Thursday, 30 September 2010

I have a small announcement to make

Our son arrived back from Afghanistan yesterday…!

Yes our soldier is home…! He rang up to let us know he was back, just 20 minutes after meeting his own son for the first time! So emotions are lovely but mixed, because home for him, his wife and son is Germany. It’s certainly an unusual situation to have to deal with, but we do…
Later on this month he’s coming here to stay with us at the boat, and see family and friends too – can’t wait.
I was going to post a photo of baby Ryan David, but they haven’t had chance to share any online yet. So I feel like I can’t show him off before they do!
Welcome back to the western world son, we’re so proud of you…!
Open-mouthed smile 
OOPS, I’m stuck for words, which as you know is MOST unusual…

Monday, 27 September 2010

Thankfully, no damage to the propeller

Well the new, more powerful alternator has passed with flying colours. So why did the boat make us steer on a 45 degree angle all the way back? Yesterday Dave checked out the weed hatch – lo and behold look what was mangled round the prop…
Now the thing is we saw this same yellow coal bag floating past us, along with a manky plastic bucket while we were moored up on the canal. But we couldn’t reach them even with Dave’s “luxury” hi-tech telescopic fishing net.
When the wind changed direction, the bag must’ve hidden beneath the floating reed bed island that planted itself firmly behind the boat while were there. It begs the question:
Why do some people leave these heavy weave empty bags lying about waiting to take off? I hope it was the breeze that did it, and not a “couldn’t care less” boater. We’ve seen the “Oops my coal bag has flown in the water” event happen for real. In fact it was good enough for a You Tube video on “Carelessness.”
A boat came into the marina off the canal with an empty coal sack partly wrapped around one of the open doors at the back, clever that… Then the wind got up and inevitably the darn thing took off into the air without any grace. It skimmed across the roofs of several boats, so Dave went & fished it out. Not a head was turned by the owner even though he saw it happen.
We realise this thick weave plastic stuff is necessary for heavy stove burning fuel. But jeez, make a fetching set of blinds out of them, or even a shower curtain rather than leave them to fly off on their own…
In other words BE A BIT MORE CAREFUL, after all it’s not exactly rocket science. Keep potential airborne missiles that morph into submarines under control…

Friday, 24 September 2010

Short on choice

Well the PLAN was to “sit it out” today, we knew the weather forecast was (nearly) Force 9 gales with torrential rain. But it gets better over the weekend, so they say...
So here's some oddball photos on an oddball day:
First of all, may I present the fattest water hen in the world…
And this one wins the award for most people and animals in a 5 foot dinghy without capsizing…
If you look carefully, you can just see a pair of feet at the back, they belong to the guy who was steering, but he must’ve got tired and laid down for a rest. Thing is he hadn’t got a clue it was taking on water underneath his propped up legs. Just a bit more human ballast at the front and the whole thing would’ve sunk or popped.
Which brings up a vision of the dinghy zooming up the canal while making a loud farting sound. Meantime the bewildered humans and canine remain sitting on top of the water for a second or two, before going under…
This one wins the award for the ugliest gargoyle in the sky profile. Eerie or what..?
From beast to beauty, water lilies still flowering…
Rosehips still hippying…

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Farmers onion, I mean union unites

I’ve come to the conclusion that the farmers have all gone on strike because the “Big Society” is offering their jobs to volunteers. Hence the “renegade volunteers” have sabotaged their fields, downed tools tractors and equipment – minus engines and parts.
On the bright side for the farmers, after a summer of carefully tending their parsnips there’ll be no need to harvest them now. So instead of all that hard labour, they’ll have plenty of time to spend a week or 3 in Barbados instead.
Don’t worry though, we’ll still have enough Brussels to go with our Sunday roast, they all come from China (after going round the world twice).
Not a tractor in sight in September, never seen the likes of this before…
This is a horses field complete with swimming pool and spa…
Now you see, this guys got it right, his patchwork fields gradually slope down to the canal, no luxury holiday for him then…
Don’t ask me to match these up field to field, believe it or not here’s some photos of the same area from May to June…
Sollom Fav Spot (56)
Sollom Fav Spot (96)
Sollom Fav Spot (183)
Sollom Fav Spot (203)
Sollom Fav Spot (321)
Sollom Fav Spot (389)

Sollom Fav Spot (433)
So the con conclusion is, err I’m not sure, but I’ve heard it said that cannabis likes a lot of water…

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Can´t see the wood for the trees, and then there´s the reeds

Journalist Mode:
Beautiful as it is, and believe it or not, there’s a canal amongst these photos somewhere. When we turn left out of the marina, this lot is less than 5 minutes away from the entrance:

Left it till the last second to take this, DIVE Heth and – QUICK…
Coming out the other side, there’s a huge weeping willow on the right – just ready and waiting to fall in…
Avoidance tactics:
If you’re careful, there’s enough room at the sides not to scratch the paintwork. But there’s no escaping the lower, thicker, branches that slide along the roof, and then “flick” themselves at your face in an effort to take your eyes out. So it’s down periscope, and sometimes they still drag across the top of your head…
Don’t get me wrong I’m not moaning for the sake of it, we love this stretch of canal and will continue to use it, I’m just really hoping something will get done about this problem. Some of us have even wondered if a widebeam, or indeed any size of boat will be able to get past this lot next year. Without serious injury to life or limb or boat…
With ref to this particular obstacle course, here’s an excerpt from what I wrote in my email to British Waterways North West branch:
“There is one point I'd like to make clear. This is from a boater's perspective who regularly trundles up and down the canal, and knows it well. NOT from an inspector's point of view sent out to look at something. Who knows best? We do.
The worst and most dangerous section has to be the overhanging trees at the back of Rufford Old Hall, is there a dispute about who's responsibility it is to chop them back? Doesn't the local council bear some responsibility? It's such a huge job now, the canal would have to be closed while the work is done I'm sure.
But that wouldn't be a problem, we want it done, more than that we NEED it done. We all have to duck right down below the roof of the boat now in order not to get BASHED by branches large and small. Unfortunately it still happens, there's no avoiding them all, so only being inside the boat is totally safe. Health and Safety is such a big issue for BW / Contract workers - what about us boaters?!”
[And just to add to the complex mix of responsibility Rufford Old Hall is a National Trust property, so why should they care?]

