Wednesday, 18 November 2009

After the blacking

After a very rainy couple of days - particularly on the Saturday when the dry-dock picture in the previous posting was taken. Sunday however turned out to be perfect and a phone call late that afternoon confirmed that Gleemaiden was now Glee-ming (at least from the rubbing strakes down), so would be ready for collection the following morning at 8.30am.

Jeeves has also asked me to include a picture of Biggles at the boatyard which I mentioned in the last posting - so here he is 'soclialising' with a dog that for once he didn't dare jump on or growl at. Actually this huge dog has a lovely nature and delights in playing with a squeaky toy shaped and looking like 'The Times' newspaper. Not all newspapers carry stories as sqeaky clean as this one does!

I don't usually do promotions on this weblog, but I can but highly commend the work done by Grantham Bridge Boat Services at Hillmorton (just above the bottom lock). Here is a link which takes you to Canalbreaks - their website.
The phone number is the same for boat repairs and blacking as it is for their boat hire service. Anyway they did a great job and checked other under water items such as the bow-thruster tubes and rudder skeg.

Readers who aren't boaters may also be interested in for hiring purposes - they also own and run Willow Wren which as previously mentioned was the company owned and run by Leslie Morton, who used to use the Admiral Nelson pub in Braunston as an unofficial Midlands office.

It was still a dry dock when we arrived, but slowly filling with water. Jeeves and I were amazed at the size of the rudder (all nicely blacked of course) - we hadn't seen it fully exposed since the launching.

In the background can be seen the coffer dam that keeps the water out of the dry-dock. It works on the same principle as many of those that you Will see along the cut, usually next to a bridge hole with an accompanying crane to drop in the baulks of timber. This one though is much smaller of course - as is the lift bridge that crosses the opening.

The forecast was terrible, but there was some sunshine as we left the boatyard and more as we negotiated the bottom lock, so we decided that rather than moor at Hillmorton, hoping for better weather, I would take advantage of what appeared to be quite good cruising weather for the morning. I set off a sole operative again, with Jeeves taking the car and aiming to be picked up at a bridge hole not far from the marina.

All this duly took place, with Wooster at the hellum picking up Jeeves at bridge 50 next to the Barley Mow. It eeemed to be getting blustery as I eased the boat slowly toward the bridge - no white horses on the water though (as if -ed). Jeeves told me though that the conditions at Brinklow were quite, if not severely blustery.

Well! I should have opened my ears a little more because half an hour later I attempted to swing in through bridge 39 in the usual fashion which involves a little reverse and correction for a 60' boat entering from the south.

Not so! I got her head around and went astern to head through both bridges in a nice straight line. Rubbish! a nice powered turn went horribly wrong. As soon as I dropped to forward power, the gale took hold and pushed the bows back into the cut. Worse was to follow, as being now alongside the entrance I was blown against to opposite bank by the blast.

After much scraping and swearing, we got Gleemaiden amidstream and south of the entrance again, out of the way of the wind tunnel.

This time I put the bows straight into the entrance at an absurd angle and touching the arnco. From there I was able to swing the stern around using the thrust against the rudder and by keeping the wind from pushing the bows out of the entrance once more.

Once through, with the wind coming from ahead we realised that getting into the pontoon mooring with a cross wind like this was going to involve a lot of banging - there really were white horses in the open stretches of the marina. So, we moored up at the South end and took her alongside the following day - also gusty, but we were lucky to have Neil and Ruth to help.

Thursday, 12 November 2009


Lovely day for boating, all set and no wind; but forgot to take the television aerial down didn't I? Also setting off single handed, realised that one has to manage ropes by one's self.

Pulled up nicely by the arnco at the end of the marina and uncoiled one of he centre ropes (not being silly and stepping of the the boat to do this, of course). And then having disassembled TV mast, got under way again.

Jeeves was at bridge 39 to wave me on if no traffic was offering to ram us amidships as I put the helm over to head south again.

Yes! Gleemaiden is off for a blacking and will have to bare all before the stalwart chaps at Grantham Bridge (also Willow Wren of Les Morton and David Blagrove fame).
Had I been working locks and heaving on ropes one gets quite warm in any weather; as a solo operative though on stretches with few such diversions and opportunities for exercise, the man at the 'hellum' can really get to feel the cold.

