Thursday, 30 April 2020

Wanna bike ...?

I used to cycle to work, in fact cycles have been a part of my life since I got my first (real) bike when I was 12ish. Then they were my first taste of distance freedom. Back in the day me and my best mate Mark Chester used to go out all day to play in the local parks and streams, just knowing that when our bellies rumbled it was time to go home.

We had a really long steep hill close to where we lived called Windmill Hill Lane

I still remember me Mark and I think my sister Sue nicked a load of segs (remember those?) ....
.... from my dads cellar workshop and hammered them into the bottom of our shoes then sat on the crossbars of our bikes and came down the hill with our feet on the road with a great firework display of sparks coming from our shoes.... god only knows what a mess we made of our shoes - I'm sure there was a telling off in there somewhere !

My commutes to work were in the main on my motorbikes but I did also like to cycle to work, sometimes - many times taking a longer route to work than needed. I can still remember sitting in bed dreaming of my first proper mountain bike - in the days when I could only dream as we could not afford luxuries...

I have cycled the London to Brighton, then the next day cycled London to Derby. I've cycled Manchester to Blackpool and plenty of other day rides as well as a regular Wednesday evening ride with a couple of good work colleagues, spoilt by a few too many pints afterwards in the local pubs to warm down ! I even cycled across Derby each Sunday morning to play two hours of 5 a side football then cycle home.

Two wheels, powered and unpowered have always been important in my life. As I type this our two person family owns an embarrassingly high number of cycles - seven in total. Part of the 'lockdown' has been to clean and fettle them and a decision was taken to get rid of at least two maybe three of them leaving two at home and two folders on Percy.

So if anyone is in the market for a lovely ready to go tourer my Ridgeback World Voyage cycle is on Ebay at the moment  - here is the link

Click me 

... and for if/when the bike sells a picture to remind me what a great bike it was

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Getting high on isolation

I am very lucky in that being retired I have been practicing isolation for the last two and a half years. In fact there are some extra benefits during this period  -  more time with Rachel, less 'noise' and much more friendly people out and about.

There is no doubt the weather has been a real bonus, certainly over the last four weeks. My drone got another flight the other day. I surprised myself with how close we actually are to the canal as the crow (or drone) flies. When I am more confident I'll have it in the valley and fly up and out towards our cottage.

For now enjoy a small 3 minutes of isolation tranquility.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Consideration of engines, some decent Youtube videos

This blog was conceived while I was walking out of the Valley yesterday (21st April) using my engine, heart lung and legs to make the steady climb from the Black Lion (not open). It was a tad over the 'one hour' we are allowed/advised but in my defence we live in a very rural area and we only saw one other person on the walk and it was so therapeutic.

Before I elaborate I recalled I wrote a blog in 2016 where I collated many Youtube videos of old engines being started in canal boats. To fill some distracted time have a browse here  

So then I got to thinking about all the engines I/we currently own and it's more than I originally imagined.

In no great order of preference (I've rounded the engine sizes to their given side rather than their specific CC as I'm lazy...
  • Percy's engine which is the biggest engine in our ownership.... 3 litres 2 cylinder diesel 
  • Honda ST1300 Pan European, unsurprisingly my European and UK touring motorcycle has a 1300cc V4 petrol engine 
  • Honda NC750x (DCT) motorcycle, this is the 'little' motorbike for anything I don't fancy on the bigger bike. There are hundreds of miles of unclassified roads in the moorlands and the peaks to explore and this is the perfect bike to do it on. It has a 750cc parallel twin petrol engine with a Duel clutch transmission.
  • Rover 75 Connoisseur tourer, 2 litre diesel* getting close to having done 100,000 miles in this car, my automatic mimi limo I'll be sad to see it go it's useful but too big really for what I need now. It was perfect for weekly 400 mile round trips to the south coast.
  • Toyota Auris 1.4 diesel* Rachel's car. So far very reliable frugal motoring.
  • Honda 1000kw generator.  I think its only 50cc petrol **(yep checked) lovely bit of reliable kit for the boat 
  • Flymo strimmer I think this is just 25cc. Petrol 2 stroke so I have to mix oil in with the petrol
So seven 'engines' in total, more than some and less than others I guess.

