Thursday, September 29, 2016

New old lamps for old, old lamps

Faced with the question as to how to clean antique brass - very dirty antique brass - we turned, of course, to the interweb. And it was fascinating.

There were several solutions, and we tried the lot; a paste made from lemon juice and bicarbonate of soda (which fizzed over the top of the container, and didn't really make a paste at all), tomato ketchup, white vinegar. We spotted a common denominator here, and tried neat lemon juice, too. And a paste of bicarb with water.

To these folksy cleansers, we added the more modern (though actually pretty old now) Brasso, and hob cleaner. Separately, not mixed together. And a lot of elbow grease, kitchen paper and dusters. Between them, we had success! I won't say it was a quick and easy job, but it was actually quicker and easier than I had expected it would be.

That was yesterday. Today it was time to take down our lamp with the broken glass, and replace it with one of the new, old ones.
It was only when we took it down that we realized that it really was in a bit of a state. We knew about the broken glass. That had been our problem with it. But now we saw that the verdigris around the base of the glass was more than just a characterful colouring of the brass, but a full-on attack. We will not be selling this one on Ebay!

Then we realized that the old lamp had a different type of bulb fitting from the new one, and we'd need to buy a bulb for it. After a slow visit to Homebase, we came back with the bulb. And was it really easy to find that bulb? The hell it was!

Putting up the new lamp was almost a doddle. And here we have it, in daylight, and in cosy mode after dark.

We're very pleased. Now we have to decide whether to use the second, matching new lamp to replace the lamp that hangs on the opposite side of the dinette.
Difficult choice. We like this lamp, and wouldn't have anywhere else to put it if we took it down. Do we replace it with the other new one, or leave it, and continue to enjoy their difference?

This is like shopping! Life is too full of choices! Ours is supposed to be a simple life!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"Older lamps for old..."

We have a pair of antique, brass lamps in our dinette. They're both from ships, oil lamps which have been adapted for electric light bulbs. But the glass of one of them was already broken when we bought Kantara, and it's been getting progressively worse over the years, almost as if the glass has become more fragile, cracking under its own weight or from the gentle squeeze of the fitting it sits in.
We've scoured the web, junk shops, all sorts, in search of a replacement, to no avail. Glass-blowers are few, and far between, and the one of those we could find who would be able and willing to make a new glass for us would charge £120 to £150. No way!

Then Grace found a pair of the lamps, identical to ours, and both with intact glasses, up for auction on Ebay. She joined the auction, eventually winning with the very reasonable price of £82. They've recently been removed from a pub that's being demolished, along with several other lamps of different types, and the man who was selling them lives just outside the city of Worcester. Rather than adding postage cost to the £82 - and risking breakage in the post! - we chose to visit him instead. And, to make the drive all the more worthwhile, we booked into the The Pear Tree Inn and Country Hotel for three nights.

It's a good hotel on the site of a very old inn, and built with some sympathy for the style of the original, most of which has been incorporated into a 1990s extension. Amusingly, the lights come on ahead of you as you walk along its corridors, and shut off after you've passed, so that you walk in a moving pool of light.

Yesterday, we spent three hours in Worcester. The weather was poor, cold, wet and windy, but the cathedral was a must for us, so most of our time was spent in the warm and dry. The cathedral is beautiful, its history fascinating. King John of Magna Carta fame is entombed there. So is Arthur, Prince of Wales, elder brother of Henry, the Duke of York. Arthur died within six months of marrying Catherine of Aragon (he, aged 15 at the time), thus paving the way for Henry's accession to the throne after the death of his father, Henry VII. Henry VIII, of course, married the unfortunate Catherine, his first wife, and the first to lose her head.

Worcester seems to be steeped in history, with many ancient buildings.

photo -

Despite the rain, because of which we took few photos, we walked alongside the River Severn, too, and called to mind the time back in 2004 when we took NB Magnus, a Viking Afloat boat, along this stretch of the Severn at the start of a holiday Stourport Ring trip.

In the afternoon, we revisited Hanbury Hall, lunching there, and being very glad to have somewhere interesting and beautiful to be, away from the rain outside. The photos are from a previous visit.

Now we're back, happy owners of two old lamps that need a very good cleaning and polishing. Michelle comes tomorrow, to spend a few days with us. The weather's grim, so perhaps it's as well we're not out on the cut.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Emma Jane's gone away...

