Friday, December 12, 2014

Busy, busy, busy!

Roy and Lee came on Friday morning, as expected, and refitted the sink with a new seal. We used the rest of the day cleaning up and loading up into the car the last of the things we needed to take back to the house.

On Saturday morning, we winterised, then drove off to Barton-le-Clay for the Christmas Tree Festival. It wasn't a good gig for the Maidens; they were simply background music, singing from a minstrel gallery, with no amplification. It was a shame, a waste of their time and the church's money. But it was a good event otherwise.

Sunday morning found us back at Kantara. We'd had a phone call from Carl on the previous afternoon, saying that he was going to finish the repair on the Alde. It suited us to go back to Yelvertoft again - there's always something we forget! - so back we went, and left again within the hour, confident that the boat was ready for the winter alone.

On Monday, I went into London to meet Michelle to share a birthday treat with her. A friend had given her two tickets to see Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace Theatre, with a meal beforehand at nearby Da Scalzo restaurant. It was a great night out. The food was very good, and the musical just brilliant. I didn't expect to enjoy it so much. I've already booked tickets to take Grace next month.
The life of 11-year-old Billy Elliot, a coal miner's son in Northern England, is forever changed one day when he stumbles upon a ballet class during his weekly boxing lesson. Before long, he finds himself in dance, demonstrating the kind of raw talent seldom seen by the class' exacting instructor, Mrs. Wilkinson. With a tart tongue and a never-ending stream of cigarettes in her hand, Mrs. Wilkinson's zest for teaching is revived when she sees Billy's potential.
Since then, it's been a busy week, with Christmas shopping and a lot of work around the house, tidying rooms for Christmas festivities, and visits to charity shops and the recycling centre; all part of a general, ongoing downsizing, with a view to moving into a smaller house some time in the future.

Today, we decorated the Christmas tree.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

There and back again

Yes, we left the boat on Saturday, and went back to the house. It was so good, being able to leave things on Kantara without being concerned about damp and mould, safe in the knowledge that the dehumidifier's doing its job.

But we returned today.

Before we left, however, I thought it wise to go to Kwik Fit to have a slow leak from a front tyre investigated. My nearest branch was busy, and I would have had to wait for well over an hour to be served, so I drove a bit further on to another branch. They had no customers, so I drove straight in, and a guy got on with the job. It took almost half an hour to complete, then he came to see me. He told me that there was no problem with the tyre, but rather that the leak had been between the tyre and the rim of the wheel, which was a bit corroded. He'd smoothed the corrosion away and refitted the tyre, with a sealant around the rim for extra effect. He charged nothing. I was amazed, and quite chuffed!

On to Kantara, then, with just a few things packed for couple of nights' stay. The weather was cold and drizzly, the M1 slowed almost to a standstill just before junction 16. I took no chances, and left the motorway there, arriving at the marina by 2:00.

On our way here, we'd had a call from Pete of Harris Hoods, saying that he'd finished fitting our new cratch cover. And it's lovely! Made to a really high standard, and looking so good. We highly recommend the company.

And it's so much better than the old one; the way it's fitted to the hull, the wider doors with two zips each, the large window beside each door, the way the doors roll up tightly, inside or out of the cover. We're very pleased indeed. There's a possibility that we might want an additional fastener on each side, just to hold down the bottom of the back seam.

We'll see.

Inside the boat, the air was dry and not a cold as we might have expected. The dehumidifier was doing its job well, and the electricity consumption was pleasingly low. Of course, it was still cold in the boat, though. Several winter days with no heating except that provided as a side-effect of the dehumidifier leads to the warmth leaching out of the walls and furniture, so lighting the stove doesn't properly warm the boat for some hours.

Roy's due to come tomorrow morning, to re-fit and seal the sink. It'd be nice if Carl came, too, and put the Alde back together again! When Roy's gone, we'll load the car with any remaining bits and pieces we want back at the house, and the next day we'll winterise and leave the boat. We want to be with Said the Maiden at their last gig of the year on Saturday. It's at Barton le Clay's Christmas Tree Festival at St Nicholas' Church, and we pass very close to the village on our way down the M1, so it would make good sense to go there straight from here. A good way to start Christmas, too!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Still on Kantara

Well, it's Saturday morning, and we're still here. We spent a very enjoyable Thursday evening with Sarah and Trevor on NB AtLast, but were still playing cards at 2:00 in the morning, and had had quite a lot to drink over the past eight hours. Consequently, we woke late on Friday, and I wasn't happy that my blood alcohol level was OK for driving.

