Sunday, 29 January 2012

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Boatyard

29 January

We have normally managed to get up to Trent Lock to check on progress of The Cat’s Whiskers every three weeks since Mick and John took her into dry dock in September. But it was on the run-up to Christmas that we last visited last so we were both looking forward to seeing the progress that had been made when we headed north last week. This time we made a city break of it, coming up on Thursday afternoon and leaving Saturday lunchtime, staying in Nottingham city centre at the Britannia Hotel. It was only £28 a night, per room, so we were not expecting much, but apart from the noise of the clubbers (there was a karaoke bar opposite) on Friday night, it was a comfortable stay. Couldn’t say I would recommend it, but I think we would stay there again, if the circumstances demanded it. Very handy for The Olde Salutation Inn, a classic pub I hadn’t visited for 20 years, and we took the opportunity of visiting the local comedy club to see “Ivan Brackenbury”. Never heard of him? Check him out on You Tube. His act is as an inept Hospital Radio DJ. He was marvellous and also did another turn as a spoof Psychic Medium, under the name of Ian D Montfort. His real name is Tom Binns by the way.
Ivan Brackebury

First stop on Thursday was to Ikea, to the north of the city. You know, I defy anybody to walk around Ikea and not buy something. We only had a short list of things we needed but by the time we got to the checkouts it needed both of us to carry the stuff bought to the car. There are still loads of things we need to source and discount or no discount, it looks likely we will get them from our Scandinavian friends. And I do like their meatballs!

One of the main reasons for our visit was to deliver the Amtico Spacia flooring that is going down throughout the boat. The boys will start on that next week. Mick has shoe-horned the battery set into the engine compartment, but I don’t think it will be me who will eventually change them, due to their position and the state of my back. We run the engine at last and it was good to turn the key and hear the sound that will become such an important part of our lives over the months to come.
Battery bank installed and engine now working

The Bubble Corner stove, installed with tiled surround
The galley, looking into the saloon area
Central Heating boiler on left. Microwave and oven installed.
Fridge/freezer to go below
In the galley area, the microwave and oven have been fitted and are working. There was water coming from the taps and apart from some tidying up and putting handles on the drawers that area is almost complete and looks good. We are well pleased with it. Moving into the saloon area the Bubble solid-fuel corner stove has been installed and Mick has put in the black tiled surround. I don’t think we were expecting to see this finished so it was a nice surprise. Evidently, new safety guidelines have made this installation quite tricky, as it now needs to incorporate an air lock. Next to the fire John has made me a guitar cupboard. Moving to the rear of the boat the bathroom is almost finished as well. The shower, loo and all the furniture has been built and installed, apart from the sink, which is proving a bit hard to source. The bathroom is very small, but very functional.
Pat tries the shower for size

Nothing much will be happening in the bedroom area until the flooring is down. Over the requisite doughnuts in John’s workshop we talked about safes and paint schemes. The boys are still on schedule to finish on 31 March. Progress now, especially on the outside of the boat, will depend on the weather.

Meanwhile, at home, I have not been slack. For the last three weeks I have insulating and boarding out our large, wooden double garage/workshop. It was certainly a challenge, especially  re-routing all the electrics, but it is now complete and this week I will  confine over half of its contents to the local dump. This is in order to store stuff we can’t take on the boat, and needs storing. Certain bits of furniture, pictures, tools etc. The garage will not be part of the house rental and Kev will be able to gain access when he requires his fishing stuff. We have sent out to our interested neighbours a proposal form for renting the house, and we hope to have them round later this to discuss terms.

That’s it for now.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Tool time

6 January

There’s loads of provisioning to do before we move on to the boat at the end of March. Well, to be more accurate, it looks like I will move in a week or so ahead of Pat, as she will be in New Zealand at that time, as our daughter Erica and her husband James, are expecting their first born around that time.

I  found some Garden vouchers in a drawer while clearing out some clothes on our return home after Christmas and I discovered they could be used in Homebase, so we had a bit of a spend up in the Hatfield branch on Tuesday.

I got a tool box, a toffee hammer, small bow saw and some wire cutters (essential for cutting away any foreign bodies wrapped round the propeller). We also bought a hose for filling up the water tank and a safe which John is going to hide in a secret location. Just hope he remembers to tell us where he puts it! We also got one of those fold up porters trolleys for moving our gas bottles around on a half price deal. I am still trying to persuade Pat to get a head torch, but she won’t have it. I have one and think they’re great.
Part of our shopping haul at Homebase for essential supplies

We also went into John Lewis on Wednesday and ordered the Amtico Spacia floor. We have chosen a dark oak pattern. It’s pretty expensive, but we know it’s hard wearing and looks good, and will complement the light oak woodwork and cream walls.
Spacial Royal Oak - Our flooring

Yesterday, while in Boots we kicked off provisioning the first aid box and yesterday afternoon I posted a note on one of the boating forums about the sort of first aid stuff experienced boaters have on hand and got some very interesting replies. One of them was to have a can of Coke close by. If you go overboard and get a mouthful of canal water, drinking the coke kills all the bugs you have imbibed. Evidently this technique is used a lot by canoeists.

