27 January 2011

It all goes a bit Pete Tong

If I see the B&Q in Nelson again, it will be too soon. Flamin’ Ada, I feel as if I’ve spent most of 2011 haunting aisle 5. I’ve lost count of the trips we’ve made – some fruitful, some fruitless, and worse, not once did we hit the snack wagon in the car park for a restorative bacon buttie. Of course, you can guess what’s in aisle 5 can’t you? Here’s a clue. We return to the northern narrowboat – a narrowboat that we weren’t able to winterize before winter arrived blowing a big fat freezing raspberry. We enter boat. Having learnt from last year’s experience (yes, I know only an idiot makes the same mistake twice, so kick me, please) we check the water pump visually before filling the water tank (Last year, tank fills, tank empties, bilge fills, Greygal fills with tears as she realizes what’s happened). So there I am looking at the water pump as A turns it on at the mains and fantastic, no leaks. But then I realize that I’m looking at the part that broke last year so I move my torch beam and focus on the pump itself…which is pissing out water. Cue shouting and swearing. And more swearing, quite a lot more actually as one of the reasons why we’d come up north was to stay on the boat while I attended a client’s site later in the week. So no saying tits to it all and buggering off home, like last year. The time was Saturday mid afternoon – and it was time for action. We checked the chandlery in the marina – the last pump he’d had he’d sold the day before. (Tried to suppress growing rage). But he put us onto Pennine Cruisers – one call established that they had water pumps, not our model, but we reckoned if we hacked bits off or made up our own bits of pipe and connector, we could make do.

So off to Skipton, where we have this rather farcical episode. Don’t ask me why but we can’t lock our car without setting the motion detecting alarm. We hadn’t got the dogs out of the car on our arrival at the boat while we did our checking, so off we sallied to Skipton with the dogs in the back but no means of locking the car. As we had also not got our luggage out, including 2 Apple laptops, we didn’t want to leave the car unlocked. Although why any maniac would want to try and take on six greyhounds going bonkers in the back of a Citroen C8 is beyond me…So off I trot to see this pump…it doesn’t look quite the same as ours in terms of connecty bits so I go back to the car and tell A to go and have a shufty while I take over car/dog minding duties. All this is the hissing rain, with soaked clothes and wet shoes. A comes back, declaring ‘it’ll do’ – which for some reason didn’t inspire much confidence. In fact, I was feeling pretty low all round. A is a genius with electrics and electronics but has a bit of a dodgy track record when it comes to plumbing. There’s usually a lot of effs, his face turns purple, and then there are bits flying through the air. Well, we would see. I had to trot back to the shop to pay for the sodding thing and then at last we were off back to the boat.

For various reasons that I can’t recall – was it the fact that it was raining inside the boat? – I lit the Squirrel before we did anything else. We got the dogs in, so they could warm up, and once we were feeling a little drier ourselves, we set to, A as chief plumber, me as plumber’s mate (which mainly involved stopping Ranger sticking his nose where daddy didn’t want it.) As A cracked on, I became aware of a strong smell of scorched jeans – or was it bum cheek – as poor old A had his rear end jammed pretty much up against the Squirrel door. He didn’t complain though…lost a few pounds in sweat, but trucked on like a good ‘un. As the pump was different to the one that had bust, he did have to get creative with a few bits and pieces. I feel very bad now in that I ever doubted him but it all seemed a bit Heath Robinson to me – and yet it worked! Without a leak! Okay, the dogs might have been covered in PTF tape by then (have you ever tried to work with that stuff?) but we had a working pump!! Hurrah! Shame about all the broken taps…

Cue the first of several trips to B&Q the following morning to get some new taps for the washbasin and a mixer tap for the kitchen. Cue another trip the same day to get something we didn’t know we needed until we took the pipes apart, and I’m sure there was another visit in the week as well….sort of lost the will to live by then. To cut a long story short, new washbasin taps all went in and worked perfectly, while the mixer tap resolutely failed to do anything at all. T’was a bit of a puzzle to us plumbing newbies as statistically this was evenly matched – the chances of a new tap being faulty against both pipes or both connectors having simultaneously failed. In the end, we plumped – for want of anything better to plump for – for either a blockage or an airlock. A decided that the only thing to do therefore was to start taking the plumbing apart from the kitchen sink down…cue a few more effs, quite a bit of water spurting everywhere, and then A getting his massive tool out – a wrench, I recall – and just disconnecting bits from other bits until there was nothing to disconnect. And what do you know? The couplings on both pipes had some sort of spring loaded filter thingy in them that were jammed shut – well, that was our take on the matter, but we’re probably talking rowlocks. They weren’t repairable so off I toddle to B&Q – what a surprise – to see if I can find replacements. I can’t. I return home disconsolate, thinking that we’re never going to have a functioning galley tap again and planning for a life of working with tiny taps and a tiny basin geared to brushing teeth, not pots and pans. And then the gallant A says, never fear! I shall simply knock out the stupid broken filters and we’ll do without them. Will this work, I ask? Maybe those little spring loaded lovelies perform some essential task? Maybe our tap will not take kindly to being denuded of his filter friends? Sod that, out they came, back went all the plumbing bits in roughly the right order, and on went the tap. And yes, oh reader, it actually worked! For how long, who knows, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts. My tap runneth over.