So, in the afternoon we went to see "Paddington", with by far the biggest audience we've ever seen in CineWorld. The film was great. Fun, funny, very well made and performed. The third British film we've seen in a row, and another one Brits can be proud of. A must-see for aging kids like us!

After a fatal earthquake destroys his home in the rainforests of Peru, a young bear (Ben Whishaw) makes his way to London in search of a new home. The bear, dubbed "Paddington," finds shelter with the family of Henry (Hugh Bonneville) and Mary Brown (Sally Hawkins). Although Paddington's amazement at urban living soon endears him to the Browns, someone else has her eye on him: taxidermist Millicent Clyde (Nicole Kidman) has designs on Paddington's rare Peruvian hide.

Well, the rain's stopped, the sky's blue, so it looks as though I can start packing stuff into the car. Perhaps we'll get back to the house today...

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Two excellent films

It being our last week this year in the vicinity of a Cineworld cinema (where we can get free tickets, thanks to Tesco points), Grace and I saw two films.

On Monday, it was The Imitation Game, a fascinating story with humour, pathos, intrigue and drama, and a brilliant piece of character acting by Benedict Cumberbatch.
"Genius British logician and cryptologist Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) helps crack Germany's Enigma Code during World War II but is later prosecuted by his government for illegal homosexual acts."

Yesterday, we joined the biggest audience we've ever seen in Rugby Cineworld for a viewing of Mr Turner. It was a film I've been looking forward to seeing ever since I first saw it trailed, and it was a very good film. But I was disappointed that it dealt so much with the character of Turner, and not nearly enough, to my mind, on his art. Nonetheless, it was a story well told, and a superb performance by Timothy Spall.
"Eccentric British painter J.M.W. Turner lives his last 25 years with gusto and secretly becomes involved with a seaside landlady, while his faithful housekeeper bears an unrequited love for him."

The film was all of 150 minutes long, so when we left the cinema at 7:00 we drove to The George for our evening meal - delicious as usual.

Tsk! Boats, huh?

Well, boat life's just been made a little more challenging. Yesterday lunchtime, we prepared our first meal without a galley sink, and did the washing up in the shower! A few days ago, I noticed that water was getting into the cupboard under the sink, and traced the fault to the sealant between the sink and the draining board. It looked to me as if the front right corner of the sink had dropped a few millimetres, and the sealant had consequently pulled away along the right side. Water running off the draining board over edge of the sink naturally runs along the bottom edge of the board before meeting the inside of the sink, and it's there that the seal is broken and the water gets underneath.

I contacted Roy straight away, but he was unable to come until yesterday morning. He and Lee found that the oak draining board had warped a little. It, and the sink itself, all needed to be screwed more tightly, but first the wet panels have to dry out, and this will take some days. Consequently, we have no sink! Interesting!

Two or three days ago, I needed to run the Alde boiler. It wouldn't fire up. I called Carl, who'd been responsible for moving gas pipes when Kantara had her new galley fitted, and he came on Wednesday to see what the problem was. There were flakes of rust which had fallen onto the burner unit. He cleaned it up, and the area all around it, but it still wouldn't ignite. He changed the thermocouple, which he had suspected to be the culprit in the first place. Still no ignition. So he had to remove the heart of the Alde, to send it off for repair by a qualified engineer.

A thermocouple - fascinating, huh?
Carl and Roy will both need to come back next week to complete their jobs, but we intend to have left Kantara by then. The office keeps copies of our keys, and will sign them out to known individuals, so there's no problem there. What will happen now is that we'll go back to the house on Friday, return here when the men have finished their jobs, winterise the boat and then leave her for the winter.

The dehumidifier was delivered yesterday, and we set it up straight away and switched it on. Let's hope it lives up to our expectations. We had it on for several hours before going out yesterday afternoon, then all night. It's still on now, and has done a remarkable job of preventing the condensation on the window-frames which normally forms very easily in weather like this.

