulsion unit and it says:

“Power of 999 HP”!!

Crumbs! I reckon we should get an uprated gearbox and a bigger prop. With 18ft draft we could have a huge one then we could go water skiing down the canal.

How these figures got there I can’t imagine, although it could be that the 999 HP is a default for “not known”.  I know we are supposed to be living in a post truth society, but this takes the biscuit.

Talking (admittedly obliquely) of fakes, you might be interested in a true wildlife story.  A while back I wrote that I am woken most mornings by the call of a red kite over our house.  We’re quite used to him or her now, but we still look up when we hear his cry, because like me,  he’s a handsome devil.  Well the other day I heard it and when I looked up he was nowhere to be seen.  What’s more, it wasn’t the time of day he normally patrols over us.  Then I heard the cry again from our neighbour’s roof and I looked up to see an imposter.  Would you believe it the flippin’ starlings have learned to imitate the call of the kite!

Is nothing sacred?