About Me

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The name describes my demeanour and voice! I love narrowboating and that is why this blog is mainly about the boat and our interaction with it. I have been keeping a log for Sonflower ever since we bought her and moved onto her as our main residence. Some incidents in our boating life have been hilarious, some scary and some down right dangerous. I cannot tell what will come in the future but you can now share them! The crew are an 'ordinary' couple. The Best Mate and I.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Hello, Hello, What's this then?

The day before yesterday we passed a tree stump or log of that ilk on which was growing a most luxurious plant with light green colour that was very distinctive and shone in the sunlight. It had long serrated leaves and was a fairly bushy plant. We were amazed at its capacity to grow in such an unusual place.

Today I saw a similar looking plant growing in the cratch of a moored boat.

The boat had no license, no visible name but was identifiable by number. The amount of vegetation growing on it was amazing. I suppose it was what Grannny Buttons would call a hippy hutch.

Can anyone identify these lovely pretty plants to confirm my suspicions? [Now authoritatively identified as cannabis among the tomatoes, ED]

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

A Fun Day Out, Wednesday 30th July, Curdworth to Hopwas

Here is the crew enjoying themselves at a FUn Day Out at Drayton Manor Park.

This theme park has become a regular stopping off point as it is so conveniently located on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal.

We have fun, get wet, eat spicy fried chicken and then get back on the boat. It is not cheap, but everyone enjoys the day.

Today was no exception. Since our last visit a lot of 'new' rides have been built. Most are more of the same but differently themed on Thomas the Tank Engine and the island of Sodor. Even to the extent of having a water tank labeled "Sodor Water"!
More meaningful that BWs temporary label "Bridge 55a" on the M42 Bridge across the Coventry Canal. Everyone can see and hear it is a motorway bridge! And it is almost OVER bridge 56!

This evening we cruised a little further toward our northern target. This time we have moored with our cruiser stern deck overlapping the marker for someone's "55ft Private Approved Mooring" "BW Approved" for boat 78267. This boat is not here and I have paced out 17 meters of vacant canal bank to ensure that they cannot grumble. Looks like another case of a NIMFY. It is between Ball's Bridge and Dixon's Bridge, Hopwas.

We'll be gone before they are up to walk the dog.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

29th July, Atherstone to Curdmoor

This morning everyone was on great spirits. All the boaters we met coming up the remainder of the Atherstone flight were chirpy too. The weather was cooler but still warm enough. Showers were int he air.

We cruised on until about 12 noon and then moored for a salad and salami lunch during a heavy downpour. A spot of fishing after lunch brought a very small perch. The first catch of the cruise.

Another dry boating session took us to Glascote locks where we met a stream of Canaltime boats all returning to base. These locks really empty quickly bit filling is interminable.

The turn into the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal at Fazeley Junction is very tight but was negotiated adequately enough. We hailed our friends David (nb Kew), Alan and Hazel (nb Dilly Dally)who had moored for tea. We carried on past to turn at Curdmoor Winding Hole and moor near the conveyor bridge.

Eeyore and Piglet went for a walk under blackening skies after the spaghetti bolognese dinner had been cleared away. We saw loads of black slugs that had been drawn out by the showery weather but had a good time in a hide overlooking the nature reserve at Kingsbury Water Park. Lots of mallard ducks, tufted duck, great crested grebe, pochard, a goldeneye and a garganey. Cormorants were roosting on trees and we spotted one tern on an island occupied by Canada Geese. In 1999 we had passed here and there were loads of nesting terns. We wondered why they were not nesting in abundance this year. The only downside was that one of Piglet's telescope tripod legs broke. Getting to the hide was interesting too. We had to wade through a foot of water to the steps up to the door.

Nick's Canal Planner assures us that we can relax tomorrow without cruising and still make our next target of Handsacre, on the T & M past Fradley, by Thursday afternoon.

The starter did not present any problem today.

Pots of great cooking

The Best Mate wants everybody to know how thrilled she is with Sonflower's new cookware. These pots were found in the Katherine House Hospice Charity shop, one of the best in Banbury. They were cheap.

But what is special about them is that they are all the same diameter so they all fit on the hob. They are enamelware do they can be used on the stove. They are green and match the boat. Being the same size means one can interchange the lids, saving time scrabbling about under the sink for the one you need.

Monday, 28 July 2008

27th and 28th July 2008 Hillmorton to Atherstone

What a lot has happened. We have bought new fenders from a boater at Newbold. Don't they look smart?
We have watched with wonder at the maneuvers of some boaters in the mad heat. We have eaten well aboard and ashore ("The Rose and Castle", Ansty) and been harangued by residents of the same village. How did we upset them? It's a long story.