We'll come back to Kantara every couple of weeks over the winter this year, to check that all is well with this device running all the time. It'll cost us a fair bit for the electricity, but not as much as it costs those who leave their boats to keep warm with their in-built diesel-fuelled heaters, and our solution has the air-drying advantage over heaters, too.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Preparing for winter

Winterizing's pretty much essential for us, since Kantara's going to be without us for a couple of months. And the job's simple enough, and doesn't take much time. However, despite our best efforts, we've had patches of mould appear over the past three winters - on blinds and in cupboards mainly - and we'd really like to avoid that this year. OK, so taking the blinds down and taking them back to the house is no big deal, but there's something very wrong in the feeling that the boat's going to be allowed to get as cold and damp as the air outside - leaving windows open is recommended, in order to maintain an air flow.

What many people do is have their built-in heating systems switch on automatically when the temperature falls below, say, 5 degrees Celsius. The systems are diesel-fuelled, and it's not an expensive solution. We don't have such a system. Our only option would be to have a thermostatic device plugged into a mains socket, and a bar heater or similar plugged into that.

But we've worked out that this could be very expensive over the period of two very cold months, and we reckon, too, that such low heat would do nothing to keep the air dry. And mould might well grow better in the slightly warmer, damp atmosphere. Not a solution.

However, I read what seems to be a really good idea in an online forum this morning. A dehumidifier. This can be set to reduce the humidity in the boat by set amounts (which is far smaller than the house which these devices are said to be able to deal with), and go to standby when the set level is achieved. It checks 30 minutes later to see if it's needed again. If it is, it reactivates, if not, it goes back to sleep. Obviously, we don't have the windows open when this is working.

The given energy consumption makes it far cheaper to run, and would pay for itself within a year; there are many times it could be used, even when we're on board - wash-day is the prime one.

The device we've just ordered is able to send its collected water through a hose into the sink - surprisingly, most of them don't have that feature - so we don't have to empty a tank two or three times a day! It's been highly commended by other boaters, and by Sailing Magazine, who voted it "Best Buy".

We'll be able to test it before we leave it alone to get on with the job. Fingers crossed!

After using the kettlebell Grace bought the other week, she decided that it's fine for some exercises, but too heavy - at least at the moment - for others, so we returned to the warehouse shop yesterday to but two more, one at 4kg and one at 6. If Grace doesn't get stronger and fitter now, there's something very wrong!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


With this year's cruising finished, it's time to start thinking about next year - and probably the next, too. We expect to be back on Kantara at the start of February. The boat has to be at Debdale Wharf for painting on 2nd April, which gives us eight weeks when we could do a good cruise. The paint job is likely to take three weeks, so we should be able to start another cruise by 2nd May.

This will be our fourth cruising season, so we'd really like to have a lot of time on the cut. I've planned enough trips to fill about 58 weeks if we did them individually, but it will work out in practice that we incorporate several of them into just one trip, reducing the number of excursions to perhaps five. And we couldn't possibly fit them all into the one year.

These are the trips I have in mind, then, in alphabetical order. The start and end points are always Yelvertoft. The Leicester Arm of the Grand Union Canal is our first and last waterway on every journey. Other waterways involved are listed.


  • Avon Ring (Grand Junction, North Oxford, Warwick & Napton, Warwick & Birmingham and Stratford-on-Avon Canals, Rivers Avon and Severn, Worcester & Birmingham Canal)
  • Cheshire Ring (Grand Junction, North Oxford, Birmingham & Fazeley, Trent & Mersey, Bridgewater, Rochdale, Ashton, Peak Forest and Macclesfield Canals)
  • Cromwell Lock (Nottingham) (Leicestershire & Northamptonshire Union Canal, River Soar, Erewash Canal, River Trent, Nottingham and Beeston Canals)
  • Four Counties Ring (Grand Junction, North Oxford, Coventry, Birmingham & Fazeley, Trent & Mersey, Staffordshire & Worcester, Shropshire Union [Birmingham & Liverpool Junction and Middlewich Branch], Chester and Middlewich Canals) 
  • Hertford & Bishops Stortford, via Tring (Grand Junction Canal, Grand Union [incl. Paddington Branch], Regent's and Hertford Union Canals, Lee & Stort Navigation)
  • Kennet & Avon Canal, full length (Grand Junction Canal, Rivers Thames and Kennet, Kennet & Avon Canal)
  • Liverpool, Salthouse Dock (Grand Junction, North Oxford, Coventry, Birmingham & Fazeley, Trent & Mersey, Bridgewater and Leeds & Liverpool Canals, Liverpool Link)
  • Llangollen (Grand Junction, Oxford, Warwick & Napton, Warwick & Birmingham and Birmingham & Fazeley Canals, Birmingham Canal Navigation, Birmingham & Liverpool Junction and Llangollen Canals)
  • Staffordshire Ring (Grand Junction, North Oxford, Coventry and Birmingham & Fazeley Canals, Birmingham Canal Navigations, Staffordshire & Worcester Canal)
  • Stourport Ring (Grand Junction, Warwick & Napton, Warwick & Birmingham, North Stratford and Worcester & Birmingham Canals, River Severn, Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, Birmingham Canal Navigations)
  • Trent & Mersey Canal, full length (Grand Junction, North Oxford, Coventry, Birmingham & Fazeley and Trent & Mersey Canals)