P.S.If we commit the same idiotic mistake next year, then you have permission to call me some very rude words. No, ruder than that.

23 December 2010

The blogging ghost of Christmas past

Ooh, look what I found covered in dust…my blog…horribly forsaken because real life (don't you mean laziness? - Ed) got in the way! Well, I shall be a real cheapskate (consistent as ever) and send all my friends (3 in total) the gift of a Greygal post in lieu of a decent present.

So, I hear you ask, what have you been doing with yourself? Did your summer trips on the tideway aboard the Indigo Dream go astray and are you now clinging to the wreckage somewhere out by Dogger Bank? Did you foolishly attach your dogs to a sled and let them pull you at speed into the path of a speeding milk float? Have you given it all up, packed your belongings into a shoebox and fired up the motorhome and pointed it to the Promised Land (a large Tesco or similar)? Sadly, no, none of those. Work has been largely responsible for keeping me quiet although we have had one or two diversions.

Our good friends Sue and Richard offered us sanctuary when we needed a narrowboating fix, our own good ship being stuck on the waterless L&L. I’ve lost track of all the good stuff we did with them, but have very happy memories of being stuck in a lock on the Bow Back Rivers for several days and boring everyone stupid with our plane spotting iPhone app. And of course there was the magical trip down to Brentford and back, including the moment when one’s life flashed before one’s eyes as you realized the Thames Clipper bearing down on you was not going to stop or turn. Good job Indie’s captain had a cool head – thanks Richard!

At the end of the summer, we accidentally acquired another greyhound. Now we were only meant to be fostering him but that lasted all of three days. The thought of his little face disappearing in the back of someone’s car totally undid me so we rang up Kerry Greyhounds and said we would adopt Sidney. I reckon that this was their cunning plan all along. So now we are six, and up on Marton Pool earlier this year, we had the wonderful sight of all six dogs careering along the towpath (don’t worry, there was no one else around!), including Monty, who somehow learnt the art of coming back (though not before running off to inspect someone’s BBQ a mile away).

We thought Sidney, being only five, might liven up the pensioners but it has transpired that he is the laziest organism on this planet – he can hardly keep his eyes open most of the time. But he is a big lovely boy, big being the operative word – when he stands next to Miffy, Miffy turns into a whippet.

Now if it had only stopped with an extra greyhound…the thing is, somehow or other, and we’re not quite sure how, we found ourselves the owners of a second boat. Think of President or Vulcan, chop out the middle 30 feet, and you have Henry H – looks like he shrunk in the wash, to be honest. In a wide lock, think toy boat in the bath… Long story short – saw it on the web, screamed at me ‘you must have me’ and I dutifully complied. Well, my savings were doing flap all in the bank and as we’d always intended to have a butty built in a few years time to house A’s workshop, we thought well, it’s a butty with an engine, and getting it now means we can have more fun. That’s why every Saturday in Sep/Oct/Nov we hauled ourselves out of bed at some ungodly hour, leaving the dogs in the tender care of my mum, and went to retrieve Henry for the next stage of his onward journey to Stenson (where he’ll be fiddled with a bit – well, a lot actually, as the shell and engine are great but the interior is, mmm, well, let’s just say it’s an acquired taste. So acquired in fact that we couldn’t resist ripping half of it out…).

So if you see someone waving at you madly on a Saturday, but see no giveaway dogs, then it’s me. If you see someone careering into a lock wall, then that'll be me too (it takes time to get used to a speedwheel and a boat that's built like a brick privy - in the nicest possible sense). I daresay our Midlands narrowboat (oh yes, we're still maintaining our southern narrowboat aka Indigo Dream - they don't get rid of us that easily) will take up a lot of next year’s spare time but we’re also looking forward to going up to our northern narrowboat. Hopefully we'll be returning to Sowerby Bridge via the Rochdale on a boat that will no doubt seem enormous by comparison. Seriously, we’re setting world records for the tiny-ness of Henry’s bathroom. A has to lose weight just to fit…we're thinking of pioneering a new bathroom cum galley combo...

One thing that has not been diverting us is our motorhome, sadly. In the summer, on a rainy day, we discovered that it was raining inside as well. And there I was blaming Miffy for our wet bedclothes…It transpires that our roof (bloody GRP, doesn’t happen with steel!) had developed stress cracks. Answer? Cue sucking in of teeth by dealer and then ‘ you’ll need a new roof – that’ll be 6 grand please’. Cue me fainting. Then cue me recovering and telling them to think again. Think very carefully in fact about what you say next, given that the van is only three years old and cost a pretty penny in the first place, and that I can get au fait with the Sale of Goods act in about three minutes…’Ah, put like that, we’ll do it FOC. Not till May sadly, but think how many lattes I can buy with the money I save?

I don’t even have as much time as I used to to dip into the old blogs. I still follow Indigo Dream obviously although Sue and I are invariably on the email exchanging dog ailment stories, and good chums Joe and Lesley (Caxton) and Jill and Graham (Contended Souls) are always on the radar. I have a weekly dip into Sanity Again with Bruce and Sheila and marvel at the intelligence of Sally in writing such good blog posts. If I could get my lot to do that, I’d only have to write one post in seven.