Piglet left his hat in the aforesaid hostelry do I stopped and held SONFLOWER on the centre rope while he ran back to get it. My engine, a 1962 BMC 1500cc, smokes on tickover so I turned it off while we waited. Whn Piglet returned the engine didn't start! I knew the symptoms. Having been a Morris Minor owner it was characteristic of a starter motor Bendix gear stuck in the starter ring. I jumped off the boat to secure the boat on pins. The clash of hammer on pins brought out the local neighbour hood watch who shouted at us that mooring was forbidden here. There were signs from BW saying that it was strictly forbidden! The Best Mate fired back that we had broken down and I asked the lady to ring BW to get them to send out a mechanic.

I disappeared down the engine hole with the club hammer and administered a few appropriate whacks to the starter. A dog walking neighbour of the watchperson came by to explain that there was no mooring all along this stretch. I could see why. The canal is on an embankment and the upstairs windows of The Grove, Ansty might be peered into by boaters! No that wasn't the case she assured us. It was because of the sandstone!

The engine fired and we were on our way far from the NIMFYs.(Not In My Front Yard)

So today the first stop after another hammer swinging start was at a boatyard for the essential pumpout and to consult a diesel mechanic. The former was successfully completed by Measham Boats at their Boot yard in Nuneaton. The latter was less successful as Oily Andrew couldn't diagnose the fault as the starter motor was now behaving itself. He gave us his card. Told us to call if we were stuck. He would need the starter for two days at least for reconditioning as they are not readily available anymore. Not what I wanted to hear two days into the Summer Cruise!

We carried on toward Atherstone and worked down the first five locks before stopping for shopping. We chose the Co-op rather than Aldi because it was nearer! The pub opposite lock 5 looks inviting. Pooh pointed out that it is open all day every day.

We saw Granny Buttons today. I cannot tell you where for security reasons. Unfortunately, there was no-one aboard. Eeyore would have liked to meet and have a chat with Andrew. Maybe another time.

A thundery shower stopped the expetition to the pub. We feasted on stir fried chicken and noodles, prepared by the Best Mate, instead. Very nice too. After a game of Cocoa Cocoa (Eeyore v Piglet) and Uno (Best Mate v Pooh) it was bed time. The youngsters both won.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Two little jobs.

There is always something to do. During the lunch break today I fixed a bracket for the air horn. I have meant to do it for ages. For five years the air horn has been rolling around the deck and not exactly where it is needed, within reach of the helmsman. Now it is!

Also, the adjustable windlass -a real asset on locks like Hilmorton with heavy top paddles and hydraulic gate paddles close to the balance beam on the bottom gate- has needed new rivets that act as stops.
These drilling jobs were completed with a hand drill and a pop riveter and became the cause of a blister on my thumb.

Here are the items and proof of the damage.

All go aaahh, please.

Toward Rugby, Saturday 26th July 2008

This morning we rose late for us. Another strange event was the rejection of an offer of breakfast at The GONGOOZLER'S REST in Braunston for a breakfast of toast and cereal on the boat. Really all we wanted to do was to do some boating.

By the time we got to Braunston Turn the hire boats were out! A Viking afloat saw me late coming round the turn and went into reverse thus blocking the canal I was turning into! Then another kind boater gave way to me at some moored boats and attempted to indicate my coming to the boat behind.The communication failed as he thought the first boat was mooring and started to pass it almost coming prow to prow with SONFLOWER. At the very next bridge however a lad of about ten handled his Rose narrowboat with aplomb to pass us under the bridge.

It must have been the heat. We stopped for lunch. It could only be salad as the temperature soared and the day turned into a scorcher.

Mid afternoon we set off again. We needed the breeze to cool us off. Even at two miles an hour the moving air is a blessing. However, everybody else seemed to be on the move. First Saturday of the holidays and all the boats were on their way. We met many at bridge holes. Two at bridges narrowed by bouys to prevent further damage where boats had tried to demolish them. We joined a long procession along Barby Straight and headed for Hilmorton locks. Here we made a boaters day by letting them go first. They had to be in Tamworth in the morning. Good luck.

We stopped for the night at Clifton upon Dunsmoor next to a golf course. We ate dinner but the fish didn't want to join in. The boys played games and UNO and went to bed at nine. The traffic didn't stop. There were boats still coming by us in the dark after ten o'clock.

Cruising in Earnest, Friday 25th July

It was Pooh who wanted to get going. Was this a new sense of adventure. We were sitting at the top of a flight of locks and he wanted to help work them. How could we refuse. We didn't expect to move on Friday evening after a long day to-ing and fro-ing to load all we needed on to the boat. But we thought we might as well get a few locks under our belt.

