Saturday, 30 October 2010

A pheasant story

I have never thought of my self a a boatman, just an underpaid working stiff who works with boats. Today all that changed. I was showing a party of five around their day boat when, from across the front deck there came a rather posh, hyphenated, voice,  “Is the boatman there?” I detached myself politely from the party of five I was showing around and stepped outside on to the deck.

“Er, yes madam, I suppose that would be me,” I said, “are you taking a boat out today?”

“Yes we are,” she replied all Mrs Bucket but for real.

“May I finish here then I will be with you as soon as I can.”

“Yes, yes,” she said , “just wanted to let you know we are here”.

“You can start loading while I sort these people out.”

So to some I am the boatman. They were a lovely family, all gun dogs and hunters, and it was a pleasure to deal with them as were the other hirers. Fortunately the weather kept well for them other than a fifteen minute downpour while they were having lunch whilst inside moored up.

They both returned on time which was good. As they were all unloading their bags I noticed a dead hen Pheasant. Well I couldn’t contain myself and had to ask.

And so unfolded the story, short though it maybe. They had a nice trip up to the quarry at Kirtlington and enjoyed a hearty lunch. During which they could hear what they thought was a Pheasant shoot not far from their location, but continued with their lunch mainly because of the rain.

When lunch was done they set of to the pipe bridge to turn around for the return journey. Well while at the winding hole their Spaniel (also called Molly) hearing the shooting closer jumped ship, in the winding hole, only to  return moments later with the now deceased Pheasant. Somewhere a shooter must have been slightly bemused when his dog tried to tell him that this other bitch had snatched the bird from under his gaze. Short of rolling around the floor I nearly burst my sides laughing. No names, no pack drill.

~Still no tip!~

Friday, 29 October 2010

Free Boating

I have been away for a couple of days moving a boat from Fenny Compton to Stowe Hill. A nice enjoyable two days boating. Fenny Compton to Marston Doles is tedious when you have a deadline. It’s only about 6 miles but sooooooo boring. I have done this trip a couple of times before and enjoyed it but not so this time.

At Marston Doles I met with Peter on nb Futurest just entering the lock. Peter was in no hurry and let me past after a couple of locks this enabled me to catch up with Bruce Coleman nb Boston but there was still one hire boat between us. As luck would have it (for me) the hire boat got caught caught on a cill and nearly lost the boat after the well deck filled with water.

I was able to assist and get the paddles down with a swift whack with a windlass and some stern talking to get others in the stricken boat to respond. Once recovered the hirer found the rudder difficult, it had come out of the skeg cup. So another boat out of the way.

It took me forever to get down that flight. I had thought I might get to Braunston just after lunch but only managed the bottom of the flight by 3.30, Braunston being another 2 hours away. By the time I got to the bottom lock at Braunston it was getting dark but I carried on up the 6 locks and through the tunnel losing a windlass in the top lock. Exiting the tunnel I continued on to Buckby top lock where I arrived at the New Inn to late for food.

This morning I set off at 8 only to find the top lock was being run through to fill the next pound so I had to wait a half hour for that. I had a variety of helpers after the first couple of locks but still it took me nearly 3 hours to get to the bottom. The next bit got me to my destination a little after 12.30.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

THE MINIMUM WAGE

A man owned a small farm in Scotland . The Inland Revenue claimed he was not paying proper wages to his staff and sent a representative out to interview him. ’I need a list of your employees and how much you pay them,’ demanded the rep.

’Well,’ replied the farmer, ’there’s my farmhand who’s been with me for 3 years. I pay him £200 a week plus free room and board.’

’The cook has been here for 18 months, and I pay her £150 per week plus free room and board.’

’Then there’s the half-wit. He works about 18 hours every day and does about 90% of all the work around here. He makes about £10 per week, pays his own room and board, and I buy him a bottle of whiskey every Saturday night. He also sleeps with my wife occasionally.’

’That’s the guy I want to talk to...the half-wit,’ says the agent.

’That would be me ,’ replied the farmer

The Lords Prayer in sign language

I found this and wanted to embed it in this post but the owner doesn’t want anyone to do that so I will just put a link to the page.