I'm excited already!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Our last trip of the year

It was quite foggy when we awoke yesterday morning, but the water was mirror-like, and the idea of doing one last trip for the year was very appealing. So we set out, a mist still heavy across the fields, down to the winding hole after bridge 28. It has been dredged somewhat since we last used it, and it was an improvement, though we still think a 70-foot boat would find turning there quite a challenge.

We passed just two other moving boats on the two-hour trip. It was cold, but it was lovely to be out on such a day, in such countryside. The autumn colours through the mist were wonderful.

We saw at least two kingfishers, but of course they didn't stay still very long. The best photo I got was blurred by my hurrying to capture the moment as we passed the bird.

I threw the last of our seed bombs. We're looking forward to seeing the results of the two dozen or so I've now thrown along several canals.

Back at the marina, we filled our fuel tanks, ready for the winter - it's recommended to leave them full over winter, because it reduces air contact with the diesel, and reduces the chance of diesel bug (although we also add an anti-bug liquid to both tanks). And while the engine was still hot, I bled the air out of the skin tank, and topped up the cooling system - a job of less than half an hour.

Now we start Christmas shopping!

Friday, November 14, 2014


The other day we visited a place, the like of which we'd never before entered, nor are we ever likely to go to again - a huge gym-equipment shop! It was for real hardcore strength and fitness fanatics. We felt like aliens!

Grace had been feeling the need for some way of exercising more than just her legs and cardio-vascular system, something she could do in the small space of the boat. She came up with the kettlebell.
Ours is 8Kg
This can be used in a variety of ways, exercising core muscles in particular. I'll be using it, too, I'm sure.

This is just a selection of the possible exercises. The "Windmill" is the only one of these she can't do - the ceiling's too low!
Grace has just started her own Twitter stream - @GrassGreene. NB Kantara's tweets have for some time now been about more than just our life on the canals, and have become increasingly political, with particular focus on environmental issues. Incidentally, we've just joined the Green Party. @GrassGreene has taken over this side of our lives, so follow her for a "green" look at life.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


We're hoping for a day soon when the weather is good enough for us to take Kantara out for one more short trip before the winter. The skin tank (part of the engine cooling system) has air in it, and the only way to get that out is to open the cap when the engine is fully hot (and both thermostats are therefore open). The coolant water will then completely fill the skin tank, and I'll fill the system from the radiator cap. We don't need fine weather for this, but it would be nice not to get too wet!

Colin came this morning to do the annual service - well, the bits of it that I'd rather not do myself, anyway. And we're expecting a visit from Pete of Harris Hoods (NOT, one hopes, a bunch of crooks!) to agree a specification for a new cratch cover, and to measure up for one to be made, price allowing.

Yesterday, we went to see "Interstellar". IMDb gives it an astonishingly high rating (for IMDb) of 9.1 out of 10, from 127,577 users, so it had to be worth seeing. Surprisingly, it's only been made in 2D. It would have benefitted a lot from 3D, we think. It was tediously long at 169 minutes.
"A group of explorers use a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer an interstellar endeavor."

It didn't live up to expectations for me. At least the ice-cream was delicious, though!

Friday, November 07, 2014

Down to Somerset

Some weeks ago, Grace's eldest sister, Dorothy, underwent major heart surgery. It was very successful, and she was discharged from hospital within a few days, after which Grace's next eldest sister, Christine, stayed with her and looked after her. A week later, Grace and I drove down to Wellington to take over from Christine for a few days, stopping off at our house for a night on the way.