The crew were most enthusiastic and we worked down the whole Napton flight and found ourselves cruising into the most delightful sunset. On the way down we touched base with the miracle of life as we watched a new born buffalo calf, still wet and sticky with a dangling cord, totter around its mother who licked it attentively.

We didn't join the throng who were celebrating the last night of their holiday at The Folly Pie pub but decided to cruise a little further to moor for the night on piling just past Wygram's Turn (Napton Junction)

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Here it is!

Yes! A bollard. But not just any old bollard. This is one of the new one's fitted on the ladder side of every narrow lock.

At the Customer Meeting with Robin Evans, the subject was one of the first raised. How can so much be said about a smallish piece of foundry ware? The shape is wrong, the positions are wrong, they are too far back or too near the end. All sorts of opinions were shared. And BW cannot make it mandatory to use them.

Yesterday, at Claydon Middle lock a single handed boater was working up the flight and I noticed he had secured his rope around the ladder! It will take will take two hundred years to change the habit of 200 years!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Robin Evan roadshow

I have just come back from the Customer Meeting at Hatton on the GU (Birmingham and Warwick Canal).

I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted with the offer of a coffee and bacon bap, an offer that could not be refused.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the CEO and Directors present were genuinely trying to listen to the views of the very varied 'customer' base. Representatives of boaters, restoration groups, local community groups , angling federations and many more were all given the time and opportunity to make their points.

I find it very hard to juggle three balls. I came away with the impression that BW are onto a loser with somebody somewhere whatever decision they make or policy they try to implement. However, the objectives were clear. To maintain the waterways as a national asset; to encourage their use by all sectors of the community; to provide minimum service standards to all customers.

I sincerely wish them well in their endeavours. They are the organisation on which we all depend for the future of our waterways and the continuation of boating as the pleasure we love.

Monday, 21 July 2008

More fantastic food

This is becoming a foodie blog instead of a boater blog!

Don't worry, we are provisioning and preparing the boat for our Summer Cruise which starts next Saturday.

In the meantime.....

. . . we have been to the English Heritage Festival of History. Driving there was almost a canal tour in itself, via Wilton Locks, Watford (locks), a stone's throw from Foxton to Kelmarsh Hall in Leicestershire where the event happened. We overnight stopped in Market Harborough (on the GU(Leicester Line))

The weekend was great. Reconstructions of every period in British History from the Romans to D-day. Gladiators, jousting, Civil War battles and a dogfight between Spitfire and ME109s. Not all about warfare either with people modelling the settlements of the time and even cooking the menus of the periods.

Here is a poached pheasant and rabbit stew off the Duke of Goucester's estate in about 1480! Don't tell his Grace!

Sunday, 13 July 2008

More Culinary Delight

Look what the Best Mate served up!

Can you get better than that for a Saturday night. The Best Mate needed to use up some fresh anchovy fillets (bought from Tesco, reduced, "eat on Day of Purchase"!) so what better way than on a home baked pizza. There was enough dough left over to do a round of garlic bread as well!

Washed down with a Fleurie (also reduced in Tesco) we had a wonderful dinner.

Eat your heart out Domino!

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Here we go again?

It is raining. It hasn't stopped all day and we are watching the level in the canal rising. There is a steady flow toward the lock and over the top of the gates at the moment and everyone is wondering whether the weather will turn out to be like July last year when we were very nearly out of the cut and many premises locally were feet under water.

The forecast is for showers tomorrow, more rain on Friday and then more again Sunday.

At least there will be a day in between the downpours when the Cherwell might take a bit of the flow away.

Whether the weather be wet,
Or whether the weather be hot,
we'll weather the weather
whatever the weather.
Whether we like it or not

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

All down to the weather?

Do you remember my post about the state of the towpaths?

Well I felt that as it hasn't improved over the past two weeks or so, I would drop British Waterways a line. I received this reply:


Thank you for taking time to inform British Waterways of the overgrown vegetation at Spiceball Park and north of here. We are aware of the situation on the towpath with overgrown vegetation(exacerbated by the warm and wet conditions) and apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused you or family.

We are working closely with our new contractor Fountains to clear the vegetation as quickly as possible and are asking people to bear with us during this period. Additional staff have been allocated to deal with the backlog of work and British Waterways and Fountains are confident that once this has been dealt with the overall standard of vegetation management will exceed that of the previous contract.

