Saturday, 2 May 2009

To Banbury - part 1

We decided on Tuesday night that since the weather was looking good for the following day and we had topped up with water and diesel, it would be a good thing for us to set off early and get ourselves down to Banbury before the bank holiday weekend. So we did, setting off at 0830 hours on Wednesday morning in the bright spring sunshine.

The trip to Braunston was pretty uneventful and has been remarked on before (see blogs passim), although Audrone managed to snap a much better picture of the northern approach to Braunston than we have managed previously. Also we had the big drama with the stern gland. . .

This is an ongoing problem that we seem to encounter quite a lot. What in effect happens is that a horrid whining noise (like a Qantas jet at Heathrow airport), sets up and apart from the grating on the nerves, is very worrying - giving rise to dire thoughts of the engine or gear box seizing up or even the stern gland disintegrating and water flooding into the engine!! So Audrone rang Aunt Agatha (AKA Pip) to see if she could locate John Cook, Brinklow's resident engine genius.

Martin (Pip's partner) was sent racing around the marina looking for John, thinking that we had completely broken down - I think we owe Martin a beer or two! John was eventually found and rang us to see what the problem was. He seems to think that the noise is a harmonic sound set up by the type of prop that we have, and that if the bearings or the stern gland weren't hot to touch there was little
to worry about. In fact the problem seems to be that we need to wind the grease screw more tightly and more frequently than we have been doing. Anyway, we are living with it at present, it has become just a minor irritation.

Have a look at this bridge - it looks more like a bridge that has gone to seed, or worse. . . . or is it the result of shelling that we haven't heard about??

The bridge that's gone too far.

After making the right hand turn into the part of the cut that is called either the Oxford Canal, the Grand Union, or both; we headed past Napton Junction, stopping to let another boat come through the turn. The chap steering said there was another boat about to enter. Well it wasn't, and stupidly we waited for them to nose their way into the main canal. They then showed us how slow people can really be. But as luck would have it they pulled over to moor before we faced a bad road following behind them.

Napton is beautifully situated on a hill (hence the full name of the village). We have moored up here before, and I have climbed to hill over to the other side, it is indeed a very pretty village. The canal of course, winds all around the hill, before you arrive at the Locks. Now that I've seen it from the top of the hill and all compass points from the cut, I must say that all the pictures that you see in the guides and magazines can't really make it as real as it is seen from the steerer's position.

The locks themselves are also remarkably picaresque and not overly difficult (saw good reason to take in the fenders though, only width for the boat in some). We were awfully pleased to have made Marston Doles in the one day, as well as finding a good mooring at the top lock. All ready for the morning then.

. . . . . . .Pictures to follow, have to move boat.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

On the subject of honey and other things

A few entries previous to this one, I mentioned that we spent an enjoyable day at Newnham Paddox attending the Daffodil Sunday fair. While browsing through the stalls and walking down to the lake, Audrone came upon a fascinating exhibition set up by the Rugby branch of the Warwickshire Beekepers' Association (Dr Bruce Roberts is the contact person for the Rugby branch). Their website is, I can highly recommend the honey that they produce.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, a jar of the raw organic hard-set honey was purchased and eventually came to be opened last Thursday. In retrospect, I did find it a little odd that there was no label and no seal on the lid. Even more surprising was that a large scoop had been taken out from the otherwise pristine jar of honey.

I don't suppose Winnie the Pooh would have minded too much as he appeared often to be eating half consumed jars of honey, but Audrone was not at all happy, so she looked up the organisation on the Internet and wrote an e-mail (slightly tongue in cheek), asking if it was normal practice to sell second hand jars of honey at country fairs.

About an hour later, Dr Roberts (not the same one as he 'who will make you fine' on the Beatles Revolver LP), rang to apologise and explain that he had indeed been expecting a call or e-mail since the jar that he had taken a large spoonful from, for tasting purposes before the stall opened, had disappeared while he was demonstrating bee handling!!

Anyway, Dr Roberts kindly offered to replace the jar, dropping one around to us personally. So I asked him if he wouldn't mind dropping it off at the Post Office store in Brinklow as it would be easier for him than at the marina, and that we often stopped in there anyway. On Saturday, I dropped around to pick this up and duly found it had been left there.

