Friday, 5 February 2016

There is nothing more I like than a .......

.....Graveyard.

Well ok there are some things I like better but when out for a walk I will always detour to a graveyard. Not to be morbid but I always feel very peaceful and 'in my place' when I walk amongst the gravestones. I think it is because it resets my values, it makes me understand how precious this life is and how much we should enjoy every day of it.

I have been out today I walked across the fields to Funtington. As an aside  - it is posh around here for a midland lad. This made me chuckle.....


.... I used the tried and tested plastic bag. Not too sure of the local farmer is aware of the dog poo flirting going on into his fields!

Anyhow at the terminus of the walk is St Marys Church with a beautifully peaceful churchyard. Now fellas take heed, many of the graves were blokes first joined later by their good ladies - some time later.



The other relevancy to todays walk and post was a program I watched at lunchtime. "Who do you think you are"  - the BBC genealogy program that featured Brian Blessed. Link Here 

Now blessed is not what I would call his ascendants, or some of them. I'll not spoilt the program for you but by todays standards there was some suffering and I challenge you not to be moved by the ending. Well worth a watch and afterwards reflect on how easy our lives are with so much support an choice.... and yet we still find things to moan about !!

My BlueDeau motorbike was ridden down last night... 200 miles  and it was  a little peach of a bike, not the fastest (I have my other bike for that) but very capable and comfortable. Not sure yet how long it will live down here but it means I have a bike every weekend now, told you we were spoilt !

I have a week off now and hope to get Percy moving. The work done last weekend means we can poll up light the fire and depart - famous last words.  Might head off for Great Haywood and then a trip into Stafford by bus,  we very much like Stafford and the tea room there. We may even celebrate our 31st wedding anniversary on board on February the 14th.... ;-)




Saturday, 30 January 2016

It could have killed me !

..... but it is now gone


Of course I am talking about the small guards van stove that used to live in Percy's back cabin. It was only after getting Percy back that I noticed a 50p size hole in the chimney just above its connection with the stove. It was round the back and I had missed it for some time. I  expect I had had the fire going with the damaged flue, I guess the draw helped as did the the natural vents in the back cabin. It does go to show a decent check at least a coupe, of times a year is a must.

It was a pig to get out as the flue had rusted onto the stove so it all came out together leaving the three studs with their welded collars to leave an air gap to the ash section of the little stove.

I like the look and performance of the stove so I will try and repair it. I have an arc welder at home so I'll test my welding skills - I have used the welder so many times  - I have owned it for years, I brought it to repair my old Mini.... that long ago !

If I cannot effect a repair I am happy with, safety and aesthetics wise then it'll get scrapped and I'll look for a replacement but it deserves as second chance, if for no other reason than ease of reinstall.

My goodness it was heavy and it is in the back of the car now waiting for another day to test my back.

I gave the donk a good lube (!) while aboard, it fired first go - all hail the solar panel and the Smart relay. Then the boat go a decent clean ready hopefully for a little jolly to come.

The whole visit came about as I took my two lads to Birmingham airport to catch a flight for a stag week skiing  !! My good neighbour Mandy from NB Don't Panic provided coffee and bacon sarnies in exchange for my labour carrying fuel across the lock gates. I think I got the best of the deal.

All in all a timely visit and pleasingly Percy had survived the winter to date quite well.


Tuesday, 26 January 2016

C&RT formal complaint - update and something you should know !

I do feel like a moaning git, but sometime the only way things get better and you feel better is to take on the issue.

Remember this .....



I made a formal complaint to C&RT and after a false start they were very professional in investigating the complaint at their level one stage. The outcome was that they accepted they had very poor control of their contractors, their work procedures and their follow ups to complaints re vegetation management and boat damage. Fountains were paying customers ad hoc for damage resulting in little contract management by C&RT. 

My complaint flagged this and steps have been taken to have better procedures and safe systems of work. I have them if you wish to see them.

When they broke windows on my previous boat  - twice.... they advised I needed to complete a vegetation management refusal form which I did that was fountain own procedural document and meant in effect nothing. What you need to know is if you do not wish to have the grass cut adjacent to your boat while on a permanent mooring (such as Percy's) or when on any towpath mooring you need to have one of these signs in your window.....


If you want the PDF file let me know and I'll email it over to you.