John Denver

John Slee will like this.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Give peace a chance

This brings back memories. Who remembers the Hair Peace and Bed Peace. Information on the Imagine Peace Tower can be found here

JLIPT

On the water point

There we were on nb Merlin, Debs and Mel and me. Debs had hurt her back, Mel doesn't do steering and they were in need of water. I took the boat backwards to the water point just under Langford Lane Bridge, it’s on the map. It’s a bit awkward because the canal is narrow and the tap is on a corner. Having filled here several times in the past I elected to stay on the straight directly in line with the bridge to make it easier for passing boats.  Had we moored this side of the picture the bow would stick out making things difficult for others.

We were almost finished when a hire boat happened by nb Wallingford, an Oxfordshire Narrowboats boat. There was plenty of room for him to pass yet he insisted on pointing out that it was a stupid place to moor. Well it is an official water point and I told him so. “Doesn't matter,” he said, “You could have moored there, he said pointing at the space behind. Had we done as he had asked he would never have got past and he would probably have died of apoplexy me thinks (or a whack with a mooring pin). So we were doing him a favour. But he was an insistent old duffer.

I had just pointed out that he was a hirer and in no place to offer a qualified opinion on the situation when I slipped and ended my sentence with ‘you dickhead’. It was then with horror that I clasped my hands over my heart. DSCF8593No I wasn’t having an attack, well not in that sense anyway, but it had just dawned on me that I was wearing the company logo on my jacket. Whilst I reserve the right to use the term ‘dickhead’, and others, when I feel its deserved, I don't speak to customers like that as a company employee. It’s just not the done thing, but you know how it is when the moment takes you!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Mooring

Is it any wonder we get pissed off about speeding boaters?DSCF8615 

This bollard is being ripped out of the ground.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Belize CA

Today I had a visitor on the blog from Ladyville in Belize. That’s in Central America just below Mexico. I stayed near there for four months in 77 and again in 85 for six months. I not only knew people in Ladyville but I have had dinner there and stayed the night. It is such a small world. They didn’t stay long on the blog but their visit bought back memories.BH-map

Ladyville is up from where the 'T' is in City

I remember flying in a Belize Defence Force Norman Britten Islander to Punta Gorda to deliver vegetables there and bring a mother and child up to the city for treatment at the hospital. I drove down to Big Creek (Stan Creek as it was then) in the south through BELMOPAN the capital. I went to Orange Walk and Corazal, the latter on the way to Merida in Mexico. Orange Walk is where I found a liking for corn on the cob ice cream.atmIMG_2394-skeleton800

Mayan sacrificed to the gods

I met a Canadian Architect, Chris, living on a farm on the road to Stan Creek. He had got fed up with the rat race and moved to Belize to grow oranges. I met Charles Chevalier, French resistance fighter, who escaped to England during WWII and after a very varied life came to Belize to live with his Franco/Mex family. I actually met Charles in a small roadside bar built by Chris the Canadian and was invited to dinner with his family. It was a fabulous meal and a great insight into expat family life in the country Their shower was a tall waterfall dropping off a rock butte behind the house. The waterfall also provided electric power via a small turbine/generator.

There are phenomenal Mayan ruins there that need to be seen. Altun Ha and Xunan Tunich the most notable.

xunferry1

This is a ferry aacross the Mopan River which I think takes you to the ruins at Xunan Tunich I used this ferry a couple of times.

The Belize Zoo is a leader in zoos. No concrete pens, just fenced off sections of the real jungle. It was a fabulous place then. I have heard of it since I came home but not recently.

I became very aware of real poverty in Belize, very aware of the difference betweens haves and have not's. We have no idea. It saddens me still. St-Johns-CathedralSt John’s Cathedral really could be in the English countryside, ‘cept for the palm tree of course.belize-city-slum-2_jpg backyard The lesser know parts of the city.

Enough of reminiscing I have a reading week to think about.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Maffi working!

I did just a little bit of work last night on the boat no, no, no, not college work but proper work, like maintenance on the boat. Adjusted the generator belts and after 4 years have had to repack the stern tube. Well it was causing a bit of a problem filling up the bilges. I was surprised that no water came rushing in though. Still its all done now. Will prolly last another 4 years or more as long as I adjust it regularly.

