Saturday, February 22, 2014


My brother-in-law, Rod, has had a passion for books for as long as I have known him, and has had his own small business for many years now - Bunyan Books - buying and selling rare books. Additionally, he's worked in a charity bookshop, and is Consultant Book Valuer to W & H Peacock Auctioneers & Valuers.

Rod knows a good book when he sees one, and, over the past few years, Grace and I have had a number of book gifts from him. A generous eleven of these are canal-related, and well worth reading.

In no particular order, these are those books.

This is my current read, and it's superb. Once you've forgiven the aged husband and wife crew for the sheer madness of their trip (" Carcassonne", which included a trip across the English Channel, came first), then you can laugh with them and be thoroughly absorbed in their experiences.

Probably the most famous of all such books, this is the story of Tom Rolt's four-month honeymoon trip upon "Cressie", fitted out for the purpose at Tooley's Boatyard in Banbury, a trip which ultimately led to the formation of the Inland Waterways Association.

Another autobiographical gem, this book tells a delightful tale of a family's move from the rat-race of life in Birmingham to a life of self-sufficiency and hard work in a shop at Buckby Top Lock.

The house/shop as it is now

Says the note on the back cover of this book, "Here is an inland waterway book that is different. One not just for the cruising man or the historian or the canal restorer, but for ordinary people who wonder whether they could find new interests on the waterways." An interesting collection of advice and essential information.

"The Waterways of Britain is an authoritative, attractive and practical guide to the inland waterways of Britain. With over 40 colour and 100 black and white photographs, and 16 specially commissioned maps, this book provides the reader with all the information needed to plan and enjoy over 80 waterways of Britain." Excellent for new boaters and holiday-makers especially.

Dividing the network into North, Midlands and South, this book devotes 182 pages to a fabulous selection of 90 walks, with detailed history and other notes of interest. Naturally, it gives directions for the walks, maps and photographs, too. It has to be said that it's a very bulky tome for walkers to carry with them, but it does have a very valid place in the canal boat, since the text other than the directions for the walks will be of interest to all who want to get to know the canals on which they're cruising.

This is another outstanding canal guide, lavishly illustrated with photos and maps - many of them going back a century and more - and fascinating, detailed description and history. This one is of particular interest to us, since Northamptonshire is our "home ground".

"Comprehensive" is no exaggeration. This book details 90 canals and canal arms, with hundreds of photos and maps, and a plethora of detailed information about each. If you were going to have just one canal guide, then this should be it!

This is a must for those who love the history of the canals, for this delves deeply into the whole subject, from the building of them, the engineers and architects, the boats, the workers on the canals and so on, right through to the modern phenomenon of canals for pleasure. With hundreds of photos and other pictures, too, this is a real treasure-trove.

I have no ambition to fit out a boat myself, but I am grateful to Rod for giving this book to us, too, because it helps us to understand our boat better, its systems and component parts. Clear descriptions and explanations, with clear pictures, all make this a very useful and interesting read.

Of all of these books, this one has to be the most unusual. It's a very large volume, and paper-backed, but how do I describe it otherwise? Well, the compiler says this of it.
"The purpose of this... publication on transport history is to present the story of inland navigation in Britain in a way which will capture the interest of the casual reader, and provide the historian with accurate facsimiles of historic source material which, for the most part, is beyond the physical and financial reach of many waterways enthusiasts."

There follow 80 pages of fascinating hand-drawn illustrations of canal life and all things associated with it, with numerous old texts to add histories and footnotes to the pictures. There are maps, diagrams, posters, copied pages of schedules and registers and all sorts of other old documents. It's fascinating, and it's truly beautiful.

Thank you, Rod, very much, for this superb collection.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


...doesn't describe adequately how I feel at the moment. The weeks since Christmas have seemed incredibly long, and, although it's good to be spending time with our kids, we're more than eager to get back to Kantara. The worst of the weather seems to have passed (but who knows, eh?), we have plans for the rest of the year, and those plans are canal plans!

Being at the house has enabled us to get done a number of jobs which were needed here, or which we could do better here. We've had solar panels installed, we've investigated cavity wall insulation (and found it's not needed), replaced a shower pump (supplying two showers), and done a bit of gardening at times between downpours - Naomi's done more than that, bless her, and has just started a project to erect raised beds around the garden, in which to grow vegetables. Other, tidying and rationalising, work will be done as part of that, too. I've investigated a leak in the roof of the summerhouse, and await further heavy rain (although I really hope it doesn't come) to test my repair efforts. Grace has made several dresses for herself and Jess. We've been doing a fair bit of clearing out of "stuff", too, and discovered FreeCycle, an excellent way of finding good homes for things that are no longer wanted. I've just given away a couple of Kerria from the garden, and a TV a week or so ago. We have a couple of good charity shops just at the end of the road, too.

And I've broken my third exercise bike!

Looking back over the blog, you'll see that I bought my first one for use on the boat back in 2012. It developed a fault before the year's warranty expired, and i got a replacement... which failed within the year, so I got a replacement... which failed last week. Tesco Direct, from whom I bought it, have been very good about this, and replaced it each time without any problem, but they did say this time that they wouldn't replace it again, if I insisted on having the same make and model. So I've chosen another, and I'm waiting for its delivery as I type. Fingers crossed!

We were glad to be around when Said the Maiden supported Jim Moray at the Hitchin Folk Club. It was great for them to be supporting yet another top artist on the folk circuit, and their performance was magic.

 They're in the process of finalising their first full album, ready for their nationwide tour with Dave Swarbrick in April and May. Steve's engineering and producing the CD.

Of course, when we get back on the canal, there's no telling how much this deplorable weather will affect our cruising, but we have a number of trips in mind; to Llangollen, to Stratford-upon-Avon - we have vouchers for theatre tickets we're looking forward to using, to Brentford, and a trip to complete our intended Leicester Ring trip last year, visiting Coventry and the Ashby Canal.

We shall see!

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Another quick visit

We're fortunate in that Kantara's home mooring in Yelvertoft is only a 75-minute drive from our house, so it's no problem simply to drive up to check that all is well with her as she sits empty and cold in the awful weather. So we drove up yesterday. The weather was all right when we left St Albans, but it started to rain as soon as we arrived; sleety rain driven almost horizontally by a biting cold, strong wind. The light was gloomy, and the marina looked foreboding. Apart from the ladies in the office, there was no-one in sight.

Kantara was OK, though. There was a surface dusting of mould in one or two places, but that was all. We were glad to get back in the car and drive away again, but we would far rather the weather had been better, and that we could have stayed. We're missing her!

Back in our home from home, we're planning the new galley, and looking for the best priced fridge and cooker - there is only one model of each which is really suitable.

And we're getting through a number of domestic jobs on the house, too. We had 16 solar panels fitted last Saturday, a new shower pump the week before that, a damp patch on an bedroom wall investigated (no signs of ingress from outside), and a visit from a guy trying to sell us air-to-air heating (ugly, and of dubious value... the system, not the salesman!). Then, of course, there is always gardening and housework. How much easier it is to maintain a 60 foot boat! How will we cope, when we get back to the boat?

We're still looking at the end of this month to be re-starting boat life, but reports continue of rivers in flood and canal closures because of the freak weather. Our fingers remain crossed!