We do have three EV's  - electric vehicles if you can count cycles as vehicles. We hope to swap one or both the cars for an electric car in the future, not sure when but it seems the way forward especially as most of our journeys do not seem to exceed 50 miles nowadays. I expect as soon as we buy one with limited range we will then find out how many times we do need the extra range !

* Both diesels brought when the government were telling  us diesels were better for the environment and diesel was considerably cheaper than petrol !!

**My first motorbike Honda FZ1E was a 50cc  - the same size engine as my Honda generator and the bike took me all over the place.

Thursday, 23 April 2020

When was the first time you saw your boat ?

Linking to my last blog post I found photos of our old and current boat. It got me thinking when was the first time we clapped eyes on our four boats we have owned - and I include our shared ownership boat in that list.

In order of ownership we've had;
  1. Sylph  - a 57 foot Pat Buckle cruiser stern shared ownerships (Ownerships) boat
  2. Comet - a 45 foot Teddersley (needs checking) cruiser stern boat
  3. Waterlily - a 50 foot Derby boat builders (needs checking) semi trad boat
  4. Percy - a 60 foot Tony Redshaw built traditional stern boat.
Sylph - frustratingly I can remember some of the other Ownerships boats we viewed before deciding on Sylph. I certainly remember going to Barton Turns Marina to view one boat. I think Sylph was on an online mooring on the Shroppie, up from Barbridge junction..... I may have a photo or two from that time I'll have a dig. Anyhow this is a nice shot of Sylph - now in private ownership around Nantwich I seem to recall.

Comet - easy one this as it was between Christmas and New year at Hunts lock. It was our go to place to do some gongoozling only being about half an hour from our house. We had wanted a boat of our own after getting the bug hiring and then owning a part share. Fradley was my mooring of choice and at that time moorings were difficult to get and you could still with a bit of a wangle transfer a mooring with a boat. We had followed the build blog of Chris and Stella Wells's boat (no known relation) and they were recently moored at Hunts lock. I recall I could not quite see the phone number on Comet's for sale advert in the window so I emailed Chris to ask he pass it to me next time he walked past the boat.

Found the details on my old Waterlily blog - have a read here. It was the 1st January 2008 we first saw Comet

Waterlily - Again I blogged about the viewing of Waterlily (why no pictures !!) here . We brought her from Whilton marina, a bit of a good and bad experience if I recall correctly. Looking back it was the 14th of February 2008 when I first saw Waterlily in the steel so as to speak. We'd only had Comet less than a couple of months but I knew I wanted a forever boat and Comet was not that boat - too many limitations and too costly to improve to what I wanted, plus we had the hard to get mooring at Fradley now. Fickle or what ! It's all down in the Waterlily blog but by summer Comet was sold ( at a profit) and Waterlily was in our ownership. 

Percy - I remember vividly the trip down to Weedon to view Percy. I was a little apprehensive meeting both the boat and her owners Tony & Gill Redshaw. The broker Tony Heathcote from Tollhouse Boat sales met us and we did the tour and were welcomed and impressed in equal measures. Money as ever was going to be an issue but where there is a will there is a way and I've always tried to make our money 'work' ! Another viewing and some haggling and we had two boats - again! 

Pleasingly I did record the date we first saw Percy with a photo (I must have been learning) It was Saturday the 27th October 2012 and we put our offer in on the 31st October 2012. 

So there you have it.... our four boats. Will we ever have another..... I doubt it. Some days I wonder if we get the full use out of Percy. Then I visit and it's like coming home (Percy was my home for two years) If we did then it would be a smaller boat but to be honest I think when the time comes we'll downsize to hire boats. Hopefully not for some time to come, but I'd not want to be too presumptuous about anything in the future, the last couple of months have taught me that.