I do need to change the mains generator belt asap. Surprised it has lasted this long. Might last a few more weeks.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Maffi up at Oxford

How is Uni? You might well ask. And I would have to be honest and tell the truth. However, in the past telling the truth has got me banned from places so I will have to garner the truth with a few fibs. I don’t understand the exclusion practiced by the college. One of the first things I noticed around the college was the poster proclaiming that a particular political party/ideology should be STAMPED OUT! I thought this was a bit odd in a college that prides itself on its acceptance of all people from all backgrounds, classes, colours and creeds etc. Even if I was BNP I wouldn’t mention it. I think the politicos have a castration policy.

The course is, I suppose, OK. I say I suppose because so far they have been talking in Martian so I am not even sure I am in the right class. I used to speak little bits of 6 or 7 languages but unfortunately Martian wasn’t one of them. So it is taking me a bit of time to cotton on.

Take today for instance, we were discussing a poem ‘Dover Beach’ by some geezer who I think invented the Civil Service. Now I thought I had the first stanza down pat. It read to me like someone having a good shag on the beach. I couldn’t have been wronger! I am still not sure what it was about but somewhere in there Darwin appeared. Not directly, not named, but he was poking his nose in and confusing the hell out of me. “Sea of Faith” that’s what let him in. Three words and the poem turns into a struggle between traditional creation theory and Darwinism. Clear as mud!

So you can probably understand that I am confused, I mean the hardest struggle I have had of late is trying to get a pint in a pint pot. This whole concept of tearing a piece of work apart and then changing the meaning of it out of all recognition is beyond me. Ho hum!

I have a theory all the others in the class are not what they seem. They actually understand this ‘Martian’ I think, because they are not of this world. I think I am the only earthling here. I am sure I stumbled on one of them calling home this morning. “Mork calling Orson, Mork calling Orson”

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Oxford Canal Lift Bridges

The Oxford Canal lift bridges are notorious for being heavy and very user unfriendly. Previous attempts to help operators resulted in improper installation of rings in the floor to tie the chain to. Early results were that it was quite often difficult to chain a bridge open so when done rather than struggle to let them down again bridges were left up. Farmers were so pissed of at being on the wrong side of the bridge they soon got an angle grinder to chop off the rings. The bridges then went back to normal, heavy in the dry and very heavy in the wet.

In years gone by this would be corrected by the lengthsman (who we no longer have) they would adjust weight of the beam when the deck was wet. Another method I have heard of, though I cannot verify if this is true, was to have a sorbent filler in a box which would draw water in during the rain so adding weight to the beam balancing out the wet deck, is this true?

British Waterways have recently made a few changes to the Oxford Canal lift bridges to ease the problems that people have. They have now come up with what appears to be a good idea,  though still flawed. Bridges are weighted to the up position but are locked down. A BW key is required to open the bridge. Of course at £7 a time for the key no-one is about to leave a key behind so the problem of the farmers being stuck on the wrong of an open bridge now no longer exists. People still have trouble opening/closing the bridge but this is born about by them not being very mechanically minded. Standing on the bridge and trying to extract the key is not easy. The locking mechanism is as pictured below.DSCF8581You insert a key in the lock but it is difficult to operate from the front. The weight of the bridge is constantly on the lock it being always wanting to open. The weight has to be eased off the lock. This is achieved by pushing down on the handle while turning the key, not easy!DSCF8583But BW placed on the top of the lock a set of operating instructions. These make a handy seat. These instructions should read

First clear bridge of traffic (as if you need to be told)

Insert key

Push down on handle

Turn key to unlock

Allow the bridge to raise under control.

DSCF8582

But it doesn’t say this and even if it did it isn't so easy. So to operate the bridge follow these instructions.

1. Insert the key. (I assume you are not stupid and will not try lift the bridge with ‘traffic’ on it, if you are stupid get a canoe and you wont have to lift the bridge at all)

2. Place your bum on the instructions facing in the direction of the arrow.

3.  Put your head between your knees.

4. Turn key in clockwise direction whilst gently bouncing up and down on the ‘seat’. (Gentlemen: be careful, should you sense a searing pain and your eyes start watering investigate before proceeding)

5.  At this point you will feel like a right Wally, but the bridge will unlock.

6. Stand up when you feel the bridge rising to meet your better aspect and, holding on to the handle then the chain, allow the bridge to rise under control. (I will not tell you ‘DO NOT REMOVE THE KEY’ simply because it  can’t be done until the bridge is locked down again, the fact that BW tell you is an indication of what they think of boaters)

Closing the bridge is the reverse of opening.

