Thursday, 29 October 2009

Camden Lock

Wednesday 28th October 2009
We couldn't agree as to what we wanted to do today, Alan and I both wanted to go to Camden Lock market, but we thought that we would be very unlikely to be able to moor there. Eventually we decided to head up towards Camden and if we couldn't get a mooring we'd just turn back. As it was we found a mooring right by the market.
Passing the Zoo on the Regent's Canal

Autumnal Trees on the Regent's Canal

The market has changed enormously since we used to go there in the early 1980's. It covers much more land than it used to, and it still has a 'hippy' ambience, but, like so many things now, there is a strong commercial element. It was good to go around looking at things but we didn't spend much money. We looked at some beautiful pottery and tiles, but who goes to Camden Lock to spend more than £5000 on a vase? Everywhere there were piles of hot food of every different type - mexican, moroccan, chinese, thai - with the vendors calling out to you as you passed, offering samples of their products. We ended up eating pancakes - some might think that boring when so much else was on offer, but they were very good.

Afterwards we set off to head back up towards the end of the Paddington Arm. A long journey, and it was getting quite dark by the time that we passed the visitors' moorings at the Black Horse pub. There was one mooring left, but it proved impossible to get close to the bank, so we headed off again, knowing that we didn't have to deal with locks. However, as dusk fell it was quite difficult to see where the towpath was at time. Eventually we managed to find a mooring offside on some parkland near Northolt, hammering the mooring pins into the ground in complete darkness by torchlight. Even after we had moored there were boats passing in the dark.

Locks: 0, Miles: 15.5
Total Locks: 45, Total Miles: 59.8

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

The Museums

Tuesday 27th October 2009
We wanted to spend some of our time in London seeing some of the sights, or doing something. I was born and brought up in London, and spent four years at University and training as a teacher close to Euston. I used to visit the museums or just wander around looking at things, but I haven't spent much time in London recently.

At Little Venice - we wonder if British Waterways have sold off too much of the office properties?

Bilster at Little Venice - a boat once owned by Alan's brother.


I wanted to see the Science Museum or the Natural History Museum, and both Alan and David voted for the Science Museum so we got on the underground to South Kensington. Not surprisingly, it being half-term, the queue for the Science Museum was extremely long, with a 20 minute wait to get in, but once in it was fine.

Alan and I remember the Science Museum from our childhood as being large numbers of glass cases with models in - if you pressed a button then some wheel or cog would turn. It's far more interesting for kids now, with interesting childrens' sections but I have to wonder if it has been too 'dumbed down' for those who are not going there with children. At times it was difficult to find the information relating to some exhibit or another and some of the notices often gave only superficial details. Perhaps the Science Museum doesn't expect adults who are not accompanied by children to go there? We did learn some things - but from each other.

We looked at the engineering section, including the few remaining steam engines there. Then space, flight, time, and computing - I'm someone who used paper tape, so the old computing equipment brings back memories. Perhaps the most scary exhibit was an complete dentist's torture device - just like the ones Alan and I remember from the butchery of our school dentists.
The 'narrow boat' display at the Science Museum.

Towards the end of the afternoon I wanted a quick visit to the Natural History Museum , Alan had to find a post office to get an important letter sent with the impeding postal strike so while he went to deal with his letter David came with me. We looked at some fossils, the mammal skeletons (especially the whales), the section of giant sequoia and the hominin fossils. Once again I had the distinct feeling that the museum was designed entirely from the point of view of children - a bit like 'Disneyworld does the Natural History Museum'. I do feel that museums should be interesting for children - but surely we are not the only adults who want to visit museums.

Alan eventually met us and we decided to head over to Coptic Street by the British Museum to the Pizza Express there - Alan and I used to eat there when we were first together. It has hardly changed at all in nearly 30 years.

Back at Paddington Station we discovered a urinal that hadn't been there when we walked through earlier in the day. The Urilift looks like a manhole cover during the day, but the urinal rises out of the pavement at night - it is operated by a remote from a local business (such as a bar). Another team puts it back down again in the morning.