The Eastern Leisure team at John Lewis brought me “Water Way” as a retirement gift and I got around to loading it this week on to one of the laptops we have. This is a very detailed mapping system of the whole river and canal network of Britain, Ireland and France.  I must say I am very impressed with it and I am sure it is going to be very useful. You can get a lot of what is on there from the various editions of Nicholson’s canal guides but this mapping system gives you the local dentists, bakers, doctors, florists etc, with phone numbers and links to their web sites.  It also has details on all the pubs, restaurants, library’s and WiFi hotspots it knows of, and encourages its users to keep it updated.  It’s also great for calculating journey times, and takes into account “real boating”. You can attach a boating sat nav to it, or so Mike Kelly, the brains behind this system told me, when I rang him to get an access code, but I can’t really see the point of that. At three miles an hour at the max, you can hardly get lost.
The water-Way Mapping CD

Finally, and most importantly, my lump sum has reached my bank account. At the beginning of this week that seemed very doubtful and with a deadline approaching for us to make a major payment to the Kingfisher boys, we found that John Lewis had been dragging their feet, getting everything in place, and blaming it on a third party insurer, who my contributory pension was with. It took several phone calls and for me to call in my old boss, but it has been resolved, which was great relief to us both.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

New Year, New Life

Sunday 1 January

Happy New Year to all our followers – all eight of you! Hope you had a cool Yule.

We are recently back from venturing up to the Norfolk/Suffolk borders to celebrate the Christmas holidays with our pals the Tubridy/Deans (and Murray the Spaniel). It’s the first time we had done something like this, hiring a holiday home for the festive season, and it worked out very well overall, with only one hiccup.

Mendam Mill - Our Christmas Retreat - Pat & John in the pic, along with our little Mercedes A Class

But even though we were in the wilds of East Anglia, the Cat’s Whiskers was never very far from our thoughts. Thankfully we received no boat-related Christmas presents (I got plenty of those as retirement gifts) but I did get a book on baking bread from my son Kev, and want to start practicing immediately we return to Welwyn Garden City. I think it might be very handy skill to develop and quite therapeutic.

And on our return to WGC my pal Dorothy at the branch had sent us a home-made embroidered sampler of the boat, which I proudly reproduce below. This will have to be framed and be displayed somewhere prominently methinks

We were thrilled and delighted to receive this from my pal Dorothy at John Lewis

The mild weather over the Christmas period  enabled us to enjoy the grounds of the Mill and to make excursions to Southwold, (Knightsbridge by the sea, as Paul called it) and on the day after Boxing Day to Norwich for a bit of sales shopping and to look around the city centre. I visit Norwich twice a year for meetings at John Lewis, but only ever walk from the station to the branch, and had never had a good look round. Both Pat and I thought it an impressive city centre. We also got a bit of Greyhound Racing in one night at Great Yarmouth and between the four of us who went got an impressive run of nine winners on the trot. So a very diverse few days and one I will not forget in a hurry.

The boat though, is always at the back of our minds, and Pat bought a stripy jumper on Christmas Eve that she thinks will be very suitable for cruising in, and we did look at the bargain towels in John Lewis Norwich. Good to see lots of people at the tills topping up my pension.

The period between Christmas and New Year is always a strange one, as most of the county goes into limbo and the boys at Kingfisher have not been  immune, coming back at work on the boat this coming week. We hear the new oven has arrived to replace the one that was delivered damaged a couple of weeks back, so Pat’s nice man at Smev did deliver, as promised.

The week before Christmas we also had the letting agent round to value the house and give us tips on what to leave, what to put in storage, and the legal requirements we have to comply with if we want to rent our house out. Most of it we knew, as we rented  several years ago when I had my six month long leave, but this time we have to clear the house out almost completely. The agent thinks we will have no problem finding a suitable family who want a large four-bedroomed house, but, of course, we have the added issue of our cats. They are both elderly. It is impractical to take them on the boat, and we would like anybody who rents the house to take the cats on, and the monthly rental will reflect this. Pat is adamant that we will not return there to live after we start renting, and she may very well be right. Luckily, it seems, we might already have found somebody interested. A neighbour on the green has a daughter who already lives locally , that needs to rent a larger home as she is expecting her third child in the spring. They have already popped in for an informal look around and were impressed so watch this space for more news.

It’s unlikely now that we will go to the boatyard until late January, unless there are any major issues. Then we will make a weekend of it as Ivan Brackenbury is appearing in a comedy club in Nottingham. If you have never experienced this chap, who does a complete spoof hospital radio DJ show as part of his act, then check him out on You Tube. It’s quite dark humour, but very clever. He rarely comes south, so this is good way of catching his act and spending some time at Trent Lock as well. I expect we will stay at the Premier Inn next to the Castle Marina in the city centre, like we did back in the summer. We will be taking up our new washing machine, and start to put things in the kitchen which will be totally finished by then.