So get blogging about your boats  - lets have some more reflections on past boat ownerships - I'd like to know if I'm unusual in having had four boats ?  

Sunday, 19 April 2020

How do you all sort save and categorise your photos and videos ?

One of the ‘problems’ of this current virus lockdown is the weather.  Tongue in cheek observation as its been blooming lovely meant I’ve been outside doing jobs around the cottage and I’ve got a load more still to do. However yesterday was the first wet inside day for what must be three weeks plus ?

So I busied myself sorting paperwork out in our home office as well as starting the mammoth task of sorting my computer(s) out specifically trying to rationalise my photos and videos. Problem being over time I’ve had many computers and when I’ve got rid I’ve copied the hard drives or saved the old hard drives with all the associated data on them. So this means loads of unnecessary files ( work stuff I’ve kept tons of emails and memos !) plus massive amounts of duplicated photos and videos.

So I brought a Mac file duplication sniffer and spend much of yesterday shredding old paper and deleting old duplicate files. I’m now at the stage of having removed all duplicates the software had found a massive amount of ‘similar’ photos, the ones you takes there or four of to get the best one. Deleting this is harder as you have to look at each one to save the right image.

When it’s done the challenge is to then bring all the images to the one location to make a central photo and video repository.

It’ll be worth it in the end and a good use of time.... problem is it seems we have another week of great weather so this project will be shelved for the time being !

One question. - How do you save sort and organise your photos... do you use any recommended software ? Over to you........

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Flying high - my drone history

I used to call them Quadcopters - that was the name given when I was building them from scratch. It all started on a visit to Scotland to see my good friend John who was building remote controlled aircraft using some new hardware  - an intelligent flight controller, fully programable to control fixed wing aircraft or Quadcopters. There is a company called Hobbycraft who were very able to sell me all I needed to build my flying machines.

It was a great hobby, lots of soldering, building  programming and planning. We were the 'drone' pioneers. I built two drones one with a camera attached and another to just fly to learn how to control them. I think I enjoyed building them more than flying - and therein was the issue. Where I lived then was in a city - Derby. Lots of parks but not ideal or safe to be flying there. Luckily one of my responsibilities at the University was Security - so I had access to all the sites including a large area of green that was fenced off, my own private testing ground.

This is a short video of my scratch built quad on its second outing testing what was then called loiter mode (gps lock) No camera on board at this time. Taken on the Rugby pitch at my University before it was dug up and a sports complex built there - see later videos.

But the hobby needed more time and access to flying areas so I reluctantly sold the job lot - drones, controllers all my tools and spares. To keep the boating theme, I sold the lot on Ebay to a fella who had two charter yachts in the Mediterranean and he wanted the drones to get some publicity pictures.

I did take it to its place of spiritual conception before it all got sold.... Dumfries and Galloway to fly at John's land that overlook Loch Ryan up the west coast of Scotland. Here is the video.....

I did eventually get another but this was a commercial drone. By this time there was a race to commercialisation of the drone market. DJI being the leader with a raft of others bringing commercial drones out with varying degrees of success. I waited and spent my hard earned on a DJI Phantom 2. It was a good drone, but let down ultimately by DJI's race to the top as they kept bringing out newer drones and committed the sin of not providing spares or firmware upgrades for their older gear. It was a time still of little regulation and I used my drone to take shots for the university - including an impressive New Sports centre.

The university was keen to have more such videos and stills of their (our as it was my university as I'd been there so long and committed so much to it)  property and land so I sold my drone to the University. It never happened of course as it got damaged in 'test flights' !! 

To keep the boaty context I did take some video and stills of Percy at Fradley.... this one being my favourite, the music is royalty free courtesy of U2.