A is busy with his sideline, fixing up old vintage synthesizers. I’m helping him by seeking out broken old tat on Ebay that he says he can mend. This is the potential ‘business afloat’ idea that could see us sailing off into the sunset with two boats, six dogs and a soldering iron. However, one look at the dining room table – covered in electronic bits and tools and fascias and screws – and I’m thinking that we might go for his n hers boats in future. Where the Xmas dinner is going to go, I have no idea. Ooh, isn’t this stuffing crunchy…ahh, no, that’s a bit of lead solder and a tiny transisitor…yum.

On the dog front, aside from Sidney’s arrival, Arthur has been under the vet for most of the year. He’s hanging on in there, despite our local vet having a Shipman-esque way about her…’ooh, he’s very thin, there’s something nasty going on, I don’t think he’s got too long, you should prepare yourself…’ as she waves a big needle around. The only thing I need to prepare myself for is Arthur hurtling into the kitchen when he hears his dinner being made! Yes, he may be very thin (either meds related or there is something horrible going on), and he may have a very stiff gait (rare condition called myositis) and he may have mouth cancer (too may cigarettes) and he may have Cushings disease…and high blood pressure…and a thyroid problem, but he is still here and enjoying life, especially if it’s chicken-flavoured. Or luncheon meat… I daren’t think of him leaving us yet.

At least he has the good grace to wait until his dinner is served in his bowl….as we have discovered to our cost, Sidney, being so big, is not averse to putting his paws up onto the kitchen counter and nomming everything in sight. ‘Ooh, lovely liver in a pan..’ nom-nom…’ooh, half a baguette’ nom-nom..’ooh, a pack of butter’ nom-nom…’ooh a packet of biscuits’ nom-nom. And he steals Arthur’s donuts…the poor old boy is a very slow chewer and so Sid mugs him. We’ve taken to letting Arthur eat outside unmolested….trouble is, we keep forgetting he’s out there…we find him 30 minutes later with an icicle on his nose.

Anyway, another year done with, almost. 2011 promises much – expense mainly.

Merry Christmas!

05 June 2010

Great greyhound extravaganza

Just a quick post to report on our day out at the Great Greyhound Extravaganza at Newmarket. The good news is that we didn't get thrown out, although Susie was doing her level best to excel in the grumpy/bossy stakes (shame there wasn't a class for that as she would have romped home). The even better news is that lovely old Ranger claimed 3rd place in the 10 years + greyhound boys class - nothing more than he deserves and his yellow rosette is already decorating the fridge. Cue much huffing and 'I'm bored with this now' antics from the shortlisted-but-not-placed Susie, the piece de resistance being a serious amount of nose digging that left a big hole in the gardens and madam with a brown grimy conk..

However, the best was saved for last as Richard and Sue (and Lou and Blue dogs) from Indigo Dream pitched up mid pm - I hadn't even known they were coming until yesterday evening and having had to turn down their kind offer of a cruise on Sunday, it was a real bonus to get some of their company after all. Only sorry it couldn't have been for longer. As they'd actually been cruising that morning in readiness for their charity trip tomorrow, and then had to endure a very tedious drive cross-country, their dedication to the greyhound cause was all the more impressive. And impressive too was the much vaunted meeting of the two ladies...no, not me and Sue, but Susie and Lou - two growl-alikes who after an initial rumble or two (mainly on Susie's side I'm ashamed to say) seemed to settle down okay, even deigning to walk next to one another as we left. The fact that no blood was spilt or fur removed was a great result - I wonder whether they knew they'd met their match?

So this was a real step forward in my 'one day we'll do this' convoy cruise with seven greyhounds in tow...because for once, it would be lovely not to have to call premature time on our get-togethers with Richard and Sue but to have a fab day's cruising in company, have a drink or five, enjoy a relaxed dinner and then retire to our respective boats for more of the same the next day. And they'd probably not mind if we slipped a farting dog or two into their cabin....

02 June 2010

Abroad thoughts from home

Okay, so Skipton isn't strictly abroad but it's very much in my mind as the town - and especially its environs - made such a lasting impression on us. Now we're home, back at work, slaving over a hot Mac and wishing that we weren't. Actually, I'm slaving over a hot calendar trying to work out when we can get back there, even if it's just for a work cruise. I'm eyeing up the first two weeks of July as a possibility but unless the Pennines get some rain, we won't be going anywhere particularly quickly as the L&L is a tad on the empty side at the mo. Obviously the snow and rain that fell in Yorks/Lancs over the winter is very inaccurate stuff - it somehow missed the reservoirs. Or have they all been sold off? I guess I could always ask Arthur to whiz in the cut - with his prodigious bladder, he'd have those levels up in no time.

In the meantime, I'll remind myself of some of our holiday pleasures with a few piccies...(well, pics from the first half of the hols 'cos the rest are stuck on my camera going nowhere until I can find the bloody stupid cable misplaced by a bloody stupid idiot, namely me)