Sunday, 30 June 2013

Stonebridge Lock

Finally we have left London and are heading north on the Lee Navigation into Deepest Hertfordshire. The above lock is five miles from the junction with the Hertford Union Canal and also the Olympic Stadium, which was built nearby. But all this area is relatively quiet and looking rather derelict now after the frenzied excitement of last year.


007-1  Entering the Lee Navigation with Olympic Stadium

The Olympic Stadium from the Hertford Union Junction


However a similar elation is prevalent aboard as yesterday we began to experience warmer weather again and this morning we are positively simmering in the Sun under a pale blue sky. Let us hope that the promise fulfils itself during the rest of the day and for the week to come at least.

To my memory over some years past, one of the weeks of the Wimbledon tennis competition has been gloriously warm while the other has been somewhat second rate. I cannot remember a year when they were both brilliant, so this year has begun very traditionally. Let us hope that the second week continues as it has begun today and fortifies this legend.

We finally tore ourselves away from the Paddington Basin a week ago today and since then have been passing along the Regents Canal towards the River Lee. At Wharf Road Bridge the two girls and I went ashore and Sharon left us in a big red London Bus on the first stage of her journey to Morocco. She will be away for a month before rejoining us later on.



Wild Columbine in a North London square


005-1  Homes fit for a colony of birds

…. and homes fit for a colony of birds


The two ships then spent a further two days on the Regents Canal moored alongside Victoria Park while Janis and I enjoyed walking this splendid area and also cycled down to the Limehouse Basin calling in at Canary Wharf on the way home for coffee at Waitrose. On one of the afternoons at this mooring my friends Rob and Penny came aboard for a cuppa (and a glass of wine or two). They brought the cake and we enjoyed a few hours together ruminating over old times.


017  Skyscrapers that almost kiss each other

Skyscrapers that seem almost to kiss one another above us


However ‘Futurest’ I am sure must not have enjoyed her idleness over the last weeks and after dawdling along for some time at around two miles per day, it was wonderful yesterday to surge along over a lengthy run (for us) of around seven miles and satisfying to give the batteries a good charge, since the solar panel has not been utilised at its full capacity for ages.


013  Stern with polished brass

At Victoria Park

However we may have been happy with the length of the run, but it took us a long time to get there. Stonebridge is a double lock and as the electrical side is currently inoperative while being repaired, we had to pass through its manually operated partner, which was long and exhaustive since we seemed to be winding forever with windlass on the heavy hydraulic cylinders.

But eventually we made it and gratefully tied up at the adjacent water point nearby. Our tanks were low after so long in London and both boats needed refilling. But much to our disappointment, there was only one tap available, whose pressure was almost a dribble. As one local wag suggested, “you could urinate quicker” and three whole hours passed between the time we first entered the lock till finally leaving the water point with both our tanks filled.

While we had waited, both with our own thoughts of the day, happily we sat in the Sun gratefully soaking in its warmth.

Friday, 21 June 2013

The London Experience Continues

For many years over my life I have been visiting London, during my career at sea and during the numerous and lengthy periods that I used to study in the city towards my Master’s Certificate. So over that time I had considered I knew the place well.

Three years ago I was last here in the Basin and though I was very aware that everything had changed on that occasion, I didn’t consider it was that much different from how it had been forty years before. But then of course, even though I was here for a week, I never saw as much of London as I have during this week’s stay. The experience for me has been amazing though I’ve walked for miles.



The distant skyline of London at Primrose Hill behind the two sisters


011  A balmy English Summer Evening

…and enjoying a balmy Summer’s evening at Paddington Basin


014  ...and the lights come on

The lights come on at Paddington Basin


Whenever I’ve been in London before I have always been on my own and though I consider myself of an enquiring nature, never have I learned or viewed as much as I have this time in the company of two very investigative New Zealand sisters, one of whom is moving on shortly and may not be here again for some considerable time. Not only did my companions decide they wanted to see and experience every possible aspect of the area while we were here, they decided to do it on foot mostly, just so they didn’t miss anything that wouldn’t have been obvious by any other form of transport.

We’ve seen markets galore, marvelled at architecture on little streets that I’ve never seen before. I’ve learned new history and from numerous blue circular plaques on the walls of houses, have been amazed at the number of people throughout  history that have been born, lived and died in London.