We were amazed and delighted to see how well Dorothy was recovering, and we enjoyed our stay with her. We returned last Sunday, again spending a night at the house on the way north. All of our driving had been badly affected by hold-ups on motorways, and it was nice to take a break! It's always good to spend time with the kids, too.

Back at Yelvertoft, we've had various jobs to do. We'd missed the Halloween event here, which had been a great success - as usual. I helped to dismantle the marquee on one of the two days the job took, but couldn't help on the second because of our extreme need for a major food-buying shopping trip.

On Wednesday we saw "Gone Girl" at the cinema, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
  1. This film unearths the secrets at the heart of a modern marriage. On the occasion of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne reports that his beautiful wife, Amy, has gone missing. Under pressure from the police and a growing media frenzy, Nick's portrait of a blissful union begins to crumble. Soon his lies, deceits and strange behavior have everyone asking the same dark question: Did Nick Dunne kill his wife?

The weather's been very changeable. We've had a couple of lovely, sunny days, but a fair bit of rain, too, and... the wind! It's rumoured that the owners of the marina are going to erect a wind turbine to generate electricity.

Grace is practising her canal art as I type, with a view to painting the roses and castles on Kantara when we have her repainted next year. I've done a lot of promoting of Said the Maiden, and got them airplays in eleven radio stations so far in the States. I have a long way to go still! In weather like this, it's good to settle down to doing things in the cosiness of the boat!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Health and fitness

Though I hope this post will be of interest to readers, I'm writing it largely as a personal aide memoire of details which are very important to me - though that's pretty much the purpose of the whole blog. One day, I'll want to look back on this part of my life, and the blog will remind me of details I might otherwise forget.

After Christmas 2012, my weight was 13 stone, the highest it had ever been. I'd lost some weight when we first started living on Kantara, then put it back on again, started walking to try to get fitter and lighter, then got my exercise bike (and stopped the walking). I bought and read a book called "Younger Next Year" which really inspired me.

But alongside that, Grace especially became interested in new thinking about nutrition. Then I discovered High Intensity Interval Training, and we both started Intermittent Fasting. And then something happened.

My weight has been just under 11 stone for two or three months now. This morning, I'm at 10 stone 10 pounds. I've lost that two stone plus through a combination of just over an hour's cycling a week, various changes in my diet, and intermittent fasting. Grace has lost significant weight, too. She doesn't cycle, but uses a "stepper" sometimes.

As I've written here before, High Intensity Interval Training is a fairly new approach to exercise. It involves no more than three sessions a week either running or cycling, following a particular regimen.
  • 5 minutes warm-up
  • 30 seconds of "flat-out" cycling/running
  • 90 seconds at warm-up speed
  • repeated 6 to 8 times (any more than that is not recommended)

Expert proponents of HIIT say that this kind of cardiovascular, aerobic exercise is far better than jogging or the cycling equivalent. (In fact, there seems to be a lot of evidence now to suggest that jogging may be bad for you.) Many people jog or cycle to lose weight, but it's not why I do it. In fact, I doubt that the calories I burn in three, 20-minute sessions a week amount to enough to represent a significant weight loss. I do HIIT for the sake of my cardiovascular health, and over the year and a half in which I've been doing it, my blood pressure has gone down to the mid 120's over mid 60's, and my resting heart rate is around 50-55 bpm. 

The changes in our diet have evolved over the past three years, and may still be evolving, but basically amount to this. 
We're not stupidly strict about this. We eat out if we have to, or as a treat, happily. We treat ourselves to chocolate and ice-cream from time to time (and Grace has found a source of original milk gums!), and have croissants and jam and pains au chocolat for breakfast every now and then. We often drink wine, cider, lager, Guinness (though we're trying to cut down!) Grace sometimes makes cake or biscuits, too, though these contain butter rather than margarine, and less sugar than bought cakes do.

Intermittent fasting is probably the main reason for our weight loss, and the loss speeded up when we started this. It basically involves missing our normal breakfast; eating nothing between our last meal of one day and our lunch the next. The purpose of this is to bring about a change in one's metabolism in such a way that the body burns fat for energy, and not sugars. This results in the loss of body fat which we have experienced, and the consequent loss of weight.

