Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Archive (I'll post pics again when I can)

Sunday, 6 April 2008
Keeping a blog
It's a funny ol thing, blogging. I love writing anyway and as Ken says, keeping a blog is quite addictive. If you choose, as I've done, to not have Sitemeter or any other means of checking who reads your blog or to find out how many read it (or don't!) , you feel free to post your thoughts quite openly, without fretting about turning people off. I hate being monitored so wouldn't inflict that on others.If you also choose, as I have, not to censure comments, you accept that others can criticise you openly. So, I suppose that's the difference with keeping a personal written diary - there's knowing someone may read your stuff and knowing that they may comment on it. I like that not-knowing that anyone else is even bothering to read what I write and it's always a bit of a surprise when they do comment!So why does it feel suddenly intrusive when your blogging gets posted on a forum? Perhaps because it does away with the last pretence at a blog being personal. You may have had a good, cheerful day, or a fed-up rant but when taken out of the context of the diary it stands alone, naked and chilled.So, I wonder - should that stop someone from writing a blog - fear of being left exposed? I don't think it should. After all, I do a lot of copyright-free illustrations for people and risk having my work ripped off left, right and centre. I guess I must just accept that opening your opinions and thoughts to others, like falling in love, is a risky venture. If I try to live by the principles I believe in, I needn't be afraid of others.

Posted by Carrie at
03:32 4 comments


What a morning!
I looked out the window this morning at 6.30am and had to leap straight out of bed, it was so beautiful. Lots of snow, sunshine through the trees, blue sky - lovely! My dog loves the snow, though it does make him look a bit scruffy cos he'll never be as white as that. He snuffles madly in it, getting his snout all covered and rolls over and over like a puppy.(My computer won't let me post a photo right now so I'll try and add one later.)A nice family on their hire boat made snowmen of each of them on the roof before setting off. It's very peaceful here with the sound of woodpeckers up in the branches overhead.
Posted by Carrie at
02:50 0 comments


Thursday, 3 April 2008
Stocking up
I travelled on a fair bit today, stopping at Rugeley to stock up with food. The dog had started eyeing me up - always a reminder to buy him some food quickly. I'd run out of bread a couple of days ago so I made some and it was sooo heavy! I made a nettle and goosegrass and lentil soup (all comes under the generic term 'hippy-slop') which was ok and put some sprouting potatoes out of their misery, but it really was time to rejoin society and splurge on fresh-ish veg and Frys chocolate creams and bourbon biscuits and a couple of bottles of Weston's cider , for a few days at least.At Kings Bromley marina, that massive house on the waterfront is still empty. There's room for 3 families in there. That and another estimated 700,000 empty houses in the UK, not to mention unused factory buildings and offices. It's madness to talk about building 3 million new homes and pretend they can all be carbon-neutral. The government clearly doesn't have a clue what carbon-neutral actually means. Talking of houses..I took a photo of a brand new housing estate full of diddy doll's houses made to look like olde worlde cottages, with plastic window frames and 2/3 cars to every house, all framed within the giant backdrop of Rugeley power station. The horror, the horror. I'd better not put up the picture as it's too depressing and is bound to be someone's dream-home. I'd rather live in a tent. I'm in a beautiful wooded place now, which calms me immediately. I spent half an hour watching a little mouse grooming and skittering about on a tree stump on the opposite side of the canal. Then watched tree-creepers flitting spirally up the trunks of alders for insects, dropping back to the bottom and starting up again. I have a pair of binoculars but only one eye of them works so I have to squint at things. After half an hour, you come away with blurred vision and a squint - most attractive.Later, I checked out lots of trees and came across a duck nesting right inside the bole of another tree stump. I distracted my dog so he couldn't disturb her. There was a felled beech and I counted the rings - it was 150 years old. Some parts have been roughly carved to make a couple of lovely unpretentious seats, which made me very happy. Someone altruistic out there. There was a bank full of tiny holes that I saw were home to a sort of bee but my insect book offers me too many looky-likies for a positive ID.Tomorrow I must go down the weed hatch. I picked up something dodgy today and kind-of ignored it as I was able to keep going and steer ok, and because it's a nightmare getting to the hatch with no head room to lever the plate off. But tomorrow will do.
Posted by Carrie at
09:45 0 comments




Sunday, 30 March 2008
Recycled wallet
A friend made me a wallet from a tetra-pak which as you probably know is not usually recycleable - though I hear that scum-bag Tescos has recently started offering recycling of tetra-pak in some areas. Oh the irony!
http://www.tescopoly.org/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1