Anyway, I was only starting to lick the the ice away from under my fingernails and wishing that I could drift for a bit while I made a coffee-laced rum, when the mobile rang. I was passing under Clifton bridge with another boat coming the other way - in fact I nearly dropped another mobile phone in the cut while ducking under the bridge. You also have to dodge bricks - some chav managed to drive a car over the edge; but the canal is free of that at least.

So; 'Clifton Bridge' said I, missing the oncoming boat by inches. The golf course will be coming up shortly.

Ten minutes later another call tells me to look out for her and Biggles - so we slide into a nice strait mooring, not far from the bottom lock at Hillmoton.

Here os a picture of Gleemaiden in drydock and one of Biggle scared pantless by a large German Shepherd at Grantham Bridge Boats.

Got a brilliant e-mail from Neil and Ruth on Nerus (see blogs passim),which tells of trying times that can occur when faced with a water shortage on the cut! Neil has told of some of the odd discomforts that you might experience when waking up in you bed at this angle - I can only say that we would have found ourselves heavily entangled under the gunwale with five feet of uphill mattress to negotiate before even going to the loo along a sloping corridor (thanks for the detail Mr S).

Now here is another think - I haven't done the pictures yet, so I'll have to go and get the camera! Damn! Done that now, so on to the next posting.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Bonfire Night

Look out! Its Bonfire Night!

No bonfire, but lots of . . .

. . . well fireworks.

This has nothing to do with boating we simply weren't there - there doesn't seem to be a lot of interest from boaters in making fire and brimstone erupt around the cut or at the marina. Anyway dogs don't like them and towpaths aren't really suited to pyrotechnic displays.

So for the first time in a number of years we had a little display in our back garden. And jolly good it was too, a bit on the light side compared with the public displays, but if you really want to have some fun throwing money away in sparks, smoke and bangs, I could recommend such an evening as we had.

Just think for the cost of only five packets of cigarettes, we had about two hours of colourful if smoky entertainment without having to worry about withdrawal symptoms afterwards.
Derek and Sheila were on assited with the celebrations and Derek was a great help with the handy match and lighted taper. Derek also had a mortar type of firework which would have put the fear into . . . . . no never mind, needless to say that it was quite spectacular!

Minnie and Cain from next came to watch our shenanigans before they and their friend held quite a display of their own - some great rockets!

And Biggles tells us that both wars are over and he is quite happy to stay in bed and ignore all the noise and kerfuffle.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Biggles flies again - well sort of. . .

This is a pretty silly heading for a blog post, but I thought it appropriate as the said puppy has kept us home bound and heading to the Dog's Trust or vet with his little problems.
He has, however too much energy, even for our lengthy back garden, so he does get airborne even in the lounge room. The silly thing is that he needs to get out and go boating; but still other dogs and socialising is denied hm. Maybe next week. This is very frustrating for us as well, since we can't do any boating either - apart from a day trip or two.

Last Sunday we did actually have a magnificent trip - albeit a short one. down to Hillmorton and back. This was made especially enjoyable for the fact that our next door neighbours joined us for the outing - and even better that they are also boaters like us who had a boat built bespoke for them and lived on it for several years.

Adam, Barbara, Cain & Minnie made up an excellent crew for a day's outing and it was fabulous that I could be relieved of the tiller for a periods long enough to head up for'ad and enjoy boating from the well deck. Though mind you, Jeeves gives me that opportunity often enough when on long cruises.

The tunnel at Newbold proved to be quit a hit with Minnie; she had been anticipating our entry for some time and I'm sure that the images taken in transit show that she did. I must say that with its lighting (turned off at night of course, because of the bats who live there), make a diverting display. 'Twould be better however if failed floodlight bulbs were replaced more often; never mind, even with about 25% gone, it is still my favourite tunnel - if not the most exciting.

So, we turned at the winding hole just below the bottom lock in Hillmorton, to find a spot for enjoying the sunny Autumn weather and cracking with the barbecue - phew! had the wrong sort of barbecue fuel, which created lots of smoke for those passing by on the towpath and on the cut, but settled down to a good hot charcoal after about fifteen minutes.

The Hibachi (see blogs passim) did a marvelous job and after a satisfying lunch, relaxing as boats went by, we readied ourselves to leave.

