Sunday 13 December 2020

stop me and buy one

I had a large order of greetings cards to drop off at Harvest Wholefoods in Bath, and while I was at it I thought I'd do a stop-me-and-buy-one with the calendars as I went along.

Canal towpath trips always take ages, because you're always meeting friends. I also bumped some nice folk from Devon who'd moored up on the Widcombe flight in Bath, who'd recently bought few of my things online, and it was nice to meet them in real life too.

And here's Sebastien and Louise above the top lock at Widcombe, with their new book of canal life in photographs, 'An Uneasy Paradise'. I was uneasy in town all right; it was thronging with people, shopping like there's no tomorrow. So I did my essential drop, and scarpered home

some weird tribal shit in Conkwell woods, where you're always being WATCHED

Billy rocks the contre-jour look at Diggers

Tuesday 8 December 2020

winter flocks in Pewsey Vale

Over to Devizles to drop off more calendars at the bookshop. Then along the Vale of Pewsey to the Barge inn at Honeystreet, to deliver canal maps and see Peter on Grey Hare, and Weasel, his newly adopted dog. 

There was a chill mist hanging on the Downs, and where it thinned the quality of the light was really quite something. But, like a starling flock, it's best just experienced. So I failed to capture it on camera.

We did trudge around a big muddy field where some extremely photogenic sunflowers were growing back in the summer, trying to get dramatic views of the starlings who were fossicking in the stubble. But they refused to perform, the dark rogues.

There were also redwings and fieldfares, stripping the hawthorns on the track to the All Cannings long barrow, built not by druids but by Mrs Beynon's Billy.
this is a redwing. Coming over here, taking our berries...

all along the hedge are redwings and fieldfares

the starlings reluctantly move along as I approach

the melancholy remnants of the sunflower crop

Friday 27 November 2020

keeping warm

The mist stuck around in the valley all day, though the sun breaking through made everything very picturesque, even us unsavoury boaters. 

And at three o'clock the air took a serious chill to it; I watched the space station fly over at 5:10, then went secured the boat for the night. The cratch cover was already iced up. Bank up that stove!

The painting is 'Winter's Night Near Alton Barnes'. I just realised I hadn't got it listed in my shop, and have now remedied that. 

Tuesday 24 November 2020

the Dangerous Brothers come visiting

Jim and Harry dropped by with some firewood, as payment in kind for the flyer I designed for them. They barrowed it down, then chopped it up on the spot. It reminded me of the time, before I'd joined my first ship Karen Bravo when she was in Egypt, and they were victualling, and the meat arrived on the hoof and was slaughtered and butchered there on the quayside. Or so at least I was assured. Another time, further south, the crew change was accomplished with the aid of a couple of french mercenaries flying a Dakota, that they were flying freight and passengers with while saving up to buy a fighter. So it's entirely probable; sometimes life at sea was too interesting anyway to bother making things up.

But I digress. Here's the flyer I did for them

I picked it up from Minuteman Press in Bristol on Friday, and also collected my new badges, the K&A West End Antifa ones. Look closely and you'll see our secret volcano base, deep in the heart of Wiltshire.

The KAWE Antifa took off when an awful person on our local canal community Facebook page posted up some hate stuff about a woman boater whom the Daily Mail had suggested was connected with Isis, and not only that but was living on a boat! and claiming benefits! and was a single parent! -so obviously she was a fit person against whom to level threats of arson, sinking and death (these threats were on some awful Brexity Facebook group, not our relatively civilised canal one, I hasten to add, and were presumably made by choleric folk who don't get out much. 'Others, I am not the first, have willed more mischief than they durst'... But even so. 

Anyway, we objected vociferously to her rather lunatic allegations, and were accused by her of being Marxist Lefty Antifa hooligans. Well, there are worse things to be accused of than being agin fascism. So it goes.

So I fed Jim and Harry a tot of rum, and off they went. Presently this old lifeboat came chugging by. Once upon a time it had a more adventurous career, on an oil platform in the North Sea. Observe the pipes running around the uppers, to spray water over the superstructure to stop flames from cooking the occupants, if chugging through a sea on fire.

And the sun set, and there was suddenly a chill in the air and it was time to get in and light the stove, after watching the moon rise.

Sunday 22 November 2020

An Uneasy Paradise; living on the waterways

Sebastien called by yesterday with a copy of the book that he and his partner Louise have been working on and which has finally been published. They are both canal folk and excellent photographers, and have been recording life on the Kennet and Avon Canal for some years now. And this is the outcome of their work. It's predominantly visual, and gloriously so, but with accounts of canal life by their subjects, and an essay to finish with.

Here's a link to their website, where there's more stuff, and a video to accompany the book launch, and you can buy a copy there.

Friday 20 November 2020

there's something about the trees

Two weeks back, a big tree fell across the canal, missing Paul's boat by a hundred feet. He was a bit rattled, but no harm done, and we got stuck in and made firewood of it.

So Paul moves on down the canal to Avoncliffe, and blow me if another tree doesn't fall down, grazing his stern and sinking his tender.