So why this blog - apart from some self reflection I've bitten the bullet and purchased a new drone. Mea Culpa  - yes I did indeed blog about my pledge for change which was about buying less.... and I can assure you I have been buying less and spending less, my trip to the NW500 in Scotland has been canned as has a long weekend meet up with 30 other bikers in Derbyshire and my battlefield tour of Normandy in June.... so I have some money and I did say I wanted to balance the economy (not all of it) using my pension ££'s.

I opted for a DJI Mavic mini... price for performance one of the better drones. Inspired by some of the stunning videos from the vloggers out there. When one of my friends who lives close to John in Scotland was last on my boat Percy one very boozy night we were discussing drones and he encouraged me by saying if he had a boat he could not think of a better 'tool' to use to capture the beautiful countryside we cruise through. Based on my plan for staycations on bikes and boat for the future I think I will get some value for money from this little drone.

Little it is.... the new UK drone laws mean any drone over 250g needs to be licensed by the CAA. The drone I have is 249g's so no need to be registered. However I have taken the test, passed and am licenses and a flyer and owner. I need to put the details of my license on the drone and print out the license should anyone ask to see it while flying (even though I don't need one) 

So hopefully when back on board Percy I can give a better idea of where we are and show you some of the views we see..... just need to be back aboard ! 

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Our 60 minute exercise

Well maybe this was more like 40 minutes as it was to the end of the lane and backwhich is two miles. We chose this as it's mainly in dappled shade and it was 23c today ( Saturday 11th April).

As an aside the lane we live on seems to have been renamed in the last few years. Talk to any of the locals around here and they'll say the've walked the Sprink and when we viewed the house the first time* it was advertised as being on Sprink lane. The Sprink comes from the word spring as there is a spring on the lane. In fact where the Falconry centre is now used to be a pop factory using the water from the spring !

It was a lovely walk .....

Our new tenants were making chicks as we left  

I think this is a hover fly ? (might need to click on the photo to see it full res )

Simple beauty

The valley starting the green up 

The dappled woodland lane walk - beautiful. 

Got to love the little Wren scuttling about in the lower branches on the slopes 

There is the Caldon canal down there ...

Can you spot it yet ?

There you are - super zoom on the camera 

The village of Ipstones across the valley from us where I was cycling the other day as part of my exercise....

Lovely to have the cows in the field behind the cottage - they were certainly enjoying the sun and the very green grass. It must taste so good compared to the silage they have been eating all winter.

*We viewed the cottage some years ago and liked it but were not in a position to offer at the time as our house was not sold. The lady we brought it off was the person who purchased it after we viewed and did all the jobs needing doing then decided it was too far from the station for her commute to London so we got the benefit of all of her hard work.... fully how things turn out !

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Viewing Percy from a distance

No we have not broken the rules and no one should for the health of all of us specially those true hero's (and I don't use that descriptor often) in the National Health Service.

Our lovely boaty neighbour has been keeping an eye on Percy for us as we are starting to miss our time aboard something fierce. I fitted the new starter battery some while back now, a month ago I think and I never even tried to start the engine !

In hindsight I am pleased I visited the boat to complete the rewiring which was to connect up the solar panel as on the first trip I did not have the right cable to make the alterations to the location of the fuse to the controller. The last visit was to check the cover for the panel which pleasingly fitted first time based on a lot of remote pondering of how it all might need to go.

I brought the cover back to the workshop to paint but I think I have used up all my red oxide that I am hoping was the colour used for the base when I remade that. Link here and it was over a year ago !!   

So today I've ordered a tin from Midland Chandlers to be delivered. I'd ordinarily have nipped over on my bike to get it but again - STAY PUT .....

Back to the blog title Mandy has sent us some pictures of Percy patiently waiting for our visit. We'll be out cruising soon I'm sure. My estimate is mid June .....

Sunday, 12 April 2020

.... I'm feeling ever more like Mr Benn !