...but only for a while. (Sounds like the start of a song, doesn't it?) Ed and Jan left early this morning, bound for Debdale Wharf and a full repainting job. Debdale staff do the hull, John Barnard the cabin, and Jon Leeson the artwork. Just like our job last year. There's no denying Emma Jane needs it, and we're looking forward to seeing her in her new livery in six weeks' time. Ish.

This leaves us with our port side to an open space, which is great.

Cruising's over for the rest of the year now. This has been imposed upon us by the engine problems that still remain. It's not that Kantara won't go anywhere. We took her all the way across to the service platform the other day, to fill our fuel tank!
Photo taken from Kantara in February. Hence the bare trees.
It's just that I'm awaiting delivery of a new air filter for the engine. And I cannot source a hose for the air filter cassette.
I had to throw away the old one, but I can't find anywhere to buy more.

It's 50mm internal diameter, and I need 1.5m of it. Any ideas please, readers??

We've lined up Colin to do a number of other jobs on the boat - replacing the drive plates, repacking the stern gland, and lubricating the Morse mechanism. Or replacing it if the grease doesn't do the job, or if removal reveals unacceptable wear.

So it's with regret that we've had to postpone the visit of three friends we were going to take out for a few days' cruise next month. And Michelle, our annual visitor, will be staying with us, but that'll be here in the marina, next week.

We're a bit fed up about the washing machine problem; that is, it works fine off the mains electricity supply, but not off the inverter. Having spoken with both Zanussi and Victron, it turns out there's an incompatibility between the two devices, which neither of them knew about. Neither can/will they do anything about it. It's at times like this I wish I were a lawyer. I'd take them both to court and sue them for huge sums of money. In your dreams, Roger!

So we'll be hand-washing whilst cruising in future, then. We can still use the Zanussi as a spin-drier, so that's some consolation.

I've started to wash the boat, doing the first pass a few bits at a time. So far, the roof is done, and the bow and stern decks. Once all of the worst dirt is off (and was never that bad!), it'll be a final once-over, hosing-down and waxing. Of course, the paint touching-up has to be done as well, before the waxing. But we can't take Kantara out of the marina yet. It's very frustrating!

But never mind. We're patient. And it's not as if we have nothing to do. I'm putting the finishing touches to my latest book. It's a bit different to "Life with our feet under water", but still for boaters, especially new or would-be boaters. Watch this space!

We're driving to Worcester tomorrow for a few days, mainly to pick up an Ebay auction win, but we'll stay on a bit to do some sight-seeing. The Ebay item is a pair of old, brass lamps. We already have one, but the glass is broken and we can't find a replacement. We could get one made for about £120. The two lamps, both with intact glasses, is costing us  of that!
OK, it's time for coffee, then to do a bit more boat-washing. If I don't get blown away, that is. We have something of a gale happening here!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The end of the geese?

I used my shotgun this morning. Shot four of the flipping geese, and took them down to the local village butcher. The others left in a great hurry.
I felt really good about it as I walked down the lane, dangling them by their necks, two in each hand. I was wondering how much the butcher would pay me for them.

Then I woke up! And it was the row of the geese that had woken me. They were telling me they were back. Big time.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

War's been declared at the marina

I don't have any photos, I regret to say. The skirmishes happen so quickly that I don't have time to get my camera. They often break out after dark, too. It's very frustrating. And when the fighters fly over, we just keep our heads down, hoping they don't bomb the boat. Getting to sleep at night's not easy. The row is unbelievable. We managed to catch some shut-eye last night during a lull in the combat, but we were awoken again before dawn to the same, dreadful sound of conflict.

I am referring, of course, to geese. An army of about 30 Canada Geese, and a much smaller platoon of around 6 Greylags.
It all started a couple of days ago, and the confrontations always follow the same pattern. The Canadian mob land in the marina pound, noisy as always. Some time later, the Greylags land behind them, and a melée ensues. Typically, there's a spat between an individual from each side, which soon turns from vocal to physical, with the rest of them gathered around, cheering their mate on. The two look as if they're trying to drown each other or simply peck the other to death, and sometimes the violence spreads through the crowd, and other pairs get embroiled in the moment, caught up in the frenzy.

Then suddenly, as if in response to a command from their general, the Canadians take off as one, sounding their war-cry as they rise in formation. It's then that the boats get bombed. And I washed ours today! They soar off into the distance, gather more closely together, wheel around in a half-mile diameter circle and return to the battlefield, diving in behind the Greylags just as the Greylags had first attacked them.

