Wednesday 27 December 2017

Naked Twister, a different view and jobs to be done...

Ok  - I'm lying about the Naked twister... (although there was a bit of bum cleavage on show now and again) - more about that in a bit (the twister I mean)...

SO - After our Christmas Eve chug we settled down for a quiet night outside the pub... ahem - who'd have though Christmas Eve would be a loud music night in there? ... oh well, we made the best of it with a couple more drinks to  numb our senses make the music sound sweeter.

On the boat, we've a bit of an agreement in that a) we don't buy Christmas presents for each other  (there's just no spare room for "stuff" and b) we ARE allowed to buy things for ourself or things we need, then wrap up and allow the other to unwrap.  

It works pretty well most of the time... you can see how excited Andy was when he received this:

It's a replacement filters for the screwfix water filter I fitted to the boat a while back... it was due a change so that's another little job on the list.  It should be easy as it's push-fit so all that's required is to cut about 20mm of each pipe then push them into the filter...  what could go wrong?

After we'd opened presents (3 mins) we donned our warm clothes and prepared for cast off and the return journey home... Bright and sunny it may have been but BOY it was windy...  the short chug down to Broad Cut bottom lock was interesting... crabbing our way along as we passed the moored boats.  That lock is a pig at the best of times but what with the wind AND the leaky ground paddles, lets just say we got battered around a fair bit AND sneaking out on to the river, then waiting to pick up the crew was interesting too.

Our journey downstream was uneventful until we came to Broadreach Flood lock...  a combination of a spirited river and gale-force winds meant the skipper at the time *read not me* had ... lets call it an emergency stop into the piling on the lock landing... head on.  No serious  harm was one but we'll have to get out the paint again.  INSIDE the boat, every single cupboard, drawer, door and porthole shutter had been liberated and were swinging freely lol.  

DURING the journey back, the lamb cooked itself to perfection and when we moored up, lunch was ready to be eaten. 

AS planned, after lunch (well closer to tea time actually) we set off on a walk to our friends Sally and Lee's who had daft games planned for the rest of the day...  I'm not good at joining in such things (unless I'm tiddled)... and (ahem) luckily I was  a bit so it was great fun....  IT''s amazing how funny a £3.50 "props game from Wilkos" can be to a room full of rat-arsed merry adults... well I SAY adults,  I was the oldest there and I'm sure I'm still only about 15!

After a round of "pass the sprout" (think pass the parcel but with fore-fits) some other game came out, which involved things that wedge your mouths open and having to say things on a card... 

We split into 2 teams (boys verses girls - Andy had to be an honorary girl) but "the girls" all working in Denistry, had a bit of an advantage - AND were WAY too competitive... ONCE I'd done the 'sums' to work out the FAIR scores (them having 1 extra person in their team than us) I we declared it a draw!

It was a silly but fun evening and of course yes, the Twister did come out... a little "too " late for Andy - having already had some kind of accident whereby he broke their toilet seat (and he has no idea HOW) a nap was in order... mid game!

That was the last photo I took before we called it a day... (Boxing day I think)... the rest of which, was a sombre affair - saying things like "never again"...  

Well, until the next time ....

Sunday 24 December 2017

Early Xmas Dinner, Decorated boat and Christmas Eve Cruising...

Here we are then - it's Christmas Eve already... everyone NOW has permission to wish each other a Merry Christmas... not that they needed it but you get my drift!

So then - you'll recall we were heading up to my folks for  a pre-Christmas dinner with them? - well, we went to visit on Thursday and enjoyed spending time with them AND a decent meal...  I think it was probably the first time my dad has cooked a Xmas Dinner - Mum's not very well of late... struggling with both Osteo and Rheumatoid Arthritis... ADD to that 2 non-functioning knee replacements as you might imagine, just getting out of bed is proving a struggle.  My dad probably does't see the decline as much as we do - not seeing them for months at a time, it's more obvious to us.  Of course, parents being parents, (and a bit stubborn... perhaps in denial) they've adopted a  "keep calm and carry on" approach to it, WHEN in reality they need to admit that at their time of life, there's nothing wrong with modifying their home to make life safer. 

They've gone some way to reducing the risk of mum getting injured by having the bath replaced with a walk in shower...  at least now when she's upstairs on her own, she doesn't have to wait for assistance.  IN reality though, she really could do with a stair-lift fitting - working on the basis that whilst she's having regular falls at least when they're on 1 level, whilst it might hurt a bit and be undignified, she' probably wont end up dead.... UNLIKE  a fall down a flight of stairs, which might kill her.  It sounds alarmist I suppose but at least with  stair- lift, that "risk" would be removed...  STILL,  whilst you can lead a horse to water, you can't always make it drink ...    I hope they come to terms with this different stage in their lives and do all they can to make it safer.... SOONER rather than later. 

Anyway - it was nice to see them and spend time with them - Andy and I of course drank a fair bit so staying the night was a welcome treat. 