1.Close the bridge using the chain and the handle. (Keep your feet out of the way of the descending lock)

2. Do a twirl cocking your leg over the lock and sit on the instructions facing in the direction of the arrow.

3. Gently raise and lower your toush on the ‘seat’ at the same time turning the key through 90o

4. With the head of the key in the vertical plane you can now remove the key.

However if you want to do it the BW way the instructions are above your head pointing upwards out of sight. Doh!

The only thing I don’t like about these locks is the chain. I think it should be chunkier. When this spindly little bog flush chain is wet I think one might have trouble gripping it.

To my certain knowledge (I have travelled the canal from Oxford to Banbury in the last month and seen for myself) these locks have been installed on Perry’s Bridge (234), Drinkwater’s Bridge (231)[see pics above] and  Chisnell Bridge (193) these are all between Oxford and Aynho.

If I recall correctly lift bridges north of  Aynho to Napton are all permanently up with the exception of Banbury which is a manual/hydraulic windlass operated bridge. [Please feel free to correct me if I am wrong]

South of Aynho Mill Bridge (205) is of aluminium construction and very easy to operate. Caravan Bridge (215) is permanently up.Shipton-on-Cherwell Bridge (219) used to be a balanced up bridge but this changed sometime ago, however a contact in BW said, back in the summer, this would revert in the near future (don’t hold your breath). Aubrey’s Bridge (221) is electro/hydraulic.DSCF5328a

Aubrey's Bridge 221

DSCF8576A34 Bridge 233 nice mooring  

The bridge under the A34 (233) has no name, that I know of, and as yet has no mechanisation/lock. It is a pig to raise, but one of the balance beams is soon to be changed so maybe it is due for a lock in the near future.

St Edwards Bridge (238) is locked up, but often the school uses it to access the fields. Being only an access bridge it is the schools responsibility to ensure that the bridge is up for boats to pass. There is a boat, seemingly permanent, on the bridge mooring on the south side of the bridge making it difficult to get off.

Local wildlife

Along the towpath leading to Hythe Bridge there are thirteen live-aboard boats. Atop No 11 nb Phoenix this heron pranced along the roof almost oblivious to those taking photos. He seemed not to be too bothered by those bustling along home from work.

I of course did not have my camera, but thankfully Dave had his phone cam and took this picture.

5084824532_6a99f22744_b

Saturday, 16 October 2010

If you don’t ask . . . .

Last August I posted some pictures of a Squirrel and a link to a model aeroplane of the same name. A lady named Darcy Whyte representing the producer of the aeroplane, contacted me and said if I sent them a postal address they would send me one. Well that I did. And as an experiment I asked them to send it to the wharf.

I had forgotten all about it, but two weeks ago I got a red slip from the Post Office saying they had tried to deliver a parcel that was to big for my post box (I don’t have one) would I go and collect it?DSCF8588 It wasn’t until I picked up the parcel this morning that It dawned on me who it was from. And two months down the line I received not one model aeroplane but three.DSCF8592 How cool is that! I will let you know how it goes later.

I am wondering if I should link to a BMW next or maybe Ferrari.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Muddy Waters

The latest volume of the Muddy Waters series is out now. Thrupp is featured as is Heyford and Tooley's of Banbury. You can order online or buy  it at one of the many outlets in and around Oxford. Annie’s tea Room, the first stockist of these fine children’s books, is a likely place to buy one. Dan the author often visits and there maybe an opportunity for an autographed copy.aisfm4

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Moving Milly

I had planned to take Milly M to Oxford two weeks ago so I could do my first few days at Uni from the advantage of the short walk from the Hythe Bridge arm but due to my stupidity down the bilges and only just recovering before start day I had to do the first few days at Uni commuting from Heyford.

The next weekend I moved from Heyford to Thrupp on Saturday then on to Oxford on Sunday. I had promised to take a local lad with me who is interested in getting a boat but as yet had not been boating. Martin, a kitchen hand at the Jolly Boatman, was ready to go on the Tuesday of the original plan, but had to accept my apology and an invitation to join me at the weekend instead.

