Saturday, 15 October 2016


It's cartoon time.....

-----------------------------------------------------------------------Following on from the mass debate regarding the correct way to eat two boiled eggs-that matter remains unresolved as far as I'm concerned-I have been giving some serious thought to the following:-

Now I am vehemently opposed to option A for practical as well as aesthetic reasons although I hasten to point out, for fear some consider me a homosexual or Guardian reader that neither do I approve of the practice of folding the first sheet into an arrow or similar so favoured by hotels and guesthouses with aspirations above their station.  I raise the matter now because in three separate conveniences in three separate places in the recent past have I been faced with option  A. Actually on one occasion I wasn't faced with it as the roll was placed in such a position behind me that one required the flexibility of a Tai Chi Master to reach the necessary-a result made harder by the use of option A. The three places were an hotel in Yorkshire, excellent in all other respects, a boat we'd hired on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal of which more later and a Motorway services at Leicester Forest which was the non-facing one referred to above.
Is there anybody out there who prefers option A? I doubt it but should you prefer this strange satanic practice please get in touch and let the rest of us know why. It's a free country.

September brings the change in season as shown below on a recent walk round College Lake in Tring.I've also included a picture of one of the many black sheep they have. They seem tame enough but they do like to fix eye contact and penetrate your soul. I can see they know my innermost thoughts.

The Chiltern Branch of the MS Society organised a series of Walk the MS Mile  in various towns in the area including Berkhamsted. Pam enrolled and organised some sponsorship. I decide to go as well but apart from taking a fiver off Ady I just gave them a cheque. Pam raised over 200 quid which was brilliant. We were both impressed with the organisation; the walk started outside Marks and Spencers and went down to Gatsby's and returning to M and S.  Many people with MS  took part, people of real spirit, and the total raised so far is over 17k and they think they might hit £20000! A wonderful effort.

A few pictures below

Pam mugs Karl who who'd only popped out to buy some dinner

The half way point with the Deputy Mayor


A rather fine Harvest Moon at Cowroast

Some SOB having nicked my chimney sometime last year and replaced it with a piece of rubbish I've spent some of my Male Modelling income on a smart new chimney which is chained down with 40,0000 volts running through it-if only........
A rather fine new chimney!

The Motley Crew reconvened at the end of September to take the boat, Sophie's Drum on a part of canal none had done before; it being the 200th anniversary of the Leeds and Liverpool canal and some of the crew having been present at the inauguration it seemed fitting to do the World Famous Bingley 5 Rise, one of the Wonders of the Waterways.

We started from Silsden having hoteled (is that a word?) the previous night in Keighley in the excellent value Dalesgate hotel -a room each and a tip- top breakfast.
A Keighley Rainbow to welcome us to Yorkshire
We were away by 1p.m. after a briefing of the crew by me in the nearby Robin Hood pub. As always it gives me such a warm feeling to be amongst true friends and masterboaters as they listened, rapt and attentive to my every word. There was a higher than usual degree of apprehension on this trip as the charts indicated and my detailed reconnaissance  confirmed that there was a shortage of half decent pubs  and fears were expressed that discipline might break down and the thinner crew members might be eaten by the others for their not inconsiderable alcoholic content alone.

Most of the pictures will be only of interest to the crew but as they say-you should have been there.

We set off towards Leeds arriving at Riddlesden west of Bingley in time for gammon sandwiches (in case we could find nowhere to eat) and  set off for the pub down the hill (in case there was a sudden drought)-The Royal Hotel, which although they did not do food, was a comfy place with friendly staff and customers and a fish and chip shop opposite. Job done-oh and it was raining. After slaking our thirst we returned on board and ate sparingly of the fish and chips.
Whether it was the drink or the fish I know not but that night I slept fitfully and Kevin with whom I was sharing ( a cabin I hasten to add, not a bunk-we're not that sort you know) slept hardly at all. My fellow crewmates were so concerned that I, their spiritual leader, should rest properly that they suggested I swap with Ady  and move in with Geoff. This was a good suggestion as I slept well the rest of the voyage as, apparently, did Kevin. Perhaps he sleeps better knowing his brother is the least likely to eat him for his alcoholic content. We shall never know.

Kevin looks tired this morning
The next day we headed for Bingley and the Bingley 5-which is in fact the Bingley 11 being three staircases of 5, 3, 2 locks and then a single to finish.