Monday, 26 October 2009

To Little Venice

Monday 26th October
Today my ankle really aches, doubtless because I had to walk a lot yesterday, so I made a point of taking it easy.

We turned Chalice just north of the General Elliott, and set off south. After the lock at Cowley we had no more locking to do today.

The sky was blue, with only spreading contrails, and most of the leaves are still on the trees - many still green, but most turning yellow or orange. The weather was seasonably mild.

We stopped briefly at Alperton to get milk and a few supplies, but the day has mostly been on of steering through the long pound to Little Venice. We arrived not long after 4 pm and moored. A lot of the regular visitors moorings are made over to 'winter moorings', but we found a place towards the end of the usual mooring places.

I cooked dinner early and spent the evening with my feet up, reading, and then watching 'Life'. Early to bed, to rest my ankle - I want to spend some time doing things now that we are here.

I'm very aware of how different things were this time last year when we were here. It was colder, and our morco failed - it seemed to be working, but the water coming out of it was no more than tepid at best. Alan and I spent a lot of time trying to get it working - to no effect. This year we have the calorifier for hot water, and a new morco as backup. We've also got the completely re-modelled area in the middle of the boat, with seating, better storage, and a useful table - much better than the old 'bunk room' that was used for dumping bags and any equipment.

Locks: 1, Miles: 18.4
Total Locks: 45, Total Miles: 44.3

Sunday, 25 October 2009

The Wedding

Sunday 24th October 2009
Farah came to my school as a trainee teacher, I was her mentor. She stayed for a year after completing her training with us. She was universally liked - a charming young woman, and an inspirational teacher. She had met Aslam when they were both at university, and was clearly in love, but coming from a traditional Asian background it took a while for the couple to get their families to agree to a wedding.

We got the invitation to the wedding a couple of months ago, and planned our October trip to include the wedding. At school I was told to take lots of photos.

This morning Alan took the boat for a short trip to ensure that the batteries were charged, and the water was hot for showers. We had hoped to move the boat a short distance from the General Elliott to avoid tonight's Karaoke - this was not possible, and we ended up moored immediately in front again (as I type this the karaoke is in full flow- and actually some of it is quite good!)

Alan went to recce the station, and check that there were no problems with engineering works this weekend.

While getting ready Alan discovered that his smart trousers and tie had somehow been left at home in the rush to get away - so he ended going to the wedding in (brand new) jeans!

I knew that it was quite a long way to walk to the station, and set off with my crutches, but immediately turned back, deciding that they were more trouble than an aid. I decided to hobble rather than use the crutches, which are not easy to use, and make the whole of my upper body ache.

We made the journey from Uxbridge to Alperton and arrived at the Clay Oven at around 1 pm - this was a mistake. Although it was the time on the invite it was clearly not the time that most people were expected to arrive. Farah's mother told us that she was getting ready - and would eventually appear from behind a curtain that was set up at one end of the hall.

The hall slowly fills with guests - the Clay Oven specialises in Asian weddings of all denominations.

We were told to sit anywhere, in a hall with about 500 seats around tables. Then sat for close on an hour and a half before very many other people arrived. Women were arriving in the most amazing clothes, encrusted with sparkling jewels. I began to look at the clothes to decide which were my favourites. A few women arrived heavily veiled, but with robes which also sparkled.

A couple of young women came and sat next to Alan, one was heavily pregnant, and knew Farah from when they had both been teaching assistants prior to training as teachers. Then an Asian couple came and sat next to me - the woman was also heavily pregnant. I asked if they could explain some of the customs and what we could expect. No, unfortunately not, they were Hindu, and didn't know the Muslim customs.

What we did ascertain was that the marriage itself would have already taken place - we were told that this would involve the couple each saying three times that they agreed to the wedding. They would not necessarily have both been present at the same place at the same time.

At around three Aslam, the bridgegroom, arrived with an entourage, and made a procession through the hall. Food arrived, and then the curtain was removed at the end of the hall, to show Farah sitting on a raised dais. She looked absolutely stunning, but sat quietly with lowered eyes. The Hindu couple next to us made sure that we got vegetarian food.