IF isn't, in itself, about cutting calories, since we may eat the equivalent of three meals a day if that's we feel we need. All meals just have to be fitted into an eight-hour window, with 16 hours of fasting (7 or 8 of which will be spent in bed). I do have to say, however, that though we may have a small snack occasionally during the afternoon - a piece of cake with tea or coffee, perhaps, or a handful of mixed nuts - we never feel the need for anything more than that, so it is likely that we do consume fewer calories by missing breakfast. That's incidental, however, and not the point of the fasting. And recent evidence suggests that IF and HIIT complement each other extremely well.

Again, however, we're not strict to the point of craziness about this. If we're really too hungry to miss breakfast, then we might have toast, croissants and pains au chocolat, or even bacon, egg and tomatoes. IF isn't intended to be punishing, simply helpful. Monitoring our weight regularly means that we're can be totally in control of it.

All in all, we're both fitter and healthier than when we started life on Kantara -and we're three years older, too! "Younger next year" is a reality which we hope to maintain.

A break from the wind and the rain

For the first time in over a week, the weather was sunny and welcoming this morning when we woke. We had been wanting to take the boat out for a couple of hours to heat the engine so that I could bleed the skin tank of air, which I'd failed to do completely while we were on the cut. We'd then fill both tanks with oil on our way back in (diesel bug is less likely in a full tank of oil, where there is little air), and the boat'd be ready for its annual service and winterising before we go back to the house for a couple of months at the end of November.

The sun didn't last very long, though, and a strong wind blew up, so we decided against the short cruise, and went instead to see the church at Lower Shuckburgh which we'd seen from the canal on a number of occasions. The fact that we missed a turning on the way, and did a longer journey, was no problem. The sun was out again in time for us to enjoy the lovely country scenery - gently hilly farmland painted in autumn colours under a bright blue sky. It was lovely.

The church, too, was most attractive, but unfortunately locked, so our visit was rather shorter than planned. But it was an enjoyable drive back.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Judge

With our colds almost gone now, the tickly coughs subsiding, and the weather tempting us to stay in, we joined just three others at the cinema this afternoon to see "The Judge".
  1. A successful lawyer returns to his hometown for his mother's funeral only to discover that his estranged father, the town's judge, is suspected of murder. He sets out to discover the truth and along the way reconnects with the family he walked away from years before.
Starring Robert Downey Jnr and Robert Duvall, it was an excellent film, and unusually long at 142 minutes. The director made the most of every minute, though, and Downey and Duvall's performances were exceptional.

Monday, October 20, 2014


Three years ago, when Grace and I started to go to the cinema with much greater regularity, I wished I'd kept a log over the years, with details of all the films and plays I'd seen. I did start to write in this blog about new films seen, however, and I'll keep that up.

Three years ago, when I started reading far more books per year than in any previous year of my life, I wished I'd kept a log of the books I had read in the past, but failed nonetheless to start any kind of record of new reads. Sigh.

We're very fortunate to have an ever-growing lending-library in the marina, and Grace and I use that a lot. (New shelves have just been bought to deal with the overflow from the original ones, and I'm going to be helping with that task in the next few days.) When we're at the house, we have a good local charity shop which has a huge stock of good books, so we use that a fair bit. And then there's the books from our own shelves in the house, which have sat there, unread, for decades, and a big pile of Jess's books which she's lent me. Our bookshelves on the boat are pretty limited, so I actually have box on the car which is stocked with books to replace read ones on the boat.

Despite this plethora of good reading material, I have from time to time been madly inspired to buy a specific book which I think I ought to have read years ago, and need to read now. This, of course, is some kind of stupidity, but I am occasionally prone to such moments.

Such purchases have included...

...discarded as a total waste of time after battling through half of it,

...still unopened, from Kindle, and not yet started,

...also free from Kindle, not yet completed, but much enjoyed,

...another freebie from Kindle, started, but I'm finding it hard to be enthusiastic, and

...challenging(!), but I'm seeing it through.

Since retirement, I've become aware of the availability of used, good condition books, CDs and DVDs on Amazon and the like, and I've made it my habit to buy them this way all of the time. Many's the time that I've bought items for as little as 1p, plus £1.23 postage, and I've never been disappointed.