Now there is a test of age for you all.... Mr Benn. Follow this link to go back yo your childhoods with the theme music 

It was one of my favourites as a child. Those who may never have heard of it he was a fella who lived at number 52 Festive road London who went visiting a fancy dress shop and the owner (a Fez wearing man with a moustache ) gave him a costume and then Mr Benn left the shop by a magic door at the rear to have an adventure based on the consume he was wearing. Of course each story carried its own moral  - so all good stuff and made me the man I am today. Interesting if slightly controversial observation  that somewhat explains my approach to such things... he never dressed up as a woman as I recall ?

Anyhow during our lockdown times I feel I have worn a few different costumes....

  1. Film director 
  2. IT consultant
  3. Delivery driver
  4. Gardener
  5. Electrician
  6. Joiner
  7. Cleaner
  8. Cyclist
  9. Walker
  10. Motorcycle repair man
  11. Charity worker
  12. Children's entertainer
  13. Painter
  14. Photographer
  15. Mechanic
  16. Cook
  17. Landscape gardener
  18. Builder (chimney repair)
  19. Scaffolder (never took a tower scaffold down before)
  20. .... plus no doubt quite a few more to come yet !
So its good times despite the restrictions. Life is what you make of it.

If you have not made somebody's day happier, if you've 
not appreciated something good that has happened to you and you have not felt thankful for being alive, then you have wasted that day of your life on earth.

Preeti Shenoy  

Friday, 10 April 2020

Our new tenants

No we don't own multiple properties, just the cottage we live in. Having rented (for working away purposes)  and kept our own property I'd not like to have the multiple property responsibilities despite always holding the view that property is the best type of investment.

Anyhow the story....knowing I had some hard timber landscaping of the rear courtyard to our cottage to do I purchased a large mitre saw and stand for the workshop (read saw mill now). Part of my apprentice test jobs on the new saw I decided to build a bird box. There are plenty of on line instructions on how to do so.

We have seemingly two large communities of Blue tits and Sparrows flying between our large Privet hedge and the gardens of our near neighbours so it was a toss up on the hole size for the two eventually I opted for the larger sparrow size hole. I put it up a week or so ago and it looks like we have our first tenant.

There has been much singing to attract a mate which has been a joy to watch and listen to.

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Carpe noctem...and now for something completely different ....

Thank you for the comments on my last post. I'll respond there, I'm a little  saddened there was not more engagement especially on my FB page as I posted the link there. I suspect many, in fact the vast majority are expecting the world to carry on as before  - you reap what you sow..... I'll do my bit for my conscience, my sons and daughter in laws  and most importantly my grandson.

Anyhow... last night I took Leia out for her pre bedtime wee  and was struck by the stillness of the night with a bright moon and the valley owls singing their eerie tunes. In fact it was a super moon so I got my camera out put it on a tripod and shot the moon !

Got to love our moon !

Anyhow that's todays blog, I'll tell you about our new tenants next time  !!

Monday, 6 April 2020

We all need to make a pledge to change

Well we all know it's interesting times right now, but they do not need to be negative times. Yes of course we can focus on the things we can't do right now and yes there are some challenges (see my last post for such challenges) Please be assured in writing this I am aware for many working there are some uncertainties but again they can be turned to change opportunities? But what do we have to be positive about, well things will get better and return to something 'not quite normal' but that's how it should be. I'll come back to the return to 'not quite normal'... but focussing on the positives from this period of our lives...

  • In the main apart from our wonderful health and service sectors plus others we are getting a forced rest
  • Our planet is breathing fresh air again
  • We are talking to our friends and neighbours much more
  • Great acts of kindness and friendship are happening (see my free beer offer) 
  • Many of those 'jobs I'll do when I have time' are getting done
  • Our homes have never been cleaner !
  • Working at home  (and therefore less commuting  = less pollution) is now viable
  • We are appreciating the simple things such as reliable technology, food in the shops, sunshine, love, family, friendships, planning ahead, natture, remembering past holidays, playing games, spending time with the kids.... many many more positives...