I went along with the chaps in the CRT workboat, with my chainsaw; because they're not allowed to use them because H&S etc, but I can cut my own silly arm off if I like.

job done! Obviously there's no action shots because I was in them

And we cleared the navigation. And presently Paul came chugging by, looking for a mooring spot that's out of reach of them darned trees that seem to have it in for him, like John South in Hardy's Woodlanders, haunted by his fear of the big elm.

full fathom five Paul's tender lies

Then it was back to work for me, packaging up and sending off pictures and calendars. These Three Hares maps are off to Devon.

Reminds me of when I worked in the regional distribution warehouse for Somerfield supermarket, in South Bristol (temping while waiting for my next ship). I was an order picker; which means trolleys came along the aisle, and I read the sheets attached to them and added the things from my section, and they continued on until they were full and then loaded on to lorries and sent off to supermarkets all around the country.

It was interesting seeing regional variations; Farnborough folk were evidently fond of Thunderbirds assortment fruit yoghurts, and I imagined the boffins at RAE there pausing from designing the aircraft of the future, and tucking into little pots of black cherry yoghurt with a picture of Thunderbird Two on it and Dreaming Large.

Muller desserts, v popular in the Birmingham suburbs where the net curtains are always twitching.

And Ginsters pasties, loads and loads went trundling on down the motorway and over the Tamar to the land whence they'd come.

Tuesday 10 November 2020

Wildlife on the Kennet and Avon Canal - the 2021 calendar

These calendars are freshly arrived from the printer, and up for sale in my Etsy shop. They cost £10, including postage in the UK.

This is a very brief post, because the battery on this Macbook is about to run out and I can't start the generator for a few hours yet! Blast it

Friday 6 November 2020

Every branch is special

I'd been waiting ages for a suitable weather window to to the washing. At last the ensign of the Dhobi Navy flew proudly (well, drooped chilly) at the back of the boat. And so it stayed until dusk, when it came in again hardly dryer than when I hung it out. Oh well, it's drying nicely by the stove.

Sherry Jim called. He wants me to update his flyer, now that Bob, the other half of the Dangerous Brothers, has moved on, and Young Harry is Jim's new oppo.
So I popped over the the Lock Inn for some photos.

Presently the sun came out and warmed up the valley, and the squirrels stopped nibbling ash keys and hawthorn berries, and spread themselves languidly along branches.


Sunday 25 October 2020

annoying the Thornproofs

Routine goes out of the porthole when a tree comes down on the canal. On Saturday morning, a big ash fell across it. So we got on down there with the chainsaw. 

The feller in the boat nearest the tree was a bit rattled; when I remarked that at least it hadn't hit his boat he got rather narked and told me that he's been on the canal for twenty years. So we cut him up some nice big slices of trunk to cheer him up, and I didn't mention that worse things happen at sea.

Daisy brought down her boat and, because she's a dab hand at tree cutting, I handed the chainsaw over and focused on keeping the boat steady while she sectioned the trunk in the water, and Helen and the crew hauled them across to the towpath. We only very nearly capsized once.

And then we drank some beers and were scowled at by some Thornproof Walkers. But the K&A Canal Trust trip boat, Barbara McLellan, came by and the crew gave us a cheerful wave because we'd cleared the navigation for them. 

And got ourselves some really good firewood. 

Daisy towed away a section of trunk for George to make a drum out of, because you can't have too many drums.

Sunday 11 October 2020

Poets Afloat, and Floaty Boat

Poets Afloat is a collection of poetry by boaters and other people associated with the Kennet and Avon Canal, and it is really rather good. What's more, it only costs £5, all of which goes to the Floaty Boat Fund, to help boaters keep afloat and keep their homes; and there's been several occasions over the last few weeks where FBF have assisted when boats have been sunk. 

Order your copy here, unless you happen to be passing my boat in which case drop in! 

some poems, look! There's pictures too

Friday 18 September 2020

sunken boats on the river Avon in Bath

At Twerton, on the north side of Bath, there's a flood defence barrier across the River Avon, between the west bank and Dutch Island; the navigable channel passes down the other side of the island to Weston Lock.

The barrier is there to alleviate flooding. When the river is in spate, it can be raised to let the flood waters escape downstream. In normal river conditions, it remains closed and acts as a weir.

On Wednesday evening, the barrier spontaneously raised itself, in what the Environment Agency subsequently described as a software failure.

The immediate consequence of that was that the river level between Weston Lock and Pulteney Weir in the centre of Bath, dropped almost 2 meters very rapidly.

About 40 boats are moored on that stretch. Some were crewed at the time, and their owners attempted to move their boats out into deeper water; several were already caught on the steeply shelving sides, and rolled over, taking on water. A few sank as a result. 

Fortunately, there were no injuries.

The EA, CRT, Bath Council, and all interested parties are liaising to minimise further damage before raising the water level again. To clarify this point, it was that falling water level that coused the boats to roll over and take on water; it is because the boats are in danger of being fully submerged if the level were to rise without remedial action being taken first, that there is a delay in raising the level again.

Julian House outreach workers are also on the case looking out for the welfare of those boaters whose homes are uninhabitable; the Floaty Boat folk are helping, too, and donations to the Floaty Boat Fund right now will go to help those folk affected. Here's a link

Meanwhile, the knock-on effect is being felt up on the summit of the canal, towards Crofton, where the top pound has been closed to navigation because the water resources are just not there.

I took a ride along the river yesterday to observe. Here are some pictures.