This is the reply email I received yesterday, they’d spelt my name wrong and I’m guessing that most of this is standard blurb…
“Thank you for your e-mail of 21 September regarding the Rufford Branch of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. We are aware that there are many works required across the North West, including the concerns raised in your e-mail.
Sadly, as you have outlined in your correspondence, resources are extremely finite and we expect that the financial constraints we face will only become tighter over the coming months.  As such, it is essential that we prioritise the works we undertake. 
Issues relating to health and safety will always be considered our paramount priority and we endeavour to address these issues in a timely fashion. 
However, we simply do not have the resources to undertake all the works that we would like as and when issues are identified. I will pass a copy of your e-mail to the local team so that they are aware of the points that you have raised.”
A totally predictable grovelling answer, and that’s twice my email’s been “passed on.” I’ve emphasised the biggest problem (I mean the fact that it’s almost impassable behind Rufford Old Hall) deliberately. In an effort for them to work out who’s job it is to sort out and get on with it.
Surely there’s enough funds for something to be done? Perhaps a joint project both physically and financially perhaps? Or am I just swinging in the breeze along with the trees?
When I eventually get a reply from the “correct” admin office I’m going to send a link to this post in an effort to make a difference. I don’t give up easy as you probably know!
Moving on – and they do, there’s the floating islands, clumps of weeds that break off and bob along like they’ve got their own built in guidance system. There always seems to be a massive one stuck under the second swing bridge.
And there he is, sitting proof that some are up to 5 feet wide…!
And here’s another…
And here’s the hybrid variety…
And here’s an island with a hybrid…
I’m no expert but I gather the only way to get shut of these is to dredge the canal. Unfortunately that isn’t going to happen either.
I must sound like I’m being really critical about our favourite patch. But in reality, it’s a vain attempt to get something done. As for the wayward trees, if it means highlighting and informing BW of the dangers to passing boaters then so be it…

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Goodbye´s and good luck!

It was a bitter sweet day today, as we left the marina on our little adventure down the Rufford canal. We also had to say our goodbye’s to Tony the Mop who’s leaving the marina tomorrow morning – for good. He’s got a mooring on the Leeds Liverpool, so for all his foibles we’ll miss him lots,
By the way his new name is “Teflon Tony” (he never sticks in one place). And he might even find himself stuck to the bottom of the canal up there…
So Bye Bye to the Mop, the pointed finger really means “will miss you loads because you’re such wonderful people…” {True}
The last farewell. Oh I’m welling up…

Moving on, (out the entrance and onto the Rufford canal) here’s me opening a swing bridge for the first time since I’d done my back in. I was very careful and very nervous, but it was ok! Nothing broke, I mean me not the bridge.
No ribbing required…
I did a post last week with a “before any cutting back the trees" was done by BW. But didn’t have an “after the work was done” photo, so here’s a few I took today:
So here’s the “after the work was done” comparison, long angle view if there is such a thing…
I know photos of tree stumps must be a bit boring, but they were BIG trees. Notice how, even with a boat moored up on the towpath further down. (Barely visible in this photo). The foliage is chopped back on the opposite side, and the canal bank goes in a straight line, as opposed to an overgrown dog leg.
So this is good news, a difficult job well done, but unfortunately it’s just the tip of the iceberg. In the same blog post as the “Before” photo is a shopping list I made of everything else that needs doing on the Rufford canal.
Most of the things on that list are impossible due to lack of funding (the age old problem). But I still emailed said list to our local British Waterways office. Putting the emphasis on the trees at the back of Rufford Old Hall as being a priority due to the danger aspect. A bit further down from this is more like a minefield...  
I got a reply email this morning telling me my list had gone to the wrong department and will be passed on,, hmm I know it went to the right one...
Anyway, on our way here today I took some photos of exactly how hazardous those trees are as you’re going through them, yes I said through them. I’ll post a photo story of how to navigate behind Rufford Old Hall with the least possible injury tomorrow. Thing is, most of the time you just have to make it up as you go along, and hope for the best…

Saturday, 18 September 2010

So whatever happened to cute and cuddly?

Grace, Poise and Elegance are three words that come to mind when one thinks about swans aren’t they? Not necessarily:
A swarm of swans or a feeding frenzy? All I did was chuck some bread yesterday, (while Dave was making himself at home in the bow locker). Blimey he must’ve wondered what the hell was going on beside him…
This is the bit where they realised the ducks were closing in en masse…
But the ducks sneaked back unnoticed…
WOW, a far cry from this in May…
Now THAT’s more like cute and fluffy stuff, (same family). Mum and dad gently flicking roots and greenery towards the kids for their lunch…
The alternator job this morning just didn’t generate enough sparks worth talking about. Except to say a big thanks to Bill the engineer for his expertise in upgrading us to a more powerful one for the leisure batteries.
However, the theory of being able to moor up for a few days and be able to run the engine less, has still to be put to the test. Which will probably be some time next year now looking at the weather prospects.
Why oh Why did I ever mention the possibility of an Indian summer…?