Anyway, here's how he made my wallet:
Waterproof, strong and just the right size for bank cards. I don't tend to buy anything in cartons but it's almost worth it get a fruity wallet. You just have to be careful you don't chuck it in the reycling by mistake!
Posted by Carrie at
09:58 0 comments



Wednesday, 26 March 2008
Hopwas wood

What a glorious wood is the Hopwas wood. Mentioned in the Domesday Book (did you know you can check out the Domesday Book online?!) so some of it is ancient woodland. At the moment there's a starry firmament of wood anemones throughout and you can see there will soon be a vast carpet of bluebells.
I met a lovely old man who walked my legs off for miles along towpath, through the woods, around the village and back. He told me how a large part of the woods had been bought by Nash Rocks and was currently under threat from quarrying. That figures. Show me a stunningly beautiful place and home to miriad wildlife and I'll show you the corporate bastard waiting to fuck things up.




Then I met a guy on a boat who carves mushrooms and benches and planters from trees. His boat is covered in giant mushrooms! I don't know whether he cuts em down just for that purpose. I couldn't bear to know the answer to that particular question, but I did go back and help myself to the large amounts of sawdust for my compost loo and discarded bark as firelighters.


With the rain, came the ducks. One duck was very brave and tame and came to beg at the window. Then she leapt up onto the roof and I took this picture by sticking my camera out the window. A second later and she pecked it but I didn't manage to capture that!
Posted by Carrie at
10:21 11 comments


Tuesday, 25 March 2008
Fork Candles!

..or that's what they could be!



Here are four of the fifteen candles I made from all the saved drippings and stubs of my candles and a right mess I made of them too! It all seemed so simple in my 'How to live without electricity - and like it' book (Anita Evangelista), which explains how to melt the bits together, pour onto a greased surface, lay down lengths of string and roll up. Voila! Some dodgy sausages.
But they do burn fine and as I mostly use candles rather than the yukky little flourescent strips in my boat, I suppose it's a saving of sorts. If you melt the wax using the gas stove instead of the wood stove, you're probably wasting more energy than you save!
After a stay out by Alvecote Pools - a pleasant wooded and wetland area that used to have collieries nearby, I've had to move on to collect water and find some food. Olive oil and marmite on stale bread is becoming monotonous - need to find me some nettles! I got into a boating convoy, which I hate and now I'm lying low, waiting for the flood of hire-boaters to subside. But they're a hardy lot those hirers - rain, snow, wind doesn't put em off enjoying their holiday. I know they're on a schedule but you have to admit they're up for it!
Posted by Carrie at
04:09 1 comments

Saturday, 22 March 2008
Good company

Ah - alone again after a very sociable time seeing OTHER PEOPLE! I met a friend on a boat and we had great fun catching up on news and cider and getting snootily turned out of a pub garden at Grendon cos I had my mutt with me - but you had the impression it was because we looked a bit um.. scruffy. Hurray!Then the two dearest people in the world came to visit: my darling, clever, wonderful daughter and my dear, talented and amazing son. I'm much braver when there are helpers around, so we went boating in the blasting wind and went aground and went on long walks and hauled firewood together and it was lovely. Now they've left, I'm missing them, but that's ok.The canals are suddenly full of holiday-makers and other boaters, including a scarily large number of Christian boaters. Perhaps they're having an easter shindig? I also spotted Khayamanzi (a boaty blogger) at Polesworth.I've been doing little work recently as I've been engrossed in 2 books - 'Wildwood, a journey through trees' by Roger Deakin and 'How non-violence protects the State' by Peter gelderloos. 'Wildwood' is really beautiful and I didn't want to finish it and just wish I'd met the man before he died in 2006, but at £20, better beg, steal or borrow the book! The 'How Non-violence..' is well worth reading and makes you question your attitudes (always good), even if you don't embrace all his arguments.
Posted by Carrie at
07:49 0 comments


Wednesday, 12 March 2008
Lost post
I have learnt, the hard way, to always put a sender's address on the back of my letters. :-(I sent a pack of seven illustrations in the post, end of January but as I wasn't near a post office, I weighed it, put on more stamps than I needed and stuck it in a post-box. Unfortunately, Royal mail stopped recognising that address for 3 weeks for some strange reason, (having delivered letters there for the last 8 years), which means everything got re-directed to Belfast sorting office! They pretend to look for it, but meanwhile, you get a curt letter saying you can't claim any money off them without proof of postage. I don't want money, I want my artwork! I'm reluctantly facing up to having to re-do them and luckily they were ink and wash drawings and not full paint jobs.I'd become complacent after years of problem-free posting but it reminds me of a letter I once received, 6 months late. It was a blackened, smudged offering in a plastic bag with an accompanying letter from the Royal Mail saying 