Holding on to the last to let boats past before casting off, well! Who should heave into sight just before we thought we were clear to clear away, but - yes Nerus again! Neil quickly brought Nerus alongside and told us they had just been to Braunston, now heading back to Brinklow.

Needless to say we let go and followed in their wake back to Brinklow - a delightful journey with little traffic.

The remarkable thing being; and I am sure there will be flak from this, but pictorial evidence seems to confirm that Nerus has an admiral on the quaterdeck here and a figurehead at the what was one called the beak of the bows. Of course we boaters all call this space as the well deck and cratch!

Arrival at the port of Brinklow was rather good too - we might as well have been in convoy, sliding in through bridges 39 & 40 line astern behind Nerus and berthing minutes behind her.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

A new crew member

Glemaiden now has a new crew member who answers to the name of Biggles. The trouble is that he is still a puppy and hasn't had all his shots yet - so he is not even allowed to say hello to Poppy (the Staffie next door) or even go for a walk in the street.

To put it bluntly, midshipman Bigglesworth has not yet been aboard to see his new berth yet. After tomorrow, when the last shot is fired (into his neck again, no doubt), he will be able to socialise with other freshwater tars at the marina.

Meanwhile heaps has been happening at the Cambridge Street house, but that will be covered in another posting.
Meanwhile at Brinklow, as those who follow the other sites associated with this smashing inland lake, there have been a lot of comings and goings, but most importantly; last Saturday was the annual barbeque.

The event was a resounding success and I think that congratulations are due to all those who helped organise it - particularly the harbour masters; Andy; John; Derek and Eric. The last mentioned of course who made the night so fabulous repertoire - incredible stamina has Eric! So evidently did some of the revellers. I was told that the event didn't fold until about 0:345! And I know it was at least 0:300 when I hit the hammock - after a coffee on board Clarence.

Anyway it was another smashing tribute to the community spirit of those that have boats moored at Brinklow Marina.

Oh and here is a shot of Lyra and Andy at the barbecue - we can't wait to introduce Biggles to Lyra and others at Brinklow. On the night of the barbecue we was still confined to quaters, needing further vaccination shots and then having caught kennel cough. Anyway, it won't be long before he makes new friends.

Next posting will be mostly Cambridge Street stuff and a bit about me having a fight with a rotavator.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Autumnal colours

Ah yes! the swallows are swooping and sweeping by the boat, catching what they can as they skim the water between our side hatch and the grassy bank belonging to the meadow accross the canal.
Good Lord, how time flies: the last post was in Summer and now it is Autumn, you can see the subtle changes in the foliage reaching over the North Oxford at All Oak Wood.

What wonderful cruising weather! And of course we haven't made hay while the sun shines (although the farmers around here certainly have been doing so). Just the odd seize the moment and take her out on to the cut for an idyllic evening.
Now the reason for all this landlubbardliness is that there has been a lot of work to be done in Cambridge Street. To say nothing of the furniture being delivered after four years of being sequestered in storage. Lots of interesting dramas involved with that - but best left to the next post.

Our good friend and neighbour Steve E wrote that Gleemaiden looked all alone and neglected when he took K2 for a run; but how is this for a deserted pontoon? Everyone seems to have made the best of this Indian Summer - including ourselves!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Gardening leave

Having arrived back at Brinklow and seen off our friends, we were settling into a life of lakeside drinks and relaxation, when I got a phone call from Michael, a friend who lives in Arundel. He wondered if he would be able to visit the following day.

Initially we thought no, too short notice after our Ashby trip, but on second thoughts why not? So the following day Michael met us at the house and we trundled off to the boat for dinner. An opportunity that we are glad that we didn't miss, the weather was glorious, and so we took her out to moor on the Oxford next to All Oak woods for the night, winding at the Brinklow arm and returning the following day, as Michael had to be in Torquay the following day for an appointment. A short visit but a good one.

The following picture is a sight that you won't see very often. I have been sent ashore on gardening leave!

Well actually we are both rather busy about the house lately painting and generally doing face lift renovations for when our furniture arrives from storage. Jeeves has become a master painter, and Wooster the master gardener.

The garden might be rather narrow, but it is very long - a little bit like an allotment strip from the shed to the back wall. So I am landscaping it as such (borrowed a book on the subject from the library). Although it is a little late in the year for growing much now, but I can put in all the paths and create the raised beds for the next growing season.