He had a great time. We went down to Duke’s Cut and out on to the Thames down to Sheepwash Channel then reversed down the Hythe Bridge Arm.DSCF8545

Martin and Molly cruising along Port Meadow

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

On the OXFORD towpath

This tree stump can be found north of ISIS Lock. It is embedded with crown bottle tops and sports a fairly good crop of fungi.DSCF8374

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Reader ahoy!

It is always nice to meet people who have been following my writing on the blog. Last week at Heyford as I sat down on the veranda (cratch) to my first food in nearly three days (remember I hurt my abdomen) an American lady passed the boat, then she came back and said, “Excuse me? Sorry to bother you while you are eating your lunch, but I’d just like to say I enjoy reading your blog.”

I thanked her as I normally do and explained my situation. I just wish I was feeling better so I could have had a proper conversation with her. I did however indicate that if she read me she would also know of Bones and that she was moored a short way up the canal.

Maybe she might turn up at Hythe Bridge then we can have a chat and a cuppa.

Monday, 11 October 2010

ISIS LOCK

Despite the recent improvement below ISIS LOCK it is not a lot of good if you cant use it. It has been anticipated by BW that this mooring would be used by non-licence payers and overstayers. There is a sign to this effect on the mooring stating that the pontoon is specific for lock operation only. There are those that live on the Thames and pay no BW licence who insist on mooring up for an hour or two while they take on water. Of course in doing that they are not only stopping genuine licence payers using the landing for operating the lock, a boat moored on the pontoon is moored partway across the opening of the lock so causing an obstacle to navigation, but they are stealing from BW. Water supplied on the BW moorings is for the use of BW licence payers not skankey scroungers. I love what has been done here but I feel that people will go the long way around on the river to avoid what could become a wart on the end of the canal.DSCF8547

At last!

This balance beam is on its way to replace a dilapidated one further down the canal. The chap sitting at the front said it was for a lift bridge.

DSCF8291

Saturday, 9 October 2010

New component

At Nell Bridge Lock I noticed a modification to the ground paddle mechanism. It would seem that one of the pawls needed replacing and on the new one has been added a pin I suppose to keep ones fingers clean assuming of course the grease stays off the pin. DSCF8487DSCF8488

Friday, 8 October 2010

Woe is me

     I finally got around to to cleaning out my bilges on Thursday. I pumped out about 6 buckets of water from my engine bilge (this fills up if the float switch in the stern tube bilge doesn’t operate, which of course it wouldn’t have to if I were to turn my stern tube greaser down from time to time) anyway all the water pumped out, nice and dry, stern tube greaser operated so of to the mooring.

     At the mooring I cleaned out the bilge with a rag ( stern tube grease gets everywhere) and notice that the plate holding the stern tube end is not square with the centreline of the boat if the whole boat is off then this is not a problem but if it is only the stern tube then it will wear quicker than the rest of the drive.

     It was time to tighten up the nuts which really needed attention. I took off the top step again and leaned down over the step riser and reached down about 4 feet to the stern tube with the spanner. Most of my weight was across my stomach. It wasn’t until later in the night that I realised that I really should remove the riser because it puts an awful lot of pressure on one’s tummy so much so that I have been in agony for the last two days. I was seriously thinking I needed an ambulance. Last night at about 3 in the morning the expulsion of great wind past the bruised section of my abdomen eased the pain considerably.

     Of course years ago head down a hole with a spanner in my hand wouldn’t have bothered me, but I am nearly 60 I need to remember that. I am not twenty anymore!

Granny B

     I had a free week before I started Uni so I decided to take Milly M up to Heyford to sort out a few things then back down to a quiet spot to spend a few days reading for my course. Due to my total disorganisation I didn’t leave Thrupp until about 4 pm, first having to reverse from the Wharf to the wide a distance of about half a mile. By the time I got to mooring up below Northbrook Lock it was almost dark. It has been some time since I have been in total darkness on the canal, it’s fun. I was sitting down to dinner when Andrew sent me a text to ask if I could take GRANNY BUTTONS to Banbury this week (this would take some juggling).

     In the morning we (Molly and I) were up at the crack of a sparrows fart and suitably fed on our way through the lock. Northbrook is  one of the nicest locks I have found on the Oxford.DSCF8268     I arrived on the water point in Heyford at 08.30 to be met by Bones who was on her way to work, but had stopped to welcome the all conquering hero, well OK it was just me!