WHEN we got back to the boat (Andy had to be at Work for 2 on Friday) we found this:

Whilst we'd been away over night,  some friends had vandalised  decorated the boat with tinsel and streamers...  Whilst I'm not a fan of either, it really did make me laugh and as they'd left a nice bottle of Gin from 'Santa' they were forgiven.  In fact, the tinsel might STAY on the swan neck to save me painting it again!

Today is Christmas eve and we'd planned to go for a chug - so as to wake up somewhere different tomorrow ... we've done just that although we've not got as far as we'd have liked - mainly due to the rubbish water pressure at the home mooring... it took over an hour and half of filling before we set off and even then, the tank wasn't full - still, it'll be enough for a few days

Despite it being 9 degrees  Celsius outside, the wind chill has made the cruising rather cold - in fact after 3 hours (and 4 locks), we've called it a day and have moored outside the Navigation pub at Calder Grove... having turned above the lock where the canal is just about wide enough, we're pointing the right way for our return cruise tomorrow.... we're just going to bung a leg of lamb in the oven and eat when we get back home. 

AFTER lunch, we're calling in at our friends for a few drinks and party games - there WAS talk of naked twister, but rest assured dear reader, given my present "festively plump" status, there'll be none of that... it can't be a late night though as Andy has work on Boxing day... I on the other hand will be doing a pump out in preparation for the forth-coming closure in January when crt (in their wisdom) re-instate an unused/unwanted bridge, under the guise of it being to facilitate wheelchair access to the tow path...there's trouble a head ... you mark my words - boaters will get sick of opening and closing it so I suspect it may end up being left open...  

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday 19 December 2017

De de de de de de deh, De de de de derrr and festive spirit...

Sorry I'm neglecting here at the moment - there are 2 reasons I suppose .  The first being that whenever I sit down to type something here, my conscience gets a prick and I end up working on that ruddy risk assessment for the business licence - I mean,  WHAT has happened to common sense? -   You see, when coming up with a risk assessment for the boat, you have to pretend you've had ALL your brain cells removed - and quite frankly, those type of people are NOT the guests we want - the point of this live-aboard holiday experience is to enrich our lives, not turn us into the nanny state.

I'll give you an example of a line from our RAMS ( risk assessment method statement) - I mean,  they've even got me talking in acronyms now... grr.

it goes something like this:

Hazard Identified: Uneven Ground.(Slips/trips/falls)...
Persons exposed to risk: Crew, guests and other canal users....
Risk Factor:  medium ....
Measures taken to control  the risk:1. Brief crew prior to navigation on slips/trips/fall hazards.
2.  Appropriate footwear to be worn.
3. Crew issued emergency response card in case of incident.
4. Walk at a comfortable pace and watch footing for trip hazards.
5.  First aider on boat.
6.  First aid kit on board.
Acton to be taken by:  Skipper/Crew...
Risk factor after control measures:   Low.

Imagine that in a landscape table format and add 101 "other" common sense things and you won't be far off...

SO - I'm still plodding on with that in my spare time.

Meanwhile - you may have seen the Strictly Final at the weekend...  (De de de de de de deh, De de de de derrr ) and enjoyable though it was, I do feel Debbie Mgee (Mcgee?) was robbed - ESPECIALLY as I voted for her twice!  ... until seeing her on the canal thing a while back, I'd never really taken to her... but, on that program with Lorraine Chaise and the other two - (Nigel Havers and Simon someone or other who's name escapes me right now) I took a liking to her and WANTED her to win to cheer her up a bit since losing her husband. Oh well Debbie - we did our bit for you.  STILL, "didn't she do well?".... especially for her age - I struggle to put my socks on some days and she's got 15 years on me!

In boat related news, Andy has finally beaten me down and as such, we've now got some awful and tacky  lovely led Xmas lights festooning the sides (and roof) of the boat...  Here have a look:

I put my foot down and refused to allow connection to the boat's power supply directly so he ordered "solar powered ones" from somewhere on-line... The little solar panel is pitiful and whilst on a sunny day does "something" - it's not enough... ergo, we took apart the box to reveal 3 * AA rechargeable batteries in each .  AS we already had (somewhere) on the boat some re-chargeable Duracell , we're now removing the flat ones on a morning and replacing with ready charged ones... and then, using the boats batteries (thank you PROPER SOLAR PANELS) to charge them up ready for the next day - are you keeping up at the back?

IT's a bit of a faff but it keeps Andy happy and means I don't have to have wires hanging out of the portholes...

They even flash manically  twinkle - Look:

I hope that wasn't too much excitement for you...