This is the now agreed way that C&RT and their contractors will manage the process of vegetation management by your boat.

I was not satisfied with the suggested outcome of meeting with C&RT's contractors Fountains to take the issue of potential damage further. In my industry we have to employ competent contractors, I cited this concern to C&RT furthermore after taking legal advice I was advised that my contract was with C&RT not Fountains for my mooring so I refused to engage with Fountains and asked they reconsider their response. This resulted in me escalating the complaint to level 2 (they have three levels the last one being the water ombudsman) 

Julie Sharman Executive Head of Asset Management and Performance got in touch and we had a very productive telephone call before Christmas and with  agreement a delayed formal response in the New Year. She re read the file and the first stage response and upheld my second level complaint writing ...

In respect of your complaint I have reached the decision that you have not received the level of service that you should have expected to receive as our customer.

Julie offered a guarantee to repair any damage as it appeared. I considered this  but felt it too subjective and not clear enough (for the trust). I asked that the boat be inspected for damage and a report provided by my boat surveyor which was accepted. This way if there is no damage then the trust and I can put this issue to bed with all the learning points for C&RT in their contract management, their complaints handling and also for Fountains to have some safe systems of work - and consistency of approach to incidents.

So I am waiting for Balliol (the marine surveyor who surveyed all my boats to date) to be contracted by C&RT to visit Percy, examine the paintwork and provide a report on the paint condition and use his expert opinion on what if any damage may appear in what is considered a reasonable time-scale. A totally independent approach and if C&RT need it an expert witness for them to recover their costs from Fountains the process will have provided this.

To date I have been treated with great respect and courtesy. The Trust have worked with me to get to this mutually agreed position. Julie has been exactly what I would have wished for in the way she has obviously considered the second level complaint and the evidence around it. 

I am confident we will have a defined outcome we can both work to and all the boaters on the cut - if they know of the veg signs can have their boat left in peace and undamaged by Fountains or whoever is the contractor engaged.

I will update this circumstance when the surveyor has been and inspected the boat. 


Sunday, 24 January 2016

Pigs pebbles and apps

Events conspire to keep me from Percy at the moment. Airport drop offs next week will see some visits. No least to check the boats auto stern gland is still autoing  ! Then we may well be going to the pictures on her again !

Two nice walks around the very heavy rain this weekend. One done a few times before that sees us walk to Funtingdon down Watery lane and it was very watery then back over the muddy fields past the free range pigs routing through the mud for roots etc. It does not seem that long ago we were worrying about them getting sunburn !


We (Leia and me) just made it across the last field footpath as the sun dipped below the distant hills....


Today was a seashore walk.... we are still gradually working our way east to west and today I plotted a 5 mile walk starting and finishing in Prinstead, a real chocolate box hamlet just by the sea. It did take us through a little marina to keep my interest in lumpy water boats up.....(Colvic Watson and Fisher motorsailers) We once again went via some footpath fields and they were well waterlogged, my aging 3 peaks boots are still providing sterling service.





Finished the day off with proper stodgy food - Cauliflower cheese baked spuds with bread and butter pudding to finish (me) off.

.... and apps, I have blogged about Memory Map before, I use it a lot and will do so when we move more on the boat. It provides excellent walking guidance enabling me to have all the uk's Ordinance survey maps on one device.... plot the route on the Ipad then send it to my phone a great way to plan and undertake walks where ever you are.

O and if you fancy relocating to Prinsted.... here is what you get for your hard earned .... sit down first...







Saturday, 9 January 2016

B is for .....

Not boat so those only seeking boating fix stop here.......

B is for Bike well maybe should be M is for Motorbike.

I have added another responsibility to my stable of responsibilities.




At the end of the day it is just a bike, can be resold but also may well fit on the well deck of Percy ;-))

How it gets there well I have some ideas in that as well


Friday, 1 January 2016

2015...... a reflection of our year in blogland

For me its starting to be as much a traditional post as it is Jules Holland to invade New years eve. On a music related note I have started a 3 month trail of Apple music  - Kate Bush is helping me draft this review of my year.

If I was producing an exec summary it would be ....

23% more blog post in 2015 than in 2014. I did of course start the year living aboard Percy. Ended the year DIY'ing for England the family home. Not enough boating not enough biking too much driving to much focus on work not enough laughing, some loneliness loss of loved ones and challenges into the future. 