     We had a chat about GB and I decided that given there were a shed load of boats at the Heyford wharf I would go back to Thrupp and pick up GB and bring her up here to Heyford instead of getting my boat sorted that day. At least GB would be half way there.

     Granny had been moored on the Wharf at Thrupp for a week or so, pointing to Oxford so the first task after being dropped off by a member of staff at OXNB was to reverse her up to the wide a distance of about half a mile déjà vu! Of course with Milly its easy she has all the necessary equipment to do the job including an electric boat pole and a light tiller. Granny however has no such luxuries and I had to work it hard all the way. This was a great surprise to the of the occupants of nb Aynho (OXNB) who had I had disturbed yesterday while they were fishing as I reversed Milly back.

     I arrived back at Northbrook about six hours after I had left. With an hour to go to Heyford I worked the lock. Off we pootled to Dashwood Lock where I met a man with an electric narrowboat. He asked me where he could moor up with no one around. He had to run his generator for 5 hours to charge his batteries and didn’t want to disturb anyone. Of course my thoughts are what’s the point? Why not just use his engine to get where he wants to be and his batteries will charge on the way. Well it does seem a bit stupid if you cruise along and expel no pollution on the way (very green) yet sit and dump 5 hours of pollution in one place, both noxious gases and noise!

     On arrival at the wharf I turned the boat to make it easier to refuel. It was then that I realised Molly the Wonder Dog was missing. PANIC!!!  I had no idea where she could be. The last time I saw her was at Dashwood Lock. I was very grateful to Bones, who upon hearing of the lost dog hopped on her bicycle and sped off down the towpath even before I had finished mooring GB. She, Molly, eventually turned up inside GB having pushed her way through the bottom door.

     With Granny’s tank topped up I reversed to the winding hole and turned her around again, then off to an overnight mooring up the canal. So far this was turning out to be a busy week and it was only Tuesday!

     I was unsure of when to make the rest of the journey and decided to sleep on it after dinner with Bones and Dave Parry on Dave’s boat.

The Farmers

While in Oxford last week I found this in St Giles Churchyard.DSCF8428

Robert died on  15 January 1850 a bit of frost damage stops one from seeing how old he was, but probably in his 90’s. Margret died just two years later 4 March 1852 aged 90 a good age for those days.

What I find interesting in this is the text size. Even though two people are buried here ROBERT FARMER is the prominent name on both sides. Margret is written a in smaller text. Does this indicate the she was considered less of a person than her husband even at the last?

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Unloading, towing and speeding

On Wednesday, two weeks ago, I had the job of bringing two new shells up from Enslow. The day before I had had a nice three hour cruise down from Heyford to pre-positioned a hire boat to use as a tug. The shells were dropped in from Smiths yard just beside the canal. Then we poled them a hundred yards along the canal to the tow boat.DSCF8288 Once all the boats were strapped together we took them to Heyford. The sun was shining all the way and we had a great time. Andy took the front boat Dave Parry did the lock wheeling I had the tiller of the trailing boat. People were surprised to see us all in a line. There is no great difficulty in this procedure, the front boat needs to steer all the bends wide whilst the rear tiller needs to make the centre boat follow the lead boat by anti steering his boat. Once the centre boat bow is pointing the right direction the rear boat can be bought into line. There are three locks between Enslow and Heyford but for us that meant 9 lock operations. Of course two of the boats had to be manually hauled through the lock. We timed it at one lock, in and out in 38 minutes. It could have been done faster but getting two short boats into the lock to let them down took a bit of faffing about.DSCF8292As Dave arrived at Northbrook a College Cruisers narrowboat was coming out of the lock. Dave told the skipper of Brasenose to keep right because there were three boats in tow just a short distance down the canal. Well he didn’t listen! Andy saw the bow wave long before he saw the boat . . . . on the wrong side of the canal.  We had no choice but to stay on course. If Andy had tried to stop the trailing boats may have jack-knifed across the canal giving  the idiot on Brasenose no where to go. Brasenose eventually came to a stop on a shallow bank edge which left him struggling to get off again. He was level with me on the rear tiller. “I bet that surprised you” said I. “At least I missed you” , came the reply. Had I known, that he had been warned of our presence, I would have ripped into him.