TRY as  I may, the whole Christmas thing leaves me cold... I know I sound like a real old grinch, it's just the commercialism of it that really gets under my skin...  As a kid it was different as I've already said.  Still,  boaty folk are doing their bit with lights/trees and Xmas wreaths - There's a boat a few hundred yards up the cut making really quite good door wreaths which I intend to go and buy tomorrow when I head into town.  We're even getting Christmas cards from people on other boats ... which I have to admit is thoughtful  - and a sign of acceptance into "boaty community".  A couple were delivered today and rather than lie and say (what many people say) "oh we're not doing cards but giving the money to charity"... I was rather more candid, saying "thank you very much that's very thoughtful of you - we shan't be reciprocating though as we're spending the money on Gin instead" - HALF tongue in cheek - HALF the truth!

FOR the record however, I DO still send 3 cards each year...  1 to my folks... and 1 each to my 2 closest friends... that REALLY is it.  

Writing of parents, we're going for tea  later in the week to my folks - I hear my dad's going to cook a Turkey - apparently he's taken a liking to cooking with a glass of wine in hand ... I've been doing that for years and wholeheartedly endorse his method... I wonder if I should "risk assess" the procedure?

Until next time...

Thursday 14 December 2017

Playing with Fire and cabin fever....


HOW cold has it been?

Well,  SAD that I am, I like to keep an eye on both inside and outside temperatures as you know...

The other day, I was a bit obsessed...  MAINLY because we're experimenting with different brands of smokeless ovoid thingys  from different coal yards to try and find a balance between long burning, heat output and dust avoidance.

Having had a bit of a lay in, I was surprised to see at 8.37 am, it was STILL minus 5.4 outside but the stove had maintained a comfortable 22.8 in the saloon overnight.

Even the back cabin wasn't too bad  at 19 degrees - I was also pleased to note the SOC showing at 80%... which given we'd had a full night watching Peaky Blinders on Dvd was a bonus,

This obsession  interest in temperatures isn't entirely  because I'm a complete saddo - it's as a result of weather forecasts...  WHICH, I've decided  are rarely much use anyway - I mean, at the weekend  WE (as in West Yorkshire) were threatened with huge snow falls  which never arrived.  THEN came the warning of a colder spell and despite the BBC weather page, showing for our locality a range between freezing and minus 2, when I got up to check in the night the cats woke me up for some food, at 3.16 (am) 

we were down to minus 6 outside the boat  but still a toastie 24 inside...

The next time I checked, at about quarter past 8, it had dropped further to minus 7.5 and the stove was showing it needed some more attention.

It's a good job I have better things to do, or I'd be emailing the met office and suggesting they try a bit harder! ;-) 

SO - the outcome of trying different fuels has been that the one we've been using for a long time - Some unbranded ovoid thing in clear sacks from a coal man in Cudworth at £6.50 per 21kg sack is better than 3 other types, sourced from 2 different coal merchants in and around Castleford... ergo, we'll stick to that.  I suppose every stove is different ... and if it aint broke - don't try and fix it!

Btw - ON the morning it was down to 7.5 outside, the canal JUST about froze over... albeit it rather thinly...

and within a couple of hours it had melted away again.

Cabin Fever has set in of late as due to a Gastric flu we both seem to have picked up, we've been "boat bound" for 3 days now - Coming in to day 4 and I'm feeling little better but Andy is a day behind me...  most peculiar type of bug though... both ends obviously but oddly, the stomach happily accepts food all day long... building it up until early evening when it decides to return everything in an undigested format.  

Lets just say, that whilst we are very pleased we fitted 2 loos - I am not looking forward to emptying the cassette in due course. 

ON the plus side, we've both shifted a few pounds without really trying this week and what with feeling so ropey, even our livers have had a bit of a holiday.

Still, WHILST we've been hold (holed?) up, it has forced us inspired us to get the 2018 cruise calender on the website finished... in total 22 cruises of varying lengths for guests to join us on.  There are loads of typos and spelling mistakes as already said, but hopefully as people read through it, they'll let us know and I'll correct them - Life is a bit short really to worry about such things and if folk really want to complain, then perhaps boat life isn't for them anyway lol.

We've already accepted that 2018 will probably be a quiet year (guest wise) but we'll make the trips anyway as we WANT to do them.  Over the next week or so, we're going to make a determined effort to get our 2019 diary on-line - Andy has already drafted out the routes so once we've checked they'll work (for us) we'll get web-building again.

Reluctantly, we've also asked for a listing in Canal Junction "Hotel Boat" section.  It's cost a few hundred quid but if we are to cover costs, it's probably a necessary compromise to our "non advertising" idealism.

ALSO - I was chatting with the Marina owner here last week when I went to get some pump-out cards and he offered to put a link on his website to ours... he tries wherever possible to support other local businesses and it's much appreciated.

Who knows - this time next week we could have a fully booked schedule! ... or (more likely) we'll be advertising those kidneys on ebay before the year is out lol.

Until next time...

Saturday 9 December 2017

Bah Humbug, a bridge over troubled water and medicine ....

The next person whom I bump into that says to me "if I don't see you again before, have a good Christmas" is going to get a slap.

For heavens sake  - it's still the first week in December.  I do wish people wouldn't get so wrapped up (no pun intended) in all this MEDIA hyped Christmas rubbish...  it wouldn't be so bad if even 10 % of folk actually believed remembered what started it all. 