All this silly shopping talk does have a point however, and this is it; when I picked up the small parcel (which included a letter and a bar of beeswax as well), the lady in charge of the Post Office (Louise Thornton) was most intrigued. It turns out that Ms Thornton also owns/manages the Brinklow delicatessen and is looking for a supplier of good local honey - much of the produce in her store is local and very good, especially the eggs.

So I gave her what details I had and e-mailed her the rest, which means that hopefully, the Brinklow deli will have another fine product to add to their stock. This is typical of village life around here, I suppose.

On the subject of local produce, Steve from K2 the our next door neighbour informed me yesterday that our trip to Sutton Stop was not all that well timed, given that we missed the Beer Festival held at the Greyhound on the weekend. We didn't entirely miss the beer festival though, it was in full swing when we visited the Merchant's Hotel in Rugby town centre on the same weekend. where we enjoyed some interesting ciders as well as one or two that I was tempted to pour into a plant pot had one been handy.

Neil and Ruth from Nerus (berthed behind K2, so also neighbours), returned from a week's trip to Banbury and gave us such a glowing report that we will be setting off ourselves on Thursday, heading for the same destination - maybe even as far as Oxford. Neil and Ruth certainly had the fine weather going for them, here's hoping that we get a good run ourselves.

Looks like bellringing will probably have to go by the board next Sunday, but we had a good session last Sunday, ringing for nearly the full half hour non stop. Only rounds and call changes, mind you, but we have to keep up good striking for the Sunday service.

Unfortunately, this entry has been delayed by the fact that the whole wireless Internet system that I use went on the blink yesterday and my hands were tied - must have spent hours on the phone to Vodafone trying to sort it, but suspect my own hand in it's downfall by leaving the dongle out in yesterdays wind and rain. Thought I'd sealed all the places where moisture can get in, but I'm not sure. Anyway, it seems to be working today, but I will take it down to the shop in Rugby to have it checked out this afternoon.

The sun is out again (sort of) and yellow seems to be the predominant flowering colour again at the marina, even though the daffodils have gone.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

St George's Day and things

Thursday was St George's Day, although one of our friends was completely unaware of this, asking why all the flags and people wearing St George Cross hats in Coventry. What annoys me is that this is our country, our Patron Saint and that half of the idiots who live here would rather celebrate St Patrick's day or something equally fatuous and foreign. What on earth have we got to thank the Irish for?

Anyway, enough of that, the eve of the 23rd, was bell ringing practice at St John the Baptist in Brinklow (an every Wednesday event), and It was pleasing to see that two of the ringers went aloft to hoist the flag over the church tower.

Speaking of bellringing and St John's, I must say that it is a pleasure to ring the bells here, and I should also mention that we are in the process of raising funds for the installation of two new bells in the tower. At the moment we have a ring of six, which though adequate and lovely to ring, would be greatly enhanced with two more, making a ring of eight and giving the ringing team greater opportunity to enhance the number of methods that we can ring.
Audrone and I are still learning to ring (different stages of course) and I should mention that Tom, who is pictured here teaching Audrone is running a marathon which (hopefully his legs) will take him all the way to London. The wonderful thing about Tom's run is that he is donating all the money that people have subscribed toward the bell fund and that is indeed a magnificent gesture. I find that winding the tower clock pretty heavy going, never mind running a marathon.

I should add that the village of Brinklow is rather fond of the church bells and residents and churchgoers certainly give us feedback if a) we ring badly and b) if we don't ring at all on those special occasions like Christmas, New Year and Easter. So if there are any likely bellringer boaters reading this, please come and have a ring at St John's in Brinklow. You would be most welcome.

Now here's a funny thing; the fish are back. Audrone got some great pictures of them. Someone said that they could be fed by hand if you are patient with them and continue to encourage them, but I must admit that looking at this lot, I wonder if one's hand would be safe near those jaws - don't suppose they have any teeth though. Here are some more images of the monsters from the deep:

In for the kill. . . .

They like the dog food - will they eat the dog?
A quick turn as the prey moves astern

Bloody hell I'm hungry, I could eat a horse!!