Farah sitting alone at the end of the hall - brightly lit for the video.

Farah with attendants - the groom's sisters I believe.

Farah was surrounded by people taking photos, she looked amazing, but a very different appearance to the person I had worked with. I went up to take a picture or two myself - she spotted me in the crowd around her, smiled, and gave a little wave - suddenly I could see the vivacious and friendly Farah I know.

Later on Aslam moved up the hall to sit next to his bride. Both sitting quietly, looking slightly bashful and shy, not talking to each other. Aslam's brother explained to me that traditionally the couple would not have met before, and so each were playing a role.

The couple sit quietly together showing traditional shyness and respect.

The couple with young attendants.

Cath talks to the bride and groom.

As the afternoon progressed we could see that the rules of etiquette were being relaxed and the couple were talking to the guests, so we went up and had a talk to them. I had not previously met Aslam and Alan had met neither of them. Farah's hands and feet were painted with henna, including Aslam's name in the patterns. She said that the henna painting had taken about two hours.

Farah's hands, the patterns were also on the tops of her hands and on her feet.

The happy couple.

We left a bit later, by the time I got back to the boat I was very tired, my foot aching, as was my left hip because I had been putting far more weight on it than usual in an attempt to relieve my right ankle.

An excellent meal in the General Elliott, and once again blogging courtesy of their free wifi.

It's been a genuinely fascinating day, we met some lovely people, and got an insight into another culture. We must remember to turn the boat back towards London in the morning, as after this morning's brief trip it is still facing northwards.
Locks: 0, Miles: 1.6
Total Locks: 44, Total Miles: 25.9

Slow progress to Uxbridge

Saturday 24th October 2009
Canal Plan AC suggested that the journey from Cassiobury Park to Uxbridge, shouldn't take too long, so we were in no particular rush to get started. That was a big mistake. There seemed to be boats moving in both directions at almost every lock we got to. This meant very slow progress all day.

Iron Bridge Lock leaks almost as fast as it fills, so it slowed us down considerably. Above Cassio Bridge lock we teamed up with another Cowroast moored boat and worked down several locks with them.

At Common Moor there was a Bantam pusher tug, wider than a narrowboat, waiting to enter the lock, the steerer suggested that it ought to be possible to fit the tug and our two narrowboats into the lock at the same time. It was a tight fit, but we did manage to get the three boats in at the same time. The other narrow boat being somewhat longer than Chalice was very close to the cill at times.

Three boats in a lock - Common Moor Lock - Narrow boats 50ft and 60ft, Bantam tug about 25 ft.

Pushing the widebeam - a Leeds and Liverpool Short Boat.

Lot Mead Lock.

We stopped for supplies at Rickmansworth.

Our slow progress all day meant that we arrived at Uxbridge lock at dusk. We locked down with another boat, and found that we were one of several boats moving after dark.

Even after mooring immediately outside the General Elliott, we found that several boats passed us well after dark. In this area it seems quite normal to go to the pub by boat after dark, and then go back to a home mooring.

We blogged in the evening using the wifi connection at the General Elliot.
Locks: 12, Miles: 10.8
Total Locks: 44, Total Miles: 24.3

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Another Wretched Hospital!

Cath has neatly failed to point out.....

On our Easter trip she had visual disturbances - two hospital visits and one opticians in Oxford.

On our summer trip she suffered severe discolouration around an eye - one doctor and one hospital visit in Northwich. (We later realised that she must have fallen asleep after a tiring day with her glasses on, thus putting pressure on the eye.)

On our October trip, suspected broken ankle - three paramedics, one ambulance with flashing lights, one Urgent Care Centre. She wasn't even on the damned boat for this one!

A new blog author

I have now joined the Chalice blog as an author - she is in trouble now!

What an idiot!