However there is promise and lots to focus on.

Here was 2015.............  

January  - 9 posts. Started the year off the alcohol, I always feel better for it and I said the same a year ago.  I was recording the RPM of my engine with my digital tachometer, then preaching about  tiller are safety (!) A third battery was added to the leisure side with some creative placement that has proven effective.


The end of the month saw two deliveries - the alcohol abstinence end with a fine bottle of single malt from younger son in payment for my efforts in getting him his car (I did the haggling and got a decent deal) then a coal delivery  - sadly Mark on Callisto has not answered my email requests for more coal this December so I may have to take business elsewhere.



February  - 7 posts.   February I was blogging about  a large dollop of  snow so there is hope yet for those that like the cold stuff.

Remember this stuff....?



I waffled on about inverters and Smartgauges as I have been known to do and also met a couple of fellow winter travelling bloggers (Maffi and Granny Buttons). Here is Andrew on his way in the dark to the river Trent in February - top man !



I was also still reflecting on house v boat living. I have missed the boat in these latter months being back at the house, the cycles of nature and nature itself as so much more evident.


We did take the boat out for a anniversary cruise mid month  - down the lock free Coventry pound towards Tamworth. Work kept us UK based for the celebration.

I ended the month with my dietary detail, seems I was eating better on the boat than the house (no freezer).

March down to 4 posts.  In my defence I think I was catching up as the first blog in March saw me blogging about three great walks in the south downs and the south coast, plus birthday celebrations for our eldest son Tom and pleasingly.... the awareness of lighter evenings and lighter mornings.






... The South Downs








Bosham





Tom & Courtney


Light evening  - bliss


Breakfast in the light and walking to the car in the light - double bliss


We were on the boat (moving again) as went to the cinema on Percy, well the one at Barton Turns and I took a timelapse !



I finished the month with more walking blogs from the south downs - well it is my on line diary !



Leia loves these woods - I miss them from where we now live





April - another poor 4 blogs. Living aboard as commented on before, you see much ore of the heartbeat of the canals. In April I was blogging about the significant increase in boat movements. I also took my quadcopter into the air to take some nice images of my mooring.



There were still some beautiful sunrises  - a real pleasure to get up and out of the boat. I just wish we were able to cruise in such sublime vistas.


Just goes to show what beauty is around the corner ....

The downside of having a decent phone is you tend to rely on its camera rathe rather than the much more capable camera I brought for the boat and trip out. I had obviously found and downloaded some imaged from  that camera and was blogging about them in the middle of April.

I was still taking advantage of the later nights and doing a little bit of fishing....



 The bike was also getting a few miles into it with a long trip out in Derbyshire Nottinghamshire and Staffordshire....



May - down to just three blogs.  I dumped 3 as they dumped me from the one plan. Now with EE and I get 4g so their loss and my gain.

It was the bike again as we always go off to the  the Honda Deauville meet this year it was in Penkridge so I commuted and passed Gailey each day.

I ended the month servicing Percy's donk - it takes a lot of Morrisons SAE30 oil  - it reminds me typing this I need to order some more. I did the bike oil and filter later in the month for the ill fated Germany trip.


June again 4 posts.  I was blogging about property as it was being compared to new boat prices then properties in Chichester against south west Scotland. We had sacked off the Germany trip on the bike due to Rachel's poor health and concentrated on a rented cottage move in the South Downs.


The boat painting had been arranged then deferred over a two year period and was now planned to be done over August and September. I did some quite relaxing  - yes it was, preparation but painting the gas locker - below is the before and then the after pic after I had applied the rust treatment. I then gave it two costs of red oxide - primer and top coat. it was a well done job even if I say so myself.






I put the brass plank and pole holder on the boat - lots of drilling and tapping of holes. Plus I put the water and diesel badges on ready for the next boat safety exam !


July, only two blogs but a decent cruise.  My good friend John came all the way from Scotland to help me move Percy from Fradley to Dadsford Wharf on the Stourbridge canal. We stopped just above Woodend lock, then Great Haywood then Gaily, with a penultimate stop above the Bratch locks and finally at Stourton Junction.

It was stupidly hot and we mixed the beer with pints of water  - it really was HOT! Happy days....