So - 'something not quite normal' will be our future. But thats ok, life is constantly changing, events change lives, positively and sadly sometimes negatively, but life is about living and adapting. So what does this scribbler think will change, simply put YOU will change,  you will change based on how the world adapts post virus. 

The world will be poorer, but that's no bad thing. It will give new growth and investment opportunities and there will be a need and willingness to support such growth. There will be a levelling of wealth, sure not some communist dream but and here is an important point in MY pledge to change we need to be fairer and more supportive,  and here is the even more critical change point the support should be focussed on environmental humanitarian considerations... for ME that's...
  • More charity
  • More ethical purchases
  • More ethical investments 
  • More environmental considered purchases
  • More staycations
  • Less European and international travel
  • Certainly less air travel 
  • Constant review of how I can be a better human 
  • Add yours in the comments below to inspire me ?
It's ok me pontificating about all the stuff I can and will do, yes I'm retired, yes I have a small and believe me it is small pension but I HAVE to make changes otherwise this life lesson is lost and wasted on me and that will be the same for the billions around the world. 

So specifics from the list above for me as I've pondered this opportunity (please see it as an opportunity) ...

Critical point here and I've wrestled with it over the last couple of weeks is spending money. There is a lot of stuff we don't need but is sold to us as essential, I've blogged about this before. So targeted spending to support our economy is essential. Buy local (support all those shops that supported us during the lockdown) Buy UK products where you can. Spend money in pubs (yes) and cafes. Book B&B's and hotels for local trips no need to go to Barcelona for the weekend when you can do the Peak district, East Anglia, Wales and Scotland are beautiful locations for short breaks (use the money saved and take the train and talk to people ?) Spend but spend wisely and spend in a supportive way?

Back to my pledge to change.... 
  • Do I need two motorbikes when one does 45 mpg and the other does 80mpg..... 
  • I have Percy so staycations are a given (along with my 80 mpg motorbike)
  • The motorbike touring in this country will put money back into the UK economy
  • Make do and mend, I've amazed myself what I can turn my hand to and repurpose and continue to do so, it's enjoyable saves money and saves resources.
  • My Old Rover is financially worthless but is also a diesel 38 mpg very heavy large and in the main overkill for moving me and Leia around. It's high tax as its a relatively high emissions car so it needs to go.
  • We need to invest in an electric car
  • More efficient home power use. Need to get some low environmental impact  (wood) double glazing at home to both keep the fitters and makers in work and save ££'s and oil use.
  • We will grow a few more veggies. We don't have a large garden but are making troughs for summer veg and planting in our cottage garden borders also (how it used to be I'm told by Rachel) 
  • Other stuff I've not yet considered but will keep the 'change' option in the forefront of decision making.
That'll do for now. Putting these words down in my blog really is the start but an essential act to make myself the promise to change. Hopefully these changes if done in any small part by the rest of the world (and that's you dear reader) will make a change and send a ripple around the world and hopefully redirect all of our futures to a brighter place physically and emotionally ?

Stay safe and please please follow the government advice to protect all our essential worker by staying local  and minimising your personal contact.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

A sad goodbye

Today we said our family goodbyes to Christine, Rachels mum. She died on the 16th March with Rachel and myself with her in her own home in no pain and surrounded with love. That love had kept her safe and well for quite a few years as her health declined.

The burial was limited to just her five children and her brother with me bring allowed to attend to live stream it to family and friends. It all worked and while small in numbers there was much love across the family as they watched in their individual locations.

I've always felt like one of the family, a sure sign of a loving welcoming  family unit. I've known Christine for over forty years, she was a formidable lady, certainly to a 16 year old who wanted to go out with her daughter. She did however have a weakness for compliments (easy to give) I can't recall how many times I told her she was my favourite mother in law, it always got the raised eyebrows by response !

She is resting in peace in a lovely rural location that will see a gathering later in the year when we plant a tree over her grave that in years to come will enable us to give it a hug and once again hug Christine.

"My favourite mother in law"