Friday 23rd October 2009
Got up early, got showered, managed to find the pink work clothes I had packed for today (a non-uniform day in support of Breast Cancer Research), and all the kids at school had to wear at least some pink. Then off again up the hill on Margaret - Boxmoor was wreathed in mist, and Margaret took exception to the bumpy towpath, and my feet were slipping on the wet pedals. As Margaret's wheels are very small, and she has only three gears I was reduced to pushing her up the considerable hill to the school.

The day was going fine, if a bit busy, then one of my former A level students came in to get his coursework from last year. I looked in all the cupboards, but couldn't find it, we even went to another part of the school to look, but in vain. I said goodbye to him, and promised that I would get the work to him when I found it. I climbed to the second floor of the building and suddenly knew where has work was - I grabbed it and set off down the stairs at a rush to try to get him before he left the school site. I admit, I was running down the stairs, and my foot slipped sideways off the bottom step as I reached the landing at the end of the first flight. There was a loud crack, and I felt something give way in my foot. Fortunately I remained upright. I stood, foot dangling, with the project on the floor, while a group of year 8's came upstairs - "everything alright, Miss?"

"I think I've broken my ankle," was all I could say. I knew I had to get downstairs to Student Services, where there are several trained First Aiders, and they would also have ice. So I set off, hopping down the stairs, holding onto the railings on both sides. Fortunately, the year 8 students had the wit to go and get a member of staff - Sandra, who has just recovered from a broken ankle. "Don't put your foot on the ground!" I could hear her yelling down the stairs after me. The year 8's had also gone down to Student Services, who rounded up another teacher, Ingrid, who met me as I hopped out of the building.

Between them Sandra and Ingrid got me onto a chair, which was a good thing, because at that point I got tunnel vision, everything went grey and I was very close to passing out. I was very confused, and finding thinking difficult, but I was fretting about really minor things - what had happened to Matthew's project? What about my class that afternoon? Sandra and Ingrid were joined by other members of staff at various points, I was vaguely aware of being asked what I wanted to happen to my laptop. All the staff were brilliant - it's good to know that the school's first aid team is so good. Fortunately my injury happened at the beginning of a lesson (one I wasn't due to be teaching), so there were few students about, but I was aware of the occasional one passing and looking to see what the commotion was.

It was decided that they needed to get someone to look at me, and a phone call was made - a paramedic turned up very quickly, took BP, pulse, etc and gave me oxygen, which made thinking a lot easier. Sandra rang Alan on my mobile and told him that it didn't matter if he was in a field somewhere, he had to find a way of getting to Hemel hospital. The paramedic called the ambulance which turned up soon after.

I felt a complete idiot, my ankle was rapidly swelling and was painful, but not agonisingly so, although I know that it is possible to break something without it being very painful. I was loaded onto a trolley and wheeled into the ambulance, and taken off to the 'Urgent Care Centre'.

Fortunately Hemel Hospital wasn't too busy, and I was seen by a doctor quickly, X-rayed soon after and then taken back for the doctor to look again. There was no obvious break (hurray!), but the doctor thought I might have chipped a small piece of bone off. He was going to immobilise my foot and book me into the fracture clinic. Fortunately the consultant was available, and came and prodded my foot. No, he said, torn ligament, take some crutches, don't do too much. Yes, you can go boating, but only steering at first, no pushing lock gates until it is starting to get better.

I was issued with crutches and put into reception to wait for Alan to turn up. Fortunately, instead of coming straight to the hospital he had had the wit to get a train to go home, to get a car, so that he could drive me down to the boat. By the time he arrived I was feeling much better and was marking year 9 work that had gone to the hospital with me in my bag.

Why had I thought it had been a broken ankle? Well I've injured myself before, torn ligaments, etc. But the force and snapping feeling in my ankle was like nothing I'd ever had before, and I've never been close to fainting with an injury before - so I assumed it was fairly serious. Additionally, the paramedic and ambulance crew had thought I'd broken it.