But first we needed to take on water as some of the more effeminate members of the crew had been washing.
Ady seems to be struggling
to get his leg over
but Roy helps out-such close chums.

Waiting at the top of the "5"
Still waiting
The historic boat, Kennet will play a leading role in the Bicentenary celebrations
The Bingley 5 is impressive. Ady helmed coming down the staircases and the rest of us either assisted the CRT blokes who undoubtedly knew what they were doing or took photos of the rest of us who didn't.
60 feet in drop doesn't sound a lot but when you're in the lock chamber it feels daunting especially with the top gates letting by a lot of water and you can't help but wonder what would happen if the gate gave way. No more blogs for a start ........

The last single lock of Bingley was a bugger. Kevin and I were on the stern and as the boat lowered in the lock the gates behind us were letting great gushes of water shoot over the back, us and into the back cabin. Water everywhere. I managed to shut the cabin doors, cursing myself for lack of forethought and after a change of crew Kevin and I went below for a change of clothes soaked from the waist down whilst Peter and Roy took us down to Saltaire
 It is named after Sir Titus Salt who built a textile mill, known as Salts Mill and this village on the River Aire. Designed by architects, Lockwood and Mawson, Salts Mill was opened on Sir Titus Salt's 50th birthday, 20 September 1853. In December 2001, Saltaire was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Don't you just love it when some silly arse pokes his fat head into your picture. Peter and Roy look Captain Blyish
This bloke's a bloody nuisance
We turned at Saltaire and whilst Roy organised the winding I jumped boat and went looking for the Aldi shown in the guide book. OK the book is ten years old and Aldi is now a Sushi shop. No shops meant no groceries which meant we'd have to eat in a pub that night. Oh dear, what a shame.
A definite minus against Saltaire is that because  Salts Mill has been turned into posh flats Canal and River Trust have agreed no overnight mooring: a dangerous precedent across the system. So we shook the dust from Saltaire from our saturated plimsoles and headed east again towards Bingley where we knew of a pub,en route, The Fisherman's Inn where solace might be sought.

.....and a prize crossword finished!! Yo Kevin!!

and the grown-up grandads could relax

my soaking purple socks make good spike markers whilst drying
We had a fine evening with a good range of ales and two steaks and a bottle of wine for 25 quid.

The paparazzi is never far away

The following morning we set off to climb the Bingley locks and keep going till we reached Skipton passing our base at Silsden.

Taken expertly into the first lock having made sure front and back doors were closed.

They're waiting for us-with Peter supervising

Past the Damart factory chimney

Expertly done

some paddle gear on the "5" 

 We reached the top of Bingley about 10 30 having left the Fisherman's Inn at 8 a.m. Time for brunch at the excellent cafe at the top of the Bingley 5.

To Skipton by 6p.m. and a very fine though expensive meal in the Woolly Sheep

Skipton is a fine town and our timetable allowed us to stay till after lunch the following day. We all did our own thing in the morning -Kevin got his haircut;I knew he was gay- and I walked up to Skipton Castle along the Spring Branch of the canal. Very nice.
 Pam's sister, Tricia and Bro- in-law, Tony, joined us for lunch at the Narrowboat Inn-another great range of ales and a good menu. This was my Corned Beef Hash which meant I couldn't move till about 5 o'clock. All for 7 quid. We had a jolly time and Tricia and Tony joined us for a short trip on Sophie's Drum.

We left Skipton in lousy weather-the winding of the boat in the aforesaid Spring branch at Skipton was achieved in spite of a very strong wind but with Roy alongside me in a consultative role. Much foul language but we got her turned and after dropping Tricia and Tony off we headed off to Kildwick and the White Lion Inn where we were booked for dinner.

It wasn't the best dinner we've ever had and the staff seemed pretty disinterested to the extent that they'd all buggered off after the main course so anybody fancying a pudding went without. Funny way to run a business. We made the best of it as it was our last night and we had a farewell drink back on board to end the week. I've ranked the pubs we visited in my order of preference. What do you chaps think.

The Anglers Inn Saltaire

The  Narrowboat Inn Skipton


The Wooly Inn Skipton

The Cock and Bottle, Skipton

The Royal Hotel Riddlesden**

The Yorkshire Rose, Skipton

The Robin Hood Silsden**
The White Lion Kidwick

An earlyish start the following morning to head back to base.
Geoff gets the honour of the last bridge

and a farewell breakfast. I don't know who the mob above are but they won't be picking sprouts this year. Bloody foreigners.