It is jolly hard work though forking over all that soil and pulling out a couple of years worth of weeds - dug up a lot of potatoes though.

Some people might have heard or heard about a monologue that I rather unthinkingly treated those at our table and those around us on the subject of cats when we were dining at the Narrowboat Inn on the Grand Union not far from Stoke Bruene!! I will say no more about that tirade. (shurely had too much wine - ed).

Anyway when we got the house here in Rugby, I found to my horror that the garden was completely overrun with verminous cats. Worse than the cats themselves, was that smelly cat poo was being deposited everywhere; on the lawn and in the garden beds - what a smell!

Jeeves however has saved the day. She was leafing though a gardening magazine when she saw advertised a gadget called 'Catwatch', which had recommendations from the RSPB. So we got onto their website and after reading all the blurb about how these things work, we ordered one.

The thing is absolute magic, as it senses a cat walking in front of its eye, Zap!! We watched enthralled as several of the neighbour's cats sauntered around the corner and disappeared with a bang and a puff of blue smoke. . . . . Not really, it does work on an infrared sensor, but lets off an ultrasonic squawk that only cats don't like. We haven't seen a moggy or smelt their poo since.

Now the vexing thing is, what will the dog have to chase when we get one??

Monday, 17 August 2009

Carry on up the Ashby

Steve from K2 told me that the Ashby canal is rather shallow - he is right, it is and also very narrow in many places. The excuse for not posting an article about this cruise is lamentable though. We lost the connection for downloading pictures from the camera - Jeeves found it today (though I dare say that I didn't know where to look for it as I didn't put it there. . that is enough blaming others, ed).

Now, moving on, we had friends from Brenchley in Kent coming up to visit and wanted them to see some of the lovely Warwickshire countryside from the perspective of canal boating. I thought that Foxton might be fun, but sensible Jeeves said 'no' people don't want to do locks tunnels and staircase flights on their first and second day out, so the Ashby it was.

What smashing weather again! Clive and Delia arrived on the Friday evening after a nightmare of motorway tailbacks that had them taking nearly eight hours to do a three hour trip!

Anyway, we set off the next morning in the (correctly forecasted) lovely late summer sunshine, taking on diesel at Rose boats. Chap filling it said there must be only vapour left, but given that we took on 120 litres and hold 250, the fact that I could still see a reflection of my eye in the fuel hole would suggest that she was still slightly over half full.

Got to Sutton Stop early afternoon and went up to the greyhound for a couple of pints before making the right turn into the Coventry canal. The odd thing here was that there was a decrepit looking boat moored up at the locking bollards adjacent to the Greyhound. The p***es or 'pond life' as Andy E. would call them were having an on board and towpath get together which included full use of the BW facilities, a lot of beer and even a fire burning away on board.

The oddest thing was that the BW staff just sat on folding chairs outside the hut on the other side of the lock pound watching - you try mooring up there for a couple of nights and having a party. . . . .I don't think so somehow, probably something to do with having a licence, insurance, BSC, residential and mooring address and being easy to contact by e-mail.

Anyway, enough of that, Clive and Delia brought their delightful dog, Misty with them for the trip. She is one of the best behaved dogs we have ever had on board, took to boating like a duck to water.

The junction where the Ashby leaves the Coventry canal, is set at a very acute angle when turning right when travelling north and after passing under the bridge, you have to negotiate what was once a stop lock, but now a very narrow entry to the canal.

It is from here on that you realise what a rural countryside this canal traverses (well, winds through mostly), as I mentioned before, the canal is not only shallow, but very narrow, with overgrown towpath side and reeds and bulrushes muddying any definition of a bank or indication of where water becomes dry land.

We decided that our overnight stop would be at Hinkley, where there are pubs, shops and Trinity Marina on the canal - really the only town as such that actually borders the Ashby canal.

We didn't have much joy at all in obtaining a mooring in fact until we got to the large complex adjacent to the Trinity marina. Also encountered very rude and pushy boater when trying to moor up before this point. There was one spot left for a sixty footer just adjacent to bridge 17, and the chap moored in front of us was most informative, telling us that neither he nor anyone else bothered paying the £5 visitor mooring fee, so neither did we.

I wonder if that would work on at Llangollen?