020  In China town

A Chinese dog in Chinatown



The Chinese butcher….


023  Chinese veg

….and greengrocer



My cultural experience has increased too since the last time I wrote, simply because of the girls’ need to see and do everything. We have queued on most days at theatres for ticket returns and have been successful on occasions. During the last week I was moved enormously by the music and presentation of ‘Les Miserables’, a show I have been wanting to see for years. It was wonderful though my eyes were wet for much of the show and I was singing the tunes for the rest of the day.

On another day we went to a lunchtime concert at St Martin-in-the-Fields to see cellists Julian Lloyd-Webber and his wife Jiaxin Cheng playing concertos by Vivaldi and Piazzolla, while tomorrow night at the same church we have tickets for a Mozart and Handel choral concert by candlelight, which will include Mozart’s Requiem.


026  St Martin's-in-the-Fields from The National Gallery

St Martin-in-the-Fields from the Portrait Gallery


002  Gymnastic dancing in Leicester Square

Gymnastic dancing at Leicester Square


We’ve spent a day at The National Gallery and been equally impressed by the gymnastic prowess of a troupe dancing to hip hop music while we ate our picnic lunch on the grass of Leicester Square.

We’ve enjoyed buskers and bean-feasts bountifully and London is thriving. It never stops.

The girls have gone off this morning to the ‘Changing of the Guard’ at Buckingham Palace and plan to return this afternoon to Camden Market, so I’ve decided that this would be a good occasion to bow out in order to get up to date with other priorities.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Paddington Basin


038  'Futurest' at rest in Paddington Basin

‘Futurest’ beneath St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington


009-1  The two little ships in the Paddington Basin

The two little ships at rest in the Paddington Basin


We have arrived at the Paddington Basin, next to the main line railway station, helped (or hindered maybe) by the strength of the now familiar gale force wind blowing straight up the cut from the west. This is caused by the Venturi effect of the tall shiny glass and steel that towers way above us on all sides and unless there is no movement of air at all in the basin, this stiff breeze is always there.

And while writing the above, I have just come to the shocking realisation that it is a very long time since my last posting, way back at Widewater Lock. Since then we have been through Uxbridge and turned left at Bull’s Bridge, the junction of the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal and now we are at Paddington itself.

A long time has passed but it has run by so quickly.


006-1  A thrilling close finish in the Basin

A thrilling finish at the Basin


012-1  Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace from the Mall



This omission is unforgiveable and my only excuse is that since being in the company of the two girls, Janis on ‘Roots and Wings’ and her sister  Sharon, who is over from New Zealand and staying until August, I haven’t seemed to find the time to write…..

Yes it sounds pathetic and is, because it is so well used, that one. But the two ladies keep organising so many splendid trips out, all to which I could say “no” of course but haven’t been able to find the strength yet. Consequently while in port, I seem never to be on ‘Futurest’ these days except to sleep.

My old solo routine has disappeared completely and yet I find I’m not too disappointed by this. I never have time to waste time any more, as I did in the old days, and also I enjoy sharing the things that the girls do as well.

However on the rare occasions that I do manage to motivate myself, my writing has to be a very dedicated solo affair with never the slightest distraction for some hours. So during that period my companions go off on their own adventure. Later on in the day they recount what they have done and I envy them of course. But I can also feel pleased that I have accomplished something of my own as well.


057  The South Transept of St Paul's from the Millenium Bridge

St Paul’s from the Millennium Bridge

The skyline of London on the South Bank from Tower Bridge


050  Closeup of window cleaners on the 'Shard', 300 ft above ground

Close-up of window cleaners on the tall building above



Replica of Francis Drake’s ‘Golden Hind’ at Mary Overie Dock


After the Lakes and nature walks at Widewater we journeyed down to Uxbridge staying there for a week, while Janis paid a visit to Newark and it was here that the weather improved a little and I managed to smarten the ship by repainting the roof and touching up the scratch marks along the starboard side. Janis returned bringing with her Sharon, who had been away on her own for a while; we were all together again and soon heading south.

We could have arrived at the Paddington Basin last weekend but on entering the Arm we learned that our destination was to be cleared of boats on Thursday last to accommodate some charity dragon racing that was to take place that evening. So, in order to be able to use our full week’s use of this mooring we tied up for a few days about four miles out, at Acton Road Bridge. This was only five minutes away from Harlesden Tube Station, so we were able to see much of London before we arrived at Paddington even.

Since then, as I have indicated already, Life has been hectic. The girls share my love of walking and in order to gain the best benefit from London, one needs to walk.

Over the few days that we have been here many miles have been covered and we have seen many of the sights and places in the city. The South Bank and the Embankment have been well walked on both sides of the river from the Houses of Parliament as far as the Tower of London. We have been to Camden Market, to Southwark Market and Pimlico Market too. Churches by the many have been visited, including St Paul’s Cathedral, Southwark Cathedral and Westminster Abbey as well as the ancient churches of All Hallows by the Tower and St John’s, Smith Square. We’ve seen the smart yachts in St Katherine’s Dock as well as the beautiful spritsail barges moored there too, while our hearts have been gladdened by two Shakespeare plays at the Globe theatre; ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ by an all lady cast and, only yesterday, the most splendid production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ that I have ever seen. It was wonderful and I was enthralled. We’ve set off from Green Park on a whistle stop, free walking tour seeing among other places, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and the Houses of Parliament and we’ve seen the Wallace Collection of art and ancient weaponry while benefitting from the history on the walls of the Wetherspoon Pub at the Tower of London.


027  Unusual seating at a snack bar

Unusual seating at Camden Market near the lock



038  The Globe

The Globe Theatre



And inside the theatre


Our stay already has been amazing.

Today we have all done our own thing, which has enabled me briefly to reacquaint myself with solo life.

And the Sun has started to shine.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

A Better Week

By ‘a better week’, I mean there's been an improvement in the Old Man’s work level since Janis left to go to Newark and he’s been able to concentrate on the important things a bit better since then.

The weather’s a bit improved too. It makes such a difference when the Sun comes out, doesn’t it? I know it makes him feel better anyway.

But most importantly, he’s got on with a bit of painting that so desperately needed doing.

The first two days after Janis left for Newark we had lots of rain and it looked as if I was going to be marooned here at Uxbridge for the whole week with nothing happening…….  How dreadful and boring that would have been.

All was quiet around here till Friday morning when the Sun rose and shone all through the day and he got to work almost excitedly, preparing my roof for painting.

As you’ve noticed from previous photos, the Red Raddle that he put on two winters ago, after the engine was changed, was peeling furiously and every day for many a month I’ve had to watch great chunks coming away every day. Luckily there was a good undercoat beneath and the steel hadn't rusted except in a few spots, which he cleaned off back to shiny metal and primed. For the rest of the roof he just took the loose flaky bits off with a scraper ready for a top coat of the red the next day. He did take some photos after his final efforts so I’ll put them in here if I can.



AT my mooring in Uxbridge


He worked all day Saturday as well in the warm sunshine completing the roof and repainting the stern deck where the Rustic Red had badly faded during the four years since he’s been the Skipper. And while he had this red on the go, he also tarted up my stem post and decking over the Forepeak Locker. It all looks so much nicer now. Just to complete the job on the starboard side, which is towards the towpath, He repainted the sheer strake and the walkway along my side in Oxford Blue, which keeps it’s colour wonderfully. It never fades at all in years.



My new stern


I’m now not perfect, as what he has done makes the rest look more shabby than it was, but I do look a bit more presentable which every girl loves to be. By the Sunday he had finished and in the morning up went a brand new Red Ensign in the Sun to celebrate; I thought the old flag was getting very faded and weatherworn.



The new look


The Skipper finished just in time to welcome aboard his son in law Steve, his mother Val and George, the Skippers grandson to inspect me, which is what I always like ‘cos I’m a bit special you know…..  Everybody says that too.

They stayed for a cup of tea and cakes after which they left for home.

Since then the Old Chap’s cleaned ship as well so by the time Janis arrived back from Newark yesterday afternoon, I was feeling far better. I have to say that he’s done very well……  bless him, as I didn’t think he’d had it in him.

Janis’ sister Sharon, who left us to go off on her own to see the sights three weeks ago, came back with her so the two ships now have a full complement again.

I’m hoping we shall set off tomorrow morning for Bull’s Bridge Junction and the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal. Through inactivity I have long tendrils of algae streaming from all over my bottom parts…..

It’s most embarrassing.