Yes I know I sound like a right miserable old git - (I suppose I can be) but when you're a "grown up" (loosely speaking), Christmas is nothing...  other than a time when finances get stretched, unnecessarily.  Now OK... as  children, we were lucky enough to have lovely family Christmases - my dad would take a couple of days off work, relax (a bit) around the house and even find time to do a jigsaw.  Presents were always in abundance and I was rarely disappointed.  In short, it was lovely.   FAST forward into adult life and it's just bloody irritating.  IDIOTS spend ages in supermarkets, buying whatever festive rubbish they force feed us and dont get me started on the queues..... and for WHAT ? ... the shops shut for ONE day.  arrrgghh.

End of rant.

SO - Xmas ,forced-ivities a side,, we got confirmation this week of something that has been rumbling in the background a long while.  Earlier in the year, I 'spotted' (quite well hidden at the time on a map rather than stoppage list) that the Ramsdens swing bridge here at Stanley Ferry was to be repaired/replaced in late January...  Well, earlier in the week, the mooring holders all got an email from CRT to tell us it's happening.

The annoying thing is, that in order for this to be done, we're going to lose 1 permanent mooring and 1 visitor mooring (1 each side) and from reading the email, it appears the bridge will remain ACROSS the canal - ergo, BLOCKING boat traffic.  At the same time the existing crossover bridge is to be closed off - OK it does wobble a bit). WHY is this being done? - to assist disabled access and make it easier for cyclists ffs. It's not the end of the world I'll grant you but it IS a waste of money AND hinderer to boating movements... It will mean more noise to those on permanent moorings either side of the bridge whilst boaters pull in to open/close the bridge and increase the congestion RIGHT on the water-point/pump out station.

In short it's going to make a quick fill with water/pump-out - especially on a windy day, a pain in the arse  quite frustrating to say the least.... not to mention the potential for "bumping" other boats in the process. hmmmf.

Still, what do boaters know?

Writing of boaters 'knowledge' - the other week, I got involved with a discussion regarding a 'fault' with the algorithms on MPPT controllers which allegedly means they don't begin tracking until the current is over 1 amp.   Apparently, as ours are wired in series (given the long length of the cable I'd figured it was best to have a higher voltage-thus lower current flowing down the full length of the boat, RATHER than massive cables and panels wired in Parallel.) we'll be losing out on some charge.

SO - ever willing to doubt myself  take advice, I got the appropriate connectors and yesterday in the biting cold wind, temporarily re-wired them to see if it made any difference to the current going in to the batteries.

and did it work?

Not a bit of difference... all that happened was I got numb fingers and a bit (more) grumpy.  HEY HO... it was worth a try I suppose.

IN more cheery news, Andy's folks gave us an early Christmas present when we met up with them at his brothers down in Cheltenham the other weekend... which we were allowed to open early.   A bottle of medicine AND instructions on how to make best use of it!

The book has some lovely recipes in it for various cocktails and infusions - the only down side is that some of them involve adding various botanical and WAITING a few days before drinking the gin.  I'm not sure we'll able to do this, as patience is generally NOT on our list of attributes - especially where GIN is concerned!

Until next time...

Tuesday 5 December 2017

First Booking, diets all round and website building...

Have I mentioned I HATE building websites? - When working in IT, I did everything I could (quite successfully actually although in hind-site, perhaps it would have made it easier NOW) to get out of doing them... they're SO subjective - what one person thinks is fine, another hates etc.

That said, it's a necessary evil - one that I'm MAKING myself plod on with.

ON the PLUS side, it appears to be worth while as we got our first booking request on Sunday...  a solo traveller as it happens which is really good - it goes to show our idea of having April and October as "NO single supplement" months will be well received.  Some have argued that "it's supposed to be a business" and "you'll never make any money doing things like that" ... and whilst they might mean well, THEY are missing the point of this whole life change thing... living on a boat and touring around the country is what WE want to do - primarily for our own benefit.  The enrichment guests will bring to our lives is of secondary benefit and taking 3rd place is the fiscal side of it.  YES - it's a means to an end to some extent but we dont want to get all wrapped up in doing it just for the money if you follow.

So - hopefully in due course I can update the 2018 diary to show 1 week booked.  Brilliant.

The website is simply called "" - it'll come up if you google it.   There are numerous spelling errors (I prefer to refer to them as typos) - reality is, sometimes they're a typo... MORE often than not, I can't spell things.... and please,  DON'T get all pedantic on me re. grammer... I get enough messages on here moaning about split infinitives or whatever!

I still need to get some interior photos on-line in a DIFFERENT gallery - I've uploaded a long photo stream of the BUILD (which still needs more adding)  - Hopefully by the end of this week I'll have tideid enough things away made the boat presentable enough to take some snaps of the accommodation available... here's the guest cabin as a starter though:

Alex Politzi (spelling?) would go mad... she HATES towels on beds lol.  NOTE Grey for guests, white for us... to keep things simple in the bathroom...  see - we think of EVERYTHING ;-).