The next day, Clive and Delia did a recce on the Trinity Marina - we were told by our helpful neighbour the night before that it was alright to wind there (as marina residents they should know). Clive said there was heaps of room, so off we went on the return bit.

With no wind and millpond conditions the Ashby really did live up to it's reputation as an idyllic and rural canal.

Passing other boats at bridge holes and when the canal was narrow enough without having permanently moored boat on the canal side were the only problems faced.

The idea was to go back through Sutton stop and moor up at Ansty for the night having a barbecue. Then returning down the Oxford and maybe going past Brinklow to Newbold or Hillmorton, before returning.

As we approached Sutton Stop and the chimney of the old engine house hove into view, we saw an excellent mooring spot (Just as I had nearly passed it, of course). So, full astern and helm over, stopping broadside to the boat in from of the space. As we slowly came astern, and edged in closer, Jeeves accosted some young men walking their dog. They were delighted to catch the centre rope and pulled heartilly until Gleemaiden came alongside with the minimum of fuss. If you ever read this guys, thank you very much!

Yes we did have a barbecue on board that night - and I don't think the smoke and cooking smells impressed the wife of the boat owner behind us, but he was friendly enough. A good night was had by all of us really.

Weather the following day, nasty low cloud and ensuing rain. Have to move on though, so on go the water proof jackets and Breton cap. A pretty uneventfull and rather misty trip back to Brinklow, although the Oford was crowded with traffic coming toward us - nearly hit one twerp, but missed by inches!

It was during this part of the voyage that Clive got the hang of being steerer, in fact so much so that he kept insisting that I needed a break quite frequently! I did and enjoyed the breaks, though would have done so more so if I could have lounged around on the forrard deck drinking coffee!

Shortly before the long straight which ends at Rose Narrowboats, Jeeves said:

'That looks like 'Nerus' coming toward us'

'Rubbish!' I replied, straining my eyes through the misty drizzle.

'It is,' She cried as we drew closer, going at tick over past all the moored boats on this section.

Sure enough, it was! As we passed, we made lots of hellos to Ruth and Neil, tried for conversation, but couldn't stop because Nerus was being followed by another boat on this busy Monday canal.

Got back to the Marina in plenty of time to fill up with water sort all post cruising issues and enjoy a lovely meal at the White Lion in Pailton, before Clive and Delia decided that an evening start for home might obviate any morning traffic hassles - hope they will come for another cruise. Next time it will be locks and tunnels!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

A short cruise

Well, not really, we took the boat all of about 500 yards to the pump out point and back again yesterday, and yes I know that I promised at the beginning that I would not write of such banalities, but what can you say - I know that die-hard cruisers go out in all weathers, but perhaps we are not of that ilk.

There have been many other distractions as well, with the finalising of our house purchase in Rugby (the course of which did not go well, but after a stressful time concluded satisfactorily). What followed of course was a lot of tidying up, moving in of stored items of furniture and belongings etc. There is an incredible amount of paperwork, changing of address etc involved with this.

I am glad to say though, that mail situation is much better now that we have moved from a post office box to a street address - I did rather enjoy having a BT line to the boat though (a bit of a luxury for when we were alongside). BT didn't think much of it though, and I could never get a broadband connection there for some obscure reason. I continued to and still use the 3G+ system.

This latter has its ups and downs for example, a short time ago, I hung my dongle out of the window only to have Tally, Shila and Bandit lick the thing soggy, before I could get it back in through the dinette(!) window.

The subject of retrieving stored items reminds me of another adventure, where we went up to Belper in Derbyshire to fetch items that were kindly stored by David and Doreen Cashmore (NB Beaurepaire - see blogs passim). Of course there was far too much to pile into the hatchback Megane, so David lent us his LD Discovery to transport everything back in one go.

It isn't that I haven't driven Land Rovers before (I've owned three of them), but my gammy foot was playing up and wearing sandals instead of proper shoes - heaven forbid, I might have been wearing flip-flops! S0, the first ten miles of the trip were a nightmare of missing the clutch, hitting the brake pedal with the wrong foot and then having the said sandals catching on the floor. All this was also rather painful, so once in fifth gear and trundling down the M1 at 80, I decided to rid myself of the port side sandal and chucked over to Jeeves in what would have been an admiral Rugby pass. After this things improved markedly and subsequent visits to the house, garden centres etc went very smoothly.