Mission accomplished - unloaded and waited for Rachel who had driven up from the south coast to collect us and take us back to pick up Johns car.


With the boat safely in the paint dock I had to rely on the bike for my entertainment.... Staffordshire again it really is a long county from Leek in the north to Stourport in the south. There photos were taken around Hulme End / Wetton. I really must spin the bike over and give it a strip down clean.



This last photo was on the A53 with the view over Derbyshire in the distance.


August was only two posts. They were long ones with lots of photos.... The photos tell the story but is was based around.....

  • My eldest sons wedding party in Derbyshire
  • We hosted John Carrie Alba and Isabella at the cottage down south
  • I was over with John at the boat year dropping off the new windows for Percy and seeing the full back to metal paint job
  • Riding the bike when the sun shon
  • Planning a sea going boat dream...
  • Gardening to get the garden sorted for the house in Derby
  • We even got in the canal with an impromptu cruise in Johns the boat painters little sea going boat.
  • Finally visited a glass museum close to the wharf where Percy was being painted 
No wonder I only blogged twice ! O' and I got to be forty thirteen !

Here goes, work them out yourself !














Phew.... of course there was still the routine 400 mile round trip every other weekend for me and Rachel.

September I went for it with 5 posts ! September was the month we were to pick Percy up, all painted. We had holiday booked but there was the inevitable delay. Much of the blogging was about the boat and its latter stages of painting with me blogging about the emergency holiday we took to North Wales as we had booked a couple of weeks off to move Percy so had a spare week and then a compressed week to get Percy back !

Lots of painting and rubbing back



We asked Dave Moore to do the sign writing  - top bloke and he made a beautiful job.

We also engaged another character from the cut to produce new fenders  -Joe Hollinshead has been making them all his life, he was born on NB Victoria at Fradley so there is the connection. It reminds me I have them in the garage waiting to be creosoted !


Unexpected holidays are always the best and we spent a great few days reminiscing and planning when we went back the North Wales for a break waiting for the boat.




We were also working hard to recover the brasses for Percy, my was that a hard job !


October 8 posts. Another full month, trying to get a lot done before the dreaded clocks falling back and dark nights. Of course we (then I) were bringing Percy back from the Stourbridge canal.

Now how nervous do you think I was moving my newly painted boat out between these boats and under that bridge tip middle left with an audience of boaters  !


Took some persuading to get John Sanderson to pose by his work !


It was some fine weather for  Rachel and I to bring Percy part way back


Then I was left alone to complete the trip from Wombourne to Fradley - it rained and blew a lot, technical boating I think I called it.


Penultimate evening mooring above Woodend lock, one of my favourite places on the cut so far.


Before and after..... very pleased

 


Not so pleased to be called by my helpful boating neighbours about what C&RT did less than 24 hours after getting Percy back unmarked ! This is still subject to a now level 2 complaint.


I was on my way down south to the cottage when I got the call. I had promised my mum a visit to our 'other life' we had a great time around Chichester/Bosham and took a day trip to London to see out youngest son and his partner and took in a show..... 600 miles for the weekend  !



The bike also got an airing in late October.... now SORN'd but I think I'll tax it as that will certainly bring the frost snow salt and grit ! Photo was on the Staffordshire moorlands, a second favourite place to North Wales


November 3 posts. Some reflection and a last cruise before the stoppages to wind Percy.


I need to keep reminding myself of this 


 The canal was very atmospheric and Percy's engine was echoing around in the mist - lovely


We met out last 2015 bloggers, Barry and Sandra from AreandAre - on their way to overwinter at Mercia.

December 10 posts but a lot of reflection. All year I had been helping then dealing with supporting my mums partner Ross who was on a terrible journey that ultimately saw him loosing his battle with ill health on the 22nd December. He was a nice man who we took on our canal boats for quite  few holidays. The last one being on Percy. RIP Ross

Ross on Waterlily in August 2007  - just before my birthday.


Ross on August the 15, just before my birthday 2015


So what was 2015 all about. Not a great year. Lost two aunties and Ross plus other challenging health and work situations. Over 20,000 miles up and down the A34. Not enough time on the bike. I did spend half the year living aboard Percy but not moving her. Now it is all my hands to the pumps to sort out the house and look forward to a different 2016.