So far, I've only got 12 weeks on-line  The first 8 weeks being a trip to Liverpool and back with a few days back at base to touch our paintwork and then weeks 9 to 12, Manchester and back.  Both trips WE want to do - we have to come back into Wakefield as we've got things in the diary that can't be re-scheduled.  Once we get back from Manchester in August, we're going to do a few short trips - Weekends to Leeds with (hopefully) guests on board... a way for people to dip their toe into boating (for a lot less money) rather than committing to a full week on board.  This will work well for us as although there is a risk of the Rivers messing things up, folk can still have a boating break this side of the river ... OR if we get "stuck" in Leeds due to the river, take a train back to Wakefield if needs be.

AFTER a few of those, we're then going to head down to the West-Midlands for the Autumn -  and then spend a couple of weeks down there so as to visit Andy's parents THEN take a view on where to spend the winter - It's all very exciting.  We still need to work out how to finance things for the first year - in the event of us not being booked up... especially as of yet, no one has requested either of our kidneys!😅

Today (Tuesday the 5th) has been a VERY early start - Andy has the works Christmas do tonight ... they're all off to a Casino in Leeds and I forbade him to come back to the boat - after the last works night out,  and all the problems I had trying to stop him falling on to the stove, a hotel in Leeds has been booked... supposedly sharing with a girl from work who would ALSO not be able to persuade a taxi to take her back home... IT's all going to get messy but at least tonight it's NOT my problem ... AND just in case he gets it into his head it'd be a good idea to TRY and come back to the boat with them all - I've told him I'm going for a trip out so it won't be here... (I'm not btw, but he thinks I am)...  TOMORROW morning though, Sally is coming for a little chug into town with me so I'll need to let him know where we end up mooring lunchtime ish, for when they eventually manage to negotiate a train back home.

The good thing about being up early though, is that I've already done my 6 mile daily walk - ok it was in the dark but still quite pleasant - I was surprised to see the Stanley Ferry pub TOTALLY lit up at 5.30 am... what a waste of electric... they clearly don't have to count THEIR amps like we do!

We're HAVING to walk each day as we can't justify paying out for gym memberships anymore and REALLY need to shift some weight - SINCE movin on board full time, we've BOTH put on nearly 2 stone! shocking... MY excuse is that I've been recovering from my operations - the reality is of course a) not going to work means I sit around reading and chatting a lot more b) I've started cooking/baking more (and thus eating the profits of my labours) c) we keep getting together with either other boaters/friends and eating and drinking...

WHILST out walking on Monday, we came across a cygnet, apparently trapped in a lock.  We think it was trapped ...bearing in mind  having seen them rtry and take flight on the canal, they need a fair distance to run/flapping to get airborne.   GIVEN the don't have arms to be able to hoik themselves out, it seemed a good idea to open the gates for it to leave...

Which it duly did,  and we carried on our respective ways.

Writing of dieting, I took the cats (yes we still have them despite our best efforts to fund them a new home) for their annual boosters, and BOTH of the have lost weight... GEORGE being "super slimmer" down by 0.6kg and Sox by 0.3kgs.  The vet was pleased with the result... although made a comment about LIKING them a bit more chunky  - whilst looking at my belly!!! ERGO, today is a fasting day ... I'm doing the 5 / 2 diet (although at 13 stone 11, I might be better off doing the 2/5 one lol)

We'll get there...

Right - I can't stay here all day - I've got "risk assessments" to write for the business licence thingy...  Seems bonkers really given that as a pleasure craft we can have up to 12 people on board anyway as is, yet the minute you tell the you're going to take 2 (max) paying guests on board, they get all 'red tapey' on you.

Until next time...

Wednesday 29 November 2017

New Business Support ...

The other day, I mentioned (well I think I did) I was going to attend a New Enterprise Startup workshop/seminar today.

Well, I have and despite my initial scepticism, have come away with several hints and tips AND assurance that support and guidance offered, will genuinely be useful.

I'll back track a bit - in case this isn't making any sense.

You'll recall just before my first hand operation, my boss gave me 3 months notice of intended redundancy...during this time, rather than be "off sick" post operatively, I was on gardening leave.

There was a slight delay in my second operation, which meant I was still signed off  sick for about 4 weeks AFTER the end of my notice period.  During this time, rather than dip TOO heavily into my redundancy payout (which wasn't great - just the legal minimum he HAD to pay) I put in my first ever claim for gin money Employment and Support Allowance.  I was paid this for the grand total of 4 weeks and rather than going BACK to the doc and laying it on thick (which apparently most people on ESA do) I phoned them (the DWP) and said I felt fit enough to be thinking about future employment...oddly enough, I've had MORE in tax refunds than ESA paid ... I suppose that will continue until the end of the financial year.

AS you'll know if you've been here for a while, it was always outr intention to save up a couple of years of mortgage payments before jacking in our jobs anyway...  with this in mind, a couple of weeks ago I went to the job centre to see what help is available for folk (like us) setting up new business ventures.

Now over the years, I've seen TV programs of how awful these places are... how awful the staff are and how awful "fellow job-seeekers" are.

MAYBE I got lucky, but that couldn't be further from the truth here...  my appointed job coach, whilst a fair bit younger than me, is actually a proper decent sort of bloke - upbeat and very positive about our planned narrow boat hotel.  I DID still however have to attend a CV workshop to kick-start my JSA claim BEFORE I could go to today's Start-up session.  Having jumped through the appropriate hoops - meeting another decent chap (at what felt like a youth club) and completing a reasonable CV (another first in 28 years of full-time   employment) that was uploaded to the system and I'm now an official job seeker.

Oddly enough, as my specialist areas are Vintage Fairground restorations or Narrowboat Hoteliers, there are'nt many jobs for me to go for ;-)

ANYWAY - this morning I went to Dewsbury for the aforementioned start-up /link up session.  Despite being early (and thus locked out of the building for half an hour) it turned out to be a very positive experience... the session being run by the most enthusiastic and up-beat mentor you could ever want.  She had a genuine interest and passion in helping people get on their way.  Obviously in some regards, her hands are tied but all the people there (7 out of 10 booked turned up) can be assured of her help.

Future workshops will include Marketing, cash flow, business plans and general support.  I can also get free First Aid at work training, Free Food safety/hygiene  certification and even Free Allergens awareness courses.

The only downside is there isn't any business start-up capital grants available other than 26 weeks "pocket money" to help things along when you begin trading proper... Perhaps I'll try a bit of crowd-funding to see if we can get a cash injection for April onwards - either that or sell a kidney ... if you know anyone who needs one (and has the means) send them our way ... we've 1 each going spare I'm sure!

Until next time...

Monday 27 November 2017

A (not so) secret Crush...

Ok - I confess...  despite being on the other bus, I've always had a bit of a crush on Nigella Lawson... did you know she's nearly 60? - NOT looking bad at all for a lady of that generation .

Why am I  telling you this? - well, as a rule we try NOT to watch TV cookery/baking programs...  primarily because the "faux" tension that's put in these days gets on my nerves is mildly irritating and also because we end up starving hungry and wanting to eat something at at time of day that isn't conducive to shedding the flab we've both put on this summer.

THAT said, Nigella is the exception to the rule - especially after a few glasses of wine.  I LOVE the way she takes the mickey and sexes up the food as she cooks... I doubt for 1 second it's serious but she cleary has a laugh doing it and at the same time, "cheats" as often as possible with pre-packed stuff.

Well, the other week when flicking through the hundreds of channels - all showing rubbish, I stumbled across her poaching an egg!

Now I realise to many folk this is an easy task but I've NEVER for the life of me been able to do it without ending up with a pan full of swirling mess of egg white.    I can now confidently say I'm a master thanks to Ms Lawson...  who knew how easy it COULD be?

ALL you do, is take a cold egg (which is a pain cause they don't live in the fridge but 10 mins in the freezer whilst I get the fire stoked up on a morning is enough to chill them) crack it into a tea strainer/little sieve and once the runny, watering white bits have gone you then decant it into recently boiled water and leave it to cook - without putting the heat back on.  Remove from the water with a straining spoon and its ready to eat.  NO mess, a nice runny yolk in a cooked white casing.  Perfect!

OK so I got a bit carried away with the grated cheese but trust me - under there are 2 perfect poached eggs.

WHILST  (while?) I'm waffling on about my culinary prowess, I've been continuing with experimental bread making...  my 2 latest successes being a red onion and rosemary foccacia and a sun dried tomato and parmesan loaf - inspired by a packet of ready made bread mix I took a photoo of in Asda the other week, they turned out rather good ... especially the latter, remaining moist for days.

Having the fire on to proof them is very handy and  whilst in the summer I was using the bread-maker to mix, knead, proof (prove?) and cook them, now the solar is not doing so much, I've resorted to letting it knead and then cooking in the oven on gas.

Nigella eat your heart out!

In future though I Will  take a leaf out of HER book and stock the cupboard with a few ready mixes - not cause I'm lazy but by the time I'd bought a jar of sun-dried tomatoes and the parmesan, it'd cost about 3 quid - verses a packet mix of only 80p.  Still, you live and learn.

In boaty 'business news' I'm attending a New Enterprise all sorts of mentoring, support and training free gratis... well I say free, having worked full time for 28 years I feel sure I've paid enough tax to cover it 100 times over but it's nice to be getting something back for a change.  

I'll fill you in properly on it later in the week - meanwhile, I need to get back to working on the website and come up with some proper 'booking terms' etc. for when we begin in April.

Until next time...

Tuesday 21 November 2017

A Birthday boat trip...on a budget!