Hirers go fast because there is nothing to stop them speeding. Maybe a compulsory throttle stop is the answer. If a boat breaks wash at 1100 rpm why let them have an extra 2 or 3 thousand rpm to abuse! Boating can be a dangerous game left in the hands of novices and the powers that be need to take some sort of action!

Heyford

I like going to Heyford there is a real sense of community there. A chap in the pub the other day summed it up well. He said, “Their are three groups of people in Heyford. The locals, the weekenders and the boaters, its a nice mix”.

What they don’t seem to have in Heyford is coverage. Phone coverage and internet coverage. If I put my phone in the bedroom window I have no signal if I put it in the kitchen window (a distance of about 7 feet) I can receive texts but not send them, for this I have to go out on the rear deck. I have no Internet coverage at all, yet Chris up the way a bit, about 4 boats, has a signal. Bones even further along has a signal, but only intermittently.

At the boat yard 02 works reasonably well but with any other provider it’s very hit and miss. Where you got a signal yesterday it is unlikely that you get it again today, but that is assuming that you got it yesterday. You can go up on the bridge and coverage is not bad, but if the person you want to call is on a boat then you aint got much chance of reaching them. Hundreds of people come to Heyford every week to take boats out and most can’t phone home to tell others they have arrived safely. This is a sad state of affairs. Of course if it ever improves you wont get a mooring here for love nor money.

It would seem that the service providers decide where their mast will be and if it aint where you want it tough! Other service providers will allow you to make emergency call in some areas, but not all and certainly not here on my Virgin phone.

Mobile phones and internet are all about mass communication yet if you look at the maps of coverage there are hundreds, nay thousands of Heyfords all over the country. It is not just boaters that are inconvenienced walkers, cyclists, travelling salesmen delivery drivers and a whole host of others.

It is illegal to answer your phone whilst driving so if an important call comes one needs to pull over, but will there be a signal?

I think the job of mass coverage should be taken out of the hands of phone companies and placed with a separate organisation who are tasked with 100% coverage irrespective of SP. A bit like the national grid one company provides all the power lines and all the others are just suppliers.

This would then leave phone companies to sell cheap deals and leave others to worry about ensuring that every one has access. After all it doesn’t matter how many free text and calls you get if you cant get a signal does it?

Which brings me to why I haven’t posted on the blog for a week

NO COVERAGE!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Happy days!

     Not long now and I will become one of the drinking classes. No, no, no, not a worker a student. It is only a few days until the start of term. My bursary is in place and all the paperwork is sorted. I shall turn up next Wednesday for the induction phase and then I will become one of the great unwashed. Happy days!

     RUSKIN offers degree courses English, History, Law, Social Work, to the likes of me and while they are offering I decided to take the offer. I was going to start last year but one or two things got in the way. Its been one or two years since I have sat in a classroom and I don’t relish the thought of doing it again, but if that’s what it takes sit in a classroom it will have to be.

     I feel like I did 55 years ago getting ready to go to primary school.I have my pencils, pens and books. I don’t think I will be wearing short trousers or long socks  Sherwood Park was a good school but I hated every minute of it. I got caned for something I didn’t do and even though teachers would often say I was good at something no one else would believe me. My father taught me to read before I went to school. I don’t mean the cat sat on the mat stuff but proper reading. I could read books, magazines, newspapers. adverts on buses (out loud) that used to piss my mother off. I was always reading and then I went to school. I hated the Janet and John books. At five I could read better than most eleven year olds. When it came to ‘reading time’ I always looked like I was shirking because I didn’t know where we were in the book but the truth of the matter was I was at the end of the book while every everyone else was struggling at the first page. And not one teacher would believe me! Except Miss Knowles. Miss Knowles, a student teacher, came the term before I left primary school. She couldn’t believe I was so clever and made special work programmes for me so she could get on with the rest of the class. She spent a lot of time introducing new work that was more to my ability while the rest of the class were still doing ‘the cat sat……..’ stuff. I treasure those last few weeks at school because at last someone could see that I was not being engaged.

     I do so hope this time around the teachers are different.

     If anyone knows a retired school teacher who was at Uni in the late 50’s name of Knowles, she would be in her 70’s I suppose, please put me in touch.