Despite the extra staff resource we anticipate it will be at least 3 – 4 weeks before we see significant improvements between Banbury and Cropredy. We have put together a detailed recovery plan to manage the backlog and clear the towpaths of vegetation. Fountains have provided additional teams to focus on strimming the towpaths to get the grass down to a level where the core team can then establish the defined standard as detailed in the contract and another team to target mooring sites, locksides and selected destinations. If you would like to know when specific areas of towpath are to be cut back I would be happy to have Lee King, British Waterways Contracts Manager talk directly with you.

Once again thank you for bringing this to our attention and please accept our sincere apologies.

If you have any questions or require further information please give me a call on 01908 302552."

Maybe, some of you who cannot see the towpath from the canal or the canal from the towpath might like to give this number a call!

Lovely healthy food

With all the recent talk by the PM about wasted food I find myself back in the club today for lunch with my friends who are just back from the Pontcysyllte and Llangollen.

Yesterday, I was beaten by the chips so today I thought I would go healthy. What could be better than this for a fiver?

Monday, 7 July 2008

A very short cruise

More visitors today. Maggie and Grant came up from Teddington. They have lived close to the Thames for half a century and never been on a narrowboat so we started the engine and Grant steered us into town for a lunch at the Club. The rain only held off for a short time so we abandoned the cruise and she is still moored in the Town Centre. We will water and turn her tomorrow.

We had a good time, over lunch for five for very little, recollecting stories about times past before they had to face the M40 to return to the south from whence came more foul weather!


As I mentioned we were without the boat this weekend. The temporary crew of Keith, Jo, baby Emily, Derek and Lesley have written the following in SONFLOWER'S LOG:

"We have comandeered SONFLOWER for Derek's birthday weekend -what a treat. After Keith's training afternoon we felt well equipped for the job and set off on a sunny Saturday morning stocked up with food, wine and beer.

We had a great sandwich in The Red Lion in Cropredy and then hopped back on board and carried on to Fenny Compton where we arrived at about 6 o'clock. We moored up near The Wharf pub but decided to stay aboard rather than venture out as the rain had started to descend on us.

Once Emily was tucked up and out of the way, we had a lovely birthday meal and put the world to rights over a couple of glasses of wine! We all slept like logs (even Emily who almost did a full night!) and awoke to horrendous rain. That didn't deter the men who cagouled up and set off. We stopped just short of Cropredy to have a quick bite to eat and finish up all the food before heading back to Banbury.

All in all, a fantastic weekend away which we all thoroughly enjoyed. We felt relaxed and refreshed afterwards.

Thank You so much for trusting us with your lovely boat."

No problem. It gave us great pleasure to be able to serve you in this way. Sorry we couldn't fix the weather!

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Hobby Horses and the Town Mayor's Show

As we have no boat and cannot be boating this weekend while Sonflower is away, we occupied our time by manning a stall for a local charity, Let's Play Project of which the Best Mate is a Trustee, at the Banbury Hobby Horse Festival and Town Mayor's Sunday.

All the local dignitaries were there and we enjoyed a great break in the weather. From 1pm to 5 pm there was no rain. The rest of the country may have been suffering showers and the men's final at Wimbledon was interrupted but the Mayor's Show went on.

I won't bore you with a repeat of the history of the mayoralty in Banbury (400 years and all that) but it was good fun. Hobby horse racing, a parade, sideshows and a general feeling of enjoyment.

Not a very lucrative event. After expenses and a lot of hard work the charity only made about a hundred pounds but it raises awareness and in that way encourages the charity workers. They support children and young people with learning disabilities to join in with the sort of activities their peers are doing out of school by providing one to one help. The young people go bowling, dancing, to discos, drama, outings to theme parks and all sorts of other things. Well worth while work. Young people don't always want their parents in attendance and these carers are brilliant with the children.

It was good to shake hands with the Mayoress, Leader of the District Council, and local MP while in the arena the Sealed Knot society re-enacted the siege of Banbury during the civil war. Sad we haven't got a castle for them to fire their noisy cannons at!

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Excellent Marks

I am lending SONFLOWER to friends for the weekend. In order to be sure that he could handle the boat, I took him for a similar tour of the locality that I had introduced my nephew to last year. It covers all the fundamentals of handling a narrowboat on the narrow Canals. Bridge narrows, meeting other craft, a tight bend (with inline moorings) a boatyard, a lift bridge, a lock and turning at a hidden winding hole.

My friend did excellently so I had no hesitation in issuing a Certificate of Competence.

He and I have confidence to enjoy the weekend. He in charge of my largish asset and me knowing he will take best care of her (the boat, silly).

After the "course", he informed me that his wife had been brought up on a boat and his guest passenger for the weekend had been a boat builder in Oxford for about 20years!

Why did I bother!