Alan drove me up to the school, to collect Margaret the bike, and I took the opportunity to go into Student Services to say thanks. I hobbled over on my crutches to Ingrid's classroom, where I was also met by the students who had seen me fall on the stairs. I didn't try making it to the top floor of the building to thank Sandra - I'd had more than enough stairs for one day, and I didn't fancy trying to go up on crutches. I'll thank her properly after the break. As I went back to the car one of the students who had passed as I had been being given oxygen came up to me and asked if I was all right.

Photo that Alan took of Apsley Lock - 30 years ago we both worked at John Dickenson factory right by this lock. Now the office where we worked has been replaced by housing, but a small part of the factory remains on the left of this picture.

Alan had left the boat between the Hunton Bridge Locks, he got me near there, and I hobbled up the towpath to the boat. He set off again to take the car home, and then return to the boat using the train and riding Margaret again. David and I set off with the boat, me steering, largely standing on one leg, and him working all the locks. We were just mooring above Iron Bridge Lock in Cassiobury Park, when Alan arrived - about half past five, about five hours since my fall.

I went to bed early.

ALAN'S VIEW OF THE DAY: I was boating along with David on a near perfect autumn day, we had deliberately started a bit late, as we thought that we were in no rush to get to Cassiobury Park to meet Cath in the evening. We had started sharing locks with a second boat, and were making nice steady progress, when my phone rang. I could see it was Cath's mobile calling, but a bit surprised when it was clearly not Cath using it. Sandra fairly quickly informed me that Cath had a suspected broken ankle, and that I would need to come to Hemel urgently. She then told me that three paramedics were in attendance, but I couldn't actually speak to Cath who had an oxygen mask on. Somehow my day took on a different perspective. Sandra was unaware that I was on a narrowboat, and that you couldn't quickly speed back to somewhere you left several hours ago. She did however say that I could now speak to Cath, but the connection was lost shortly after I started.

We explained the situation to the other boat's crew and, rather amusingly the lady said, "it might be wide enough to turn around here".

After considering options I decided walking to Kings Langley station would likely get me back fastest, but realised whether Cath was detained in hospital, or discharged, other than offering support I could do little without a car. I therefore decided to train and taxi home, and was nearly off the train when Cath called to say that she hadn't broken the ankle, and that she was walking with crutches - good decision!

Fairly quickly I collected Cath, we went and picked up 'Margaret' and took Cath to the boat. I then drove home with the bike, which I then used to get back to the train, finally returning to the boat just about as they were mooring, and night was falling.

I somehow managed to make some parts of the journey on foot, on bike, by car, by train, and by boat (no helicopter available).

A bizarre day, from my perspective, but a remarkably good outcome after the original news.

Amazingly, given the stress, I had even had the wit to purchase a cheap day return ticket on the train!
Locks: 14, Miles: 6.8
Total locks: 32, Total Miles: 13.5

Alan and David set off

Thursday 22nd October 2009
We have finally completed all the works to Chalice that have been ongoing over the last half-term since we got back in August. This has included: remove and replace the sheared engine bolt (which was probably in the most inaccessible place possible and involved David hanging upside down over the engine to drill into the remaining piece of bolt in the engine); changing the engine cooling system; removal and repair of the stove and chimney (no one wants to go boating in October with no heat source); and completely stripping the fire surround tiling and hearth area and replacing it with something more substantial and more attractive.

So, it's half term, and time to set off again. Alan and I have a wedding to go to in London on Sunday 25th, so we decided that he and David would set off with the boat, so that we could then carry on and spend a few days in Central London.

Alan dropped me at work in the morning with our trusty folding bicycle, Margaret, and I did my usual Thursday work, while he and David started south from Cowroast. I wasn't really aware of what they did, but at the end of the school day I unchained Margaret and set off towards the canal - realising about half way down the hill that Margaret's brakes really are not up to very much. When I reached the canal I set off northwards to meet them coming south - they hadn't got as far as hoped as they had set off later than expected.

David steers Chalice, there are still a surprising number of leaves on the trees for late October.

We moored up in the evening at Boxmoor, ate dinner, and Alan set off up the towpath to meet his former work colleagues at the Steam Coach. I fell asleep - well it's been a busy half term one way and another.

Locks: 18 , Miles: