Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Catching up

I don't like letting this much time pass between blog posts, but then I don't like writing posts which really have little to say. I've been looking back over the blog's past years, and frankly I wouldn't follow it! I have to remind myself, though, that the main purpose of this blog is to be a record of this part of Grace's and my life together, for future reference. Something to remind us when our memories are even worse than they are now. So I'll continue, even if what I write is rather boring to those few readers I have. Sorry, both of you!

One thing the blog's being good for right at this moment is helping me to write a book about our life in Kantara. I've completed about a quarter of the first draft, and I'm quite pleased with the way it's going. Its working title is "Life with our feet under the water", and I'm going to publish it on Kindle initially, maybe Lulu, too. It'd be good to have it actually in real print on real paper in a real cover. 

I had a book on Lulu some years ago, "A Friendly Guide to Exam Success", which sold, I think, five copies. I'm still not sure if that was Lulu's fault simply because they don't attract many readers, or mine because the book was rubbish. (Lulu do claim to have published 1,791,413 books since 2002, but it doesn't say how many it's sold.) But I don't think the book is rubbish. It's biggest problem is that it'll appeal mostly to those kids who are regarded as swats, and i think they're a dying breed. And do they use Kindle? Do their parents? I've revised it, though, and I'll publish that on Kindle, too. There's nothing to lose, after all, and I reckon that Kindle probably has squillions more users than Lulu.

So, life on Kantara continues at a slow pace. We're really glad to be here again, though the icy, snowy weather we'd hoped we might get just hasn't materialised (if that's what weather does), and what we've had is wind, rain, and cold gloom, with fog and... well, some sun. Like today. A beautiful day starting with frost, continuing with almost totally clear skies. We went carpet hunting. Wow! We want to replace the carpet in the boat, but we'd like to keep what's on the wall up to dado height - which is pristine - and get carpet in an appropriate colour to replace what's on the floor - which isn't. We've now visited all of the carpet shops, big and small, in St Albans, Rugby and surrounding areas. And can we find such a carpet? No, we can't. Nothing like it. We're waiting for some samples to arrive in the post from manufacturers. When that fails, which I'm pretty sure it will, we'll have to do the far simpler, though more costly, thing, and replace the lot. This'll involve taking all of the bits and pieces off the wall - radiators, speaker grilles, switches - which was the biggest reason we wanted to avoid replacing the wall carpet in the first place. But that can wait until after the boat's been repainted in April.

Last night we went to Cineworld to see "Jupiter Ascending" in 3D.
  1. "Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) was born under signs that predicted future greatness, but her reality as a woman consists of cleaning other people's houses and endless bad breaks. Caine (Channing Tatum), a genetically engineered hunter, arrives on Earth to locate her, making Jupiter finally aware of the great destiny that awaits her: Jupiter's genetic signature marks her as the next in line for an extraordinary inheritance that could alter the balance of the cosmos."

  2. It was action-stuffed, the visual effects were amazing, the 3D was well used, the story was naff, and the whole thing seemed to switch between taking itself seriously and spoofing. I don't think the trailer represented it accurately, but I think I'm glad I saw it.

Last Friday, we saw "Kingsman: The Secret Service".
"Gary "Eggsy" Unwin, whose late father secretly worked for a spy organization, lives in a South London housing estate and seems headed for a life behind bars. However, dapper agent Harry Hart recognizes potential in the youth and recruits him to be a trainee in the secret service. Meanwhile, villainous Richmond Valentine launches a diabolical plan to solve the problem of climate change via a worldwide killing spree."

That was great fun. Unapologetically spoofy, with Colin Firth hilarious as the James Bond-type agent, a creditable relative newcomer Taron Egerton doing a good job as the new recruit with baggage. Samuel L. Jackson lisped his way through brilliantly as the baddy.

I'm in the process of looking at this year's cruising. We'll definitely be out on the cut continuously for several months. We have it in mind to go to Llangollen, Liverpool and Leeds, then wend our way back to Yelvertoft by... well, any number of routes. An exciting prospect!

Monday, February 09, 2015

Breaking the ice

Yesterday, a number of us moorers were astonished to discover how thick the ice in the marina had become. Two boats had to leave their moorings to visit the service platform. The first we knew of their movements was when Kantara was rocked quite hard to the accompaniment of loud cracking noises. We hurried outside to find a narrowboat heading fast towards the platform, breaking the ice as it went. The sheets of ice from which the pieces were breaking were being driven aside, and consequently pushing moored boats around, some of them quite violently. It took the skipper of the boat quite some time to moor at the platform. Even when he was alongside and a metre or so away, the pieces of ice which had floated into that space were preventing him from getting any closer. They had to be broken or pushed out of the way with a pole.