It was Andy's birthday on Friday (38) - and as planned, we took a weekend trip to Leeds on the boat with our friends Sally and Lee.  Well I say Sally AND Lee - he couldn't get Friday afternoon off work so took the train to Leeds and met us there on Saturday afternoon.

We got VERY lucky with the weather with glorious sunshine but bitingly cold.  I had warned them to bring warm clothing (for the chugging) but once the wine came out, the dropping temperatures didn't really matter.

It was a good opportunity for us to practice having a couple of people on board for a few days... to see how we'll all cope in a small space.  I'm pleased to report (at least from OUR point of view) it was quite easy... and would have been easier still if I'd been a bit more organised tidying out the back cabin en suite before we set off.

Leeds from Wakefield takes about 7 hours if you're not rushing... which means about 8.5 litres of diesel (according to the engine  manufacturers official consumption figures...) THAT means, at 64.9p a litres (red diesel) a rough cost of  £11.03 for travel, hot water and power generation for 4 people for a weekend.

Given we didn't eat out either - I also took the opportunity to try out a few veggie meals (Sal's not a meat eater) it meant for a very cheap weekend away.  OK so a few gallons  we had a couple of drinks here and there but never the less, it's a lovely way to spend time with friends.

We over-nighted again in Woodlesfood and continued into Leeds on Saturday morning... we were even escorted by a kingfisher for a few hundred yards - if you have VERY good eyes (or a good imagination) you might be able to pick him out perched on a scaffold pole!

It's typical that none of us had a decent camera with us other than our mobile phones...  we are going to HAVE to get a good one with a good optical zoom.  Phones are fine for snapping away but it would have been lovely to get a "proper" photo of the kingfisher.

When Lee arrived on Saturday afternoon we sat at the back of the boat people watching and having a few drinks before I set to and did my Nigella bit in the kitchen...  substituting Leeks with Spring onions and sweet potatoes - the local Tescos NOT selling Leeks.  Once we'd eaten our tea, we headed off out for a couple of pints - unfortunately, it had escaped our notice it was Saturday night and the pubs don't seem to encourage conversation over drinks... either that or they assume that "young" people use sign language to communicate.  We took our battered ear-drums back to the boat quite early on and played cards/watched telly until the sandman did his thing.

The return journey on Sunday began in glorious sunshine again... blooming cold and when we stopped at Leeds service point on the river to fill the water tank I nearly slipped in on some ice.  That was a funny sight - apparently!  BEFORE that, I'd already gotten a bit of a soaking in lock 1 on the Leeds & Liverpool canal where it leaves the Aire .  I have a feeling I'd read these locks are to be replaced in January - long overdue by the looks of things...

Once off the river and back on to safer cruising ground, Lee was keen to have a go at the tiller... well, I'm not sure if that was because he felt safer on the canal again OR the Desperado's he was supping gave him the courage.

EITHER way, he took to it like a natural - certainly steering a much straighter course than either Andy or I tend to.

We lunched as we chugged (another vegetarian triumph I might add) and arrived back at Stanley Ferry just before dusk...  No time to get cleaned up though as tea in the pub was calling and having been treated by them to food and a little more libation, we said our goodbyes and were back on the boat in time for bed.  A lovely relaxed weekend which we'll try and do again soon.

Sadly for them, Monday morning saw them going off to work whilst Andy and I were able to luxuriate in a warm fire and More of Nigella's poached eggs!... MORE on those to follow!

Until Next time...

Wednesday 15 November 2017

Cash back on old batteries...

I forgot to mention yesterday - having phoned a local scrapper to see if it was worth taking the old batteries in to him rather than going down the tip, apparently he pays 50p a kilo for batteries at present...

SO I dropped in all 4 (the old one had been in the engine bay as ballast since it 'boiled')... and came away with 65 quid - well I say came away with, he took a photo of my debit card and promised to credit my account the same afternoon - he's probably shopping away using android or apple pay on my account as I type!

Until next time...

Tuesday 14 November 2017

New batteries fitted...

It can't be a week since I was here? - surely not!

oh well - calenders don't lie I suppose.  Trouble is, these days my memory is not what is was so sitting down to write a catch up is going to be quite tricky.

LAST week (Wednesday I think it was) I got a call from Sheila next door, to say 4 heavy parcels had arrived for me.   As it happens I was on route to the tip with a drum of used oil so once I'd gotten rid of that, I detoured via "home" before coming back to the boat.

It WAS a bit of a struggle lifting the ruddy things, but I managed it and brought them to the boat.  

After lots of research I'd settled on traditional lead acid "combined leisure /starter batteries from a chap on Ebay -

In an ideal world, I'd have bought GTP, TROJANS or LITHIUM... the latter of which are RIDICULOUSLY expensive.  FINANCIAL Reality bites though and I figured given we'd ruined a set in a little over 12 months, we could just as easily ruin an expensive set as a cheap one - ergo, £339.36 for 4 x 130ah batteries (inc delivery) was a (just about) tolerable expense.