Again, the armies' respective champions engage in battle. Again, others take on the nearest enemy, and then this time it's the turn of the Greylags to take off, pursued down the marina by a small number of Canadians before take-off.

The Canada gaggle shake themselves down, calling out from one to another, calming down slowly. And then a peace settles on the water. The geese wait, still, silent.

Meanwhile, the Greylag forces are regrouping, gaining height, circling, re-arming, preparing...

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Problem solved?

Colin's on holiday.

"I'll be in touch when I get back".

Colin's the man we need to figure out for us why our engine smokes so badly. And to service our Morse mechanism. And to re-pack our prop-shaft.

And then there's the issue of our washing machine working perfectly well off the landline mains supply, but not off the new inverter. Zanussi say they didn't build the washing machine for use on a boat, so they can't comment. Do they not know that this model is one of just two decent-sized washing machines available which fit in a narrowboat? The company that sold us the inverter have asked for a number of details, including battery voltage readings while the washing-machine is working. Which is a detail that's going to be hard to give, because the machine doesn't work!

We need to run the engine, then, turn on the inverter, and run try to run the washing machine. But we can't do that in the marina, because our polluted outpouring would be unsociable, to say the least. So we smoke our way out of the marina, intending to moor up just across the canal, and do the test there. Half way out of the exit , the engine stops. Our hearts sink. Kantara coasts silently across the canal, and I prepare to jump off with the bowline.

"I know what it is!" calls Grace as the bow bumps the Armco and I leap onto the bank.

And then it occurs to me, too. Because of the slight seepage of fuel from the injectors, I'd closed the fuel stop-cock. Just in case, you know. So Grace jumps off with the stern line, and we haul Kantara back a few tens of yards away from the marina entrance, and we tie her up.

When we start the engine to do the test, bluey-grey smoke puffs across the canal and into the marina. Uh-oh! The wind's changed direction since we left our berth. A group of four boaters are enjoying drinks and a chat at a table near their boat. They cough, and get up and move their table. We hide in the cabin, sheepishly.

The inverter failed the test, and we now had a drum full of partly-washed clothing, and the note of the voltages that the engineers needed. As we prepared to pull away and go back to our berth (having opened the fuel stop-cock!), one of the four displaced drinkers called out from across the canal.

"Are you OK? Have you broken down?"

I explained the situation to him, and apologised for having gassed him and his friends earlier. He was very dismissive and laid-back about it. No harm done, no offence taken.

Then he was really helpful. He suggested that the smoke might be because the air intake filter was dirty. And, of course, it was. The diesel and oil mix which had filled the engine when the boat broke down in Audlem Locks, weeks ago now, also filled the exhaust and air intake pipes. Ian told me as much. The filter must have been soaked in it, and that was constantly being drawn into the engine.

It took a matter of minutes for me to take the filter out, and, lo and behold, it was very contaminated. I removed the hose from the filter unit to the engine, too, and found that it, too, was very oily inside. I still have the exhaust pipe to remove, but I expect I'll find much the same wrong with that. Replacing the filter and both hoses should solve the problem!

As I type, I have the filter on order and being delivered on Wednesday. The same dealer thinks he has the hose I need for the filter, but I've not removed the exhaust hose yet. That one's a bit tricky to remove at the outlet end.

I'll get Colin to do it. When he gets back.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Breath-stopping addendum

Going through the photos I took on our cruise, I came across one which reminded me of an incident I neglected to report at the time.
No, I realize it's not very exciting. Perhaps not even interesting as it is, but bear with me. This lock-gate hinge taught me a very valuable lesson.

As mentioned at the time, most of the Locks (remember the significance of the capital L?) on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal have anti-vandal locks on their paddle mechanisms. A special key is needed to open them. Without this key, you simply can't get through the Lock.
At one of the locks (name/number forgotten now), my AV key, hanging out of my pocket from two cork floats, fell off the cord that tied it to them, and got lost in the grass. I found it again, used it - and dropped it! Right next to the lock. It bounced on the concrete, and tumbled over the edge of the chamber. And stopped, quite miraculously, balanced precariously on the narrow gate hinge, right above the water...
Why it stopped there is beyond me. The whole incident was watched by a group of walkers, and, as one, they gasped, then held their breaths as I bent down and carefully retrieved it. They applauded loudly, I bowed, thanked God, and opened the lock. If I'd lost that, our journey would have been halted for some time while I somehow got another one. It probably would have involved a very long walk to a chandlery.