The ice was over an inch thick.

Once moored, he was there for some time. Meanwhile, Phil from next-boat-but-one to us had backed his boat out, benefitting to some degree from the space in the ice the other guy had created. Nonetheless, he still couldn't avoid pushing one major floe aside, which then struck hard against moored craft. I think the owners wouldn't have been too pleased if they'd been on board, but there was no way of preventing it short of having a team of navvies with axes to break it all up.

Last night and today have been much milder, beautifully sunny and bright again, and the ice is disappearing fast. A bit of a shame really.

We went this afternoon to see "The Theory of Everything", an astounding film.
  1. "In the 1960s, Cambridge University student and future physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) falls in love with fellow collegian Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones). At 21, Hawking learns that he has motor neuron disease. Despite this - and with Jane at his side - he begins an ambitious study of time, of which he has very little left, according to his doctor. He and Jane defy terrible odds and break new ground in the fields of medicine and science, achieving more than either could hope to imagine."
  2. We missed seeing "Into the woods". It finished at the cinema yesterday. Sigh.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

And we're back!

Earlier this year than last. And colder. We wanted to experience winter on Kantara. Grace would have stayed right through Christmas if she'd had her way, but I played the Cold Comfort hand; it's cold, and I want to be comfortable. But even I found being in the snow of March 2013 rather wonderful, and an experience I'd like to repeat. So we're back. Not that we'll be going anywhere for a while, though. Just being here.

And it truly is winter. The marina pond is frozen over. We've had rain, snow, biting cold winds, and today's bright blue skies... with a biting cold wind.

So it's cold, very cold. But we are comfortable on board, and my Cold Comfort plea seems lame. Now that the Alde gas boiler's been fixed we're running that on a low setting overnight. During the day, we use the Bubble stove. It gets hot in here! The dehumidifier that we left running over the eight weeks we've been away works a treat. It kept the boat dry and totally free of any mould, condensation or any of the other nasties that the weather conditions threw at her. We've switched that on at night since we've been back, too, and it's kept runny windows to a minimum. And it didn't work out as expensive to run over the two months as I'd feared it might.

"Good morning!" said Carol bright-and-breezily yesterday. "Nice to see you again! Are you back... like back back? You don't come back back until the crap weather's over!" "I'm a new man," I said. "No more of than namby pamby stuff for me."

We simply couldn't get all of our stuff in the car on Wednesday when we returned, so it was back to St Albans yesterday to finish the job of moving back. My guitar was one of the things I'd left. Rather annoyingly as it happened, because Wednesday night is music night, and both Neil and Michael (and Stuart "Jimsonweed"; strangely, since he's told me he's not the slightest bit musical) asked if I'd be there. They've been meeting weekly over the weeks, and jamming together, which is great, and Bob's been along, too, now equipped with an electronic drum kit. I can't wait to see that. Bassist Nick's only just back from Australia, so he's missed Wednesdays, too. Next Wednesday, we rock!

Meanwhile, we're now in the comfortable state of having put away all of our stuff (and it's always amazed me just how much stuff we manage to pack into this 59' by 6'10" tube which is Kantara), and we have a short to-do list, to tidy up the job. Then it's life as normal. Grace sewing, making jewellery, painting; me blogging, writing a book, hopefully writing music.

And what does the year ahead have for us? Well, insofar as we can control things, we anticipate going out on one long cruise - perhaps four months or so - taking in Llangollen, Liverpool, Nottingham, London, Hertford, Bishops Stortford and... who knows? Our niece Kathryn (who was with us on our first ever canal holiday together; she was only weeks old then) is marrying Alistair in March, so we're off down to Devon for that weekend. We're having the hull blacked again boat at the end of that month, and the whole boat repainted a week after that. That'll take three weeks to complete, so we'll go back to St Albans for the duration.

Then we cruise!

PS The weather got warmer later in the day. Around midday I turned off the Bubble stove for three hours or so. The birds came out in force, apart from the water birds - strange, that - and so did the moorers. The atmosphere across the marina is one of Spring, sociability and bustling industry.