Even to the extent that Jeeves no longer has a prejudice against 4 x 4s (well Landrovers anyway), and wants one. . . . as do I. You see from this that to win over the heart of a gentleman's gentl - no, lady, is the capacity of the vehicle to transport goods purchased in garden centres. In this example it was a tree and . (I think you've gone far enough with this subject - ed).

Pictures? Well, there aren't any this week apart from this one of Jeeves and a view of the back garden. Nobody really wants to see a picture of the pump out procedure do they? I do have one on file, of course.

Again, the Met has forecast good weather for the coming four or five days, which is smashing news and will be capital if, for once they get it right, because our friends Clive and Delia Taylor are arriving on Friday and we are looking forward to some excellent boating. Now, which way shall we head???

Friday, 17 July 2009

A normal week

The weather has been a bit odd lately, but I suppose everybody has noticed this phenomena - a good opportunity for an old fashioned moan, but not much fun for cruising.

As it happens, we have had a good excuse for not cruising this last couple of weeks having been in the process of finalising the purchase of a house in Rugby - not much point in leaving money in the bank to pay a dividend of 0.5% interest. Also we feel that it is about time we were re-acquainted with our goods and chattels that are still in storage. Jeeves particularly misses the figurines and other collectibles

As well as this, I have been scolded for not including some of the other amusing incidents that occurred while we were in Stoke Bruene. With particular regard to this poor squirrel that was taking a constitutional along the towpath near the tunnel when we turned up.

Unfortunately, it wasn't aware that the Blisworth Tunnel doesn't extend to a towpath and became trapped between us, the canal and a high concrete wall on the right of the path.

Eventually, it took the only option, and started up the tunnel wall, which it proceeded to climb - the wall actually slopes slightly back at an angle from the canal.

It paused to read the plaque and continued on its way up. The over the arch and up again until it reached the coping at the top. The mountaineering skills required for this overhand needed pitons and ropes, which the squirrel didn't possess. It tried though and fell off just below the coping edge!

In the next split second I wondered if squirrels could swim, but I wasn't to find out - remember the slope? Well after a fall of about ten feet, the little creature managed to scrabble a hold on some rough stones just above the yawning mouth of the tunnel. It then though better of rock climbing and scrambled across to the other side of the tunnel rampart and disappeared into the woods - I hope it had some nuts buried o that side, though if I were the squirrel, a stiff drink would have been more more welcome.

Other creatures seemed to be making the most of their surroundings as well, like this moorhen, which seemed to have commandeered a button as an interesting food source.

Then there were Neil and Ruth who joined us at 'The Boat' for a nice cool drink that we didn't deserve nearly as much as the squirrel!

Later that evening, we backed up several boat lengths (who says that you can't go astern in a narrowboat?) and winded near the tunnel for an early start the next morning. We wanted to get through the Blisworth tunnel before any boats were coming the other way and didn't wish to wake up all the other moored boats at the crack of dawn.
The following day we made it to Braunston (through both tunnels without incident this time). And who should we meet there, but Andy and Lyra, who were also out and about enjoying the fantastic weather.

Having made up time (doctor's appointment in Brinklow pending), we spent a day at Braunston, also meeting Richard and Sue who own NB Frog who keep their boat at Brinklow as well.
There was also reported to be some folk and jazz music on a the Admiral Nelson, but it turned out to be only recorded stuff, so we left that out.

There was a heck o a lot of traffic through Braunston that day - including Neil and Ruth on Nerus, who as they passed us in the late afternoon, said that they were mooring just the other side of Braunston for the night.

So, our mooring opposite the Old Mill looked less attractive (especially after some horrid music started at about nine o'clock). We therefore untied and meandered up the Oxford until we found Nerus tucked into the bank in an idylic rural setting.

A bottle of wine with good freinds and up the next morning for our return to Brinklow.

(that is enough about Stoke Bruene, and try to make the deadline in future - ed).

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Enter Warwick Castle

Right, well here we are at Warwick Castle. And it is not narrowboating, but at least a lot more up to date. There has been little of the cruising since Stoke Bruene as we have been in the throes of finalising a house purchase in Rugby.