Cheers chaps-a lovely break.


This lovely scene on the right greets you on entering the Toad Hall Garden Centre at Henley which we visited last week, en route to Abingdon and Greys Court of which more anon. Pam had been before and said it was impressive and it is. We wandered round looking at flowers and stuff and espied a Physalis, a plant I've oft admired so I bought one. One must remember when telling ones' friends that the emphasis falls on the first syllable or it sounds like something unpleasant

Apart from Physalis and many thousands of other plants they have a Christmas shop and I worked out it was 77 days till Christmas. Unfortunately matey below wasn't for sale or he'd be taking up a lot of cabin space by now. They offered to sell me a pair but I said it was two deer.

On to Greys Court, a National Trust property also near Henley.
This 16th-century mansion and gardens were home to the Brunner family until 2003. The house remains essentially a family home  with a well-stocked kitchen and homely living rooms.  The series of walled gardens is a colourful patchwork of interest set amid medieval ruins.
Other buildings from earlier eras include the Great Tower from the 12th century and a rare Tudor donkey wheel, in use until the early 20th century. The house has been owned by seven families since the De Greys in the 13th century up to Lady Brunner the last inhabitant. Lady B was married to Lord Brunner who was one of the founders of ICI so no need for Bob Geldhof to put a concert on for them then. However one of the most interesting snippets for me was that from 1934 to 37 it was owned by Mrs Evelyn Fleming who had two sons, one of whom,Peter, she encouraged to be a writer as she thought he had real talent but when he married the actress Celia Johnson in December '35 this plan was abandoned as was the house. It was subsequently sold by her other son. Ian, who certainly did make it as a writer. I just love the idea that reading between the lines Celia Johnson wasn't posh enough for Mrs Fleming; anyone who has seen Brief Encounter (and who hasn't?) with Celia's terribly terribly clipped tones would have thought her too posh to be Queen!

Waiting for the drop

After Greys Court we headed into Abingdon where we had booked to stay in the Premier Inn where my sister and bro in law were staying en route from ooooop north to darn sarth. We stopped for a short walk along the Thames across the river from the well calendared (is there such a word?) Anchor shown below then we returned to the Nags Head on the bridge which was very pleasant

I was aware that the Abingdon Fair was on but had seen no sign of it in any of the open spaces around Abingdon where I had expected to see it.
No. It was in Abingdon. All of Abingdon. Every street between us and our hotel. Undaunted we set off and the first street was easy with sufficient room to squeeze by various sideshows. After that it got more like a fairground ride having to mount the pavement a couple of times including an exchange of views on the state of the nation with some Abingdonian pillock who seemed to think I should be on the road. Evenyually we reached the other side of town and were confronted with a barrier. Which was closed. With us on one side and our hotel somewhere on the other.
Pam took executive powers and got out as another trapped driver raised the barrier. I pretended she was nowt to do with me and drove out. Unable to get the barrier down again she legged it across the road to where I was hiding. We were soon booked in and heading for dinner with Tom and Moira where we enjoyed the culinary delights of the Harvester Inn, The Ock Mill.

The following day having bade farewell to Tom and Moira, we walked along the river towards Oxford; a glorious, cloudless October morning.

I think it's dangerous that this old blind man should be allowed to operate Abingdon lock........

Ah, that's better

Pam's found a bear

and a crocodile!!

Navigation Aid

We shall return.

It was my pleasure last week to take friends Roy and Annie to Stansted for a short break in Venice and collect them again on return. During their stay they met Francesco Di Mosto famous for his books and documentaries on Italy in general and Venice in particular.

He agreed to a photo which reminded me of the occasion when Ady, Peter and I met Rick Stein; I took photos of the other two with Rick but for some reason nobody bothered to take one of me. I hardly ever mention it, of course, but perhaps that's why I keep popping up in the photos above.

To close, a tale of interest to those who think I'm losing the plot-if I ever had it. A couple of weeks back I visited the launderette-always a treat for a recluse like myself-and having loaded the machine I went to the counter to get some pound coins. I stuck 5 in the machine pressed the "medium wash" button (though why a spiritualist would want laundering in the first place I don't know) and stepped back to watch the fun. Unfortunately my washing was in the machine next to the fivered one and lay there motionless, unfunded, whilst the empty machine rattled away. Hey ho. No problem as long as I don't tell anybody.