The lesson learned? Have a spare key! Fixed firmly to floats!
(I've just bought one, and a spare BW key)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A magical evening by the canal

We've passed through the Fishery Lock on the GU at Boxmoor several times. The last time was back in May this year. And in May, the Fishery Inn was still empty after a period of several years, and the Fishery Wharf Café didn't even exist. So it was with some surprise and great delight that we visited the new Café last Saturday evening, discovering as we did so that the ancient Inn is now at last open again, and doing a roaring trade.

photos -
The two-month-old Fishery Wharf Café was hosting the fourth annual Dacorum FolkFest, and this was very special to us because The Company of Players were performing together for just the second time since their founding earlier in the year.
"The Company of Players is the brainchild of Said the Maiden's Jess Distill. Inspired by other collaborative folk projects such as The Full English, The Elizabethan Sessions and Songs for the Voiceless, Jess wanted to bring together some of her favourite up and coming folk musicians to collaborate on a body of work celebrating Shakespeare 400. The Company of Players comprises some of the country's brightest young folk stars: Said the Maiden (Jess Distill, Kathy Pilkinton and Hannah Elizabeth), Kelly Oliver, Sam Kelly, Kim Lowings, Lukas Drinkwater, Chris Cleverley, Daria Kulesh and Minnie Birch. The group spent a week together in a house in Belper, Derbyshire, writing, arranging and recording songs based on the works of William Shakespeare." (from their Festival brochure)
The Festival was a great success, despite the rainy start at 1:00pm. Local funding enabled them to make admission free to all up until 6:30, during which time five members of the Company - Kelly, Kim, Lukas, Chris and Daria - each played a 45-minute set.
photos by Keith Bache (@KeithBache)

Unfortunately, Minnie Birch was on tour in Ireland, and couldn't be there. There was an additional act, too, Al Scorch and Jess McIntosh bringing folk songs from the USA.
photo - @dacorumfolkfest
Admission after 7:00pm was by ticket. A large number stayed who'd been there during the afternoon, and a host of newcomers swelled the audience to a good size. Said the Maiden played a stunning 45 minutes; Sam Kelly likewise. The audience loved them.
photos - Keith Bache (@KeithBache)

photo - @dacorumfolkfest
But the greatest magic came next.

The Company of Players had been publicly launched at the Bristol Folk Festival over the May Bank Holiday this year. This was their second gig. They come from all over the country, and had only been able to rehearse once since May - in our house the evening before. Nine of them squashed onto a small stage. It took nearly half an hour for them to arrange themselves in that space, and to get their mics and instruments set up. They did a sound check. Many in the audience thought they'd started their set, and applauded and cheered loudly.
photo by Keith Bache (@KeithBache)
But then they sang, and they played, and they won an audience to whom they were totally unknown. They performed a total of 12 songs, introduced by the members who had written them. Because Minnie wasn't there, Jess sang her song for her. Most of the songs involved all nine of them in one way or another. And you'd never have guessed that they hadn't been playing together for years. It was truly astounding. It was a privilege to be there.
photos by Keith Bache (@KeithBache)


The rain had stopped, and the organisers took down the marquee wall nearest to the canal just a couple of metres away. It was nearly dark. A working boat chugged out of the lock and exchanged waves with the audience. Jess said how lovely it was to be performing in such a setting.
photos - @dacorumfolkfest
"My mum and dad live on a narrowboat," she said. "They're here this evening. Ironically, they came by car!"

The Company played on, and after their repertoire had been exhausted, the audience gave them a noisy, standing ovation, and wouldn't let them go, calling for more. 

"But that's all we have!" protested the musicians. But loud voices demanded an encore of Jess's song "Method in the Madness" (aka "The Hamlet Hoedown"), and a bunch of people went to the front and danced in front of the stage as the Company reprised the song. And the audience clapped and stamped their feet.
photo - @dacorumfolkfest
And after prolonged applause, numerous thanks to all those involved in the day's success, and more applause, the festival finished. There was a lot of excitement. People went to see various of the musicians, to congratulate, to ask questions. CDs were purchased. People drifted off home, leaving the Company overwhelmed.
photo - Keith Bache (@KeithBache)
They came back to our house to share their triumph, to unwind. Eventually, to sleep, perchance to dream. Some of them on our floors.

It had been an amazing event. Watch out for more from The Company of Players!