You wouldn't believe how busy the castle was for a Monday (and not even school holidays yet) but, heaps of horrid noisy brats everywhere - mind you, I suppose they were enjoying themselves as I did on similar excursions when in my youth. Also a lot of foreigners from all parts of the globe, I hadn't realised that Warwick was such a tourist attraction - Rugby certainly isn't despite the recalcitrant and probably un-intellectual student of this famous institution who got bored and ran away with the ball in 1823. O for that matter; the poet Robert Brooks; the inventor Frank Whittle.

These can't really compete for the attention deficient nature of today's child, who will only settle for falconry; jousting larks, the drama of the Trebichet and the King making exhibition which is in fact a remarkable juxtaposition of artifacts from the era; Madame Tussaud figures and reproductions of all the goods and sundries that complement a rounded atmosphere of the time. Even one of the horses had an tail that twitched electronically, and there was a horrible 'authentic' smell to the scene.

Even the children commented on this (not favourably ether - TV and Video games haven't yet extended themselves to providing olfactory stimulation to visual and aural violence). Pointedly, they weren't enamoured of it, and I wonder what the smell of blood and faeces would do to improve their Hollywood and video killing games for them. Would they gain some sense of moral rectitude? Maybe, perhaps not, but one suspects that sales would certainly decline for any number of reasons. Most people; even brats like a clean, sterile and odourless world these days and only revel in violence and sex when it is at clinical arms length so to speak - seen and heard but not touched and smelled, let alone coped with in any sort of reality.

Enough of that, let us return to the raptors. The Castle staff seem to be gifted entertainers - well they behave as though they are anyway. The birds are entertainers, not vocal, but even unwittingly, they certainly are. Eagles all; Bald headed (lots of feather though sur la pate); White Tailed Sea Eagle (huge); a juvenile from the bald headed pair (who is learning to fly properly); and another who's taxonomy I forget.

They flew, hovered, and glided their way around the castle precincts, seemingly at the command of the falconer, and were rewarded for their efforts by pieces of meat, before dutifully swooping off to land on the waiting arm of an assistant falconer.

Jeeves and I were quite enthralled. The pictures above are mostly Jeeves effort - pretty difficult really, given that these birds zooming around.

There was a sign at the small entrance to the battlements that suggested that people with weak hearts or infirm limbs should not venture any further. Some mention of 400 and something stairs. Looking up, I wondered where these stairs led to heaven? The battlements and castle wall were only about the height of a three storey house.

Well! there was no turning back, onward and upward we went - then Guy's tower loomed ahead of us. There is no turning back; this part of the tour is only one way.

Phew! Made it to the top without heart attack and not too much shortness of breath. What a view! Look, I might be turning into a grumpy old man, but why does some idiot have to be posing for a photograph, at the top exit of a zillion stairs? But sure enough they were. And there were screeching and jumping kids as well - at least they had made the effort, but anyway, I had to be a little assertive to use a battlement for photography purposes.

Down we went again, but not too far, we had more battlements and turrets to traverse, replete with more spectacular views. Durham Cathedral has very spectacular views, afforded to the intrepid spiral stair climber as well, but all in all it is much more pleasant at the top of the tower. As well as being a tenth of the price for the exertion.

Never mind, lots more to see (and you'd better, having paid forty quid for it). We head along, up and down; finally to the Kingmakers exhibition. Of which I have spoken. Absolutely smashing, but impossible to enjoy properly for all the tourists posing among the exhibitions having their photographs taken in beguiling embraces with the waxen inhabitants, along with scores of jostling schoolchildren squawking and larking about with the exhibits (thoughtfully nailed down).

The Trebichet, slings a huge stone about four hundred yards. A remarkable medieval invention. So, it was no surprise that this piece of entertainment also drew a large crowned, presided over by a theatrical MC, who was attached to a radio microphone. The banter would suggest that he had some sort of military background - anyway, I've never seen one of these in action, and it was quite spectacular.

Probably the most interesting from our view was the 'Royal Party Weekend' exhibition. Some very helpful staff were also on hand to explain and expand on the exhibits at hand. Fascinating for example was a sideboard crafted and carved in the 19th century from timber that was hewn, sawn and carved from an oak tree that grew from and acorn planted by Queen Elisabeth in the 16th century on the estate of Warwick Castle.

In this part of the castle there are numerous rooms, medieval and Victorian, but I will not render this posting too tedious, given that most of you readers have a healthy interest in narrowboats.