I had to wait until Andy wasn't working on Thursday morning to remove the old ones - them being bigger and heavier than their replacements, so, as the fire was running, I thought I'd bake some bread... yes I know this is not related to batteries but the outcome was quite good so I thought I'd share with you.

SO - back to the batteries... I crawled into the engine hole and undid all the terminals, AFTER I'd disconnected the solar panels and Andy helped me to lift them out of their positions and on to the back of the boat.  

Rather annoyingly, in the process I thought I'd lost one of the terminal clamps so had to break off and go to Halfords for a replacement.... which turned into a bit of a nightmare as despite them having one, (I bought 2 just in case) - when I came to fit it, the "post" turned out to be too big for the connecting wires... ergo a slight bodge different way to connect them had to be found.

It's hard to see, but  I had to find an m6 long bolt to attach the cable to - this required rutting through old Mick's box of bits and bobs AND (when he didn't have one) scrounging one of Mark on the boat behind Mick...  It wasn't until I got to the final group of wires, I FOUND the missing  battery terminal clamp where I'd used it earlier to keep the bundle of cabling tidy.

Yes - I DID undo the bodge and re-instate the original wiring.

Once all back together, I had to reset the smart-gauge to tell it the new bank size and type of battery...  That in itself is a bit of a faff cause you need 2 people to do it really...  luckily, Andy was still in amenable mood!

Finally, I re-configured the combi-charger with the new battery bank size and type also in preparation for a full charge.

All this had taken 2 hours (probably and hour and a half LONGER than it would have, had I not mislaid the connector.  The plan then WAS to get the generator out and charge fully... HOWEVER, as the sun was shining, I decided it would be a nice day to go for a chug.  I went towards Woodnock lock and did 2 locks single-handed before my return to the mooring.

As I came over the aqueduct, my phone went beep and it was my friend Sally who was in the pub... well it'd have been rude not to moor up outside and nip in for a quick one.... which turned into a couple and subsequent message to Andy to advise him I'd moved the boat to outside the pub for the night (by this time he'd gone to work) where he later joined us for a convivial evening - DURING which, a plan was hatched for a boat trip to Leeds this coming Friday for his birthday where Sally and her fiancée Lee will join us and pretend to be customers...  Luckily they both drink like fish  appreciate the odd drink so will be easy company.  NOW of course, we just need it not to rain and send the river into flood.

Oh - before I forget... SO far, the batteries are doing well...  they get to 100% with about an hours am charge, solar top up and half hour boost at tea-time each day - only dropping 10% from dusk till dawn and that's even with the webasto coming on for 2-3 hours on a morning.  LONG may it continue.

Until next time...

Tuesday 7 November 2017

Re-homing the cats...

After 5 months of trying (through word of mouth and extended circles) to find new homes for the cats, we've finally resorted to the cats protection  people.

Sox would I'm sure manage ok when we're moving around next year... poor old George however continues to hate it ... MORE so since he got stuck up that tree last week.  At the moment, the poor fella won't LEAVE the boat at all - despite hating it.... stuck between a rock and proverbial hard place.

Today, they've appeared on the "home to home" section of the website  here.  .

SOMEWHERE during our chat, they must have gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick - re. our reasons for moving onto a boat.  To quote "Dad's fallen on hard times and moved us on to a narrowboat"...  I suppose that might make someone take pity on them - ironically, we have offered to keep paying their medical insurance, provide the new owners with a years worth of Frontline (flea/tick stuff) and Drontil (worming stuff) that we'd already bought  AND pay the adoption fee to the charity, transfer the "chip data" and transfer the vaccinations for life policy to go with them

It seems "real" now they are officially listed as unwanted... and to be truthful, it doesn't feel very good to be trying to find them new homes....Despite that, we do know it IS the right thing for George.  Hey ho.  I'm sure they'll brighten up some cat loving/lonely person's life.

BOATY wise, today I'd hoped to get some scratches touched up but the weather is against us - instead, I've been to the tip to dispose of some waste oil and collected 4 new batteries I'd ordered for the boat - they were delivered to the default pay-pal address and intercepted by one of the neighbours ... she called me whilst I was at the tip and I detoured via the bungalow to pick them up on the return journey.

IF we'd had enough money, we'd have bought either GTP'S or TROJANS ... as it stands, given we need to get through the next few months on my redundancy money, I resorted to lead/acid 130ah "leisure" ones... hopefully, now I've gotten better at looking after them AND if we don't abuse them (like we did the first set) they'll do a couple of years...

Tomorrow morning, before Andy goes to work, I'll wedge myself in the engine bay and remove the old and replace them - using Andy as "Braun"...  I called into a scrap-yard today to enquire if it was worth me bringing the old ones in and was told they pay 50p a kg.... given they weigh in at 30kg each, what's 60 quid cash to buy coal with...  every little helps and there was me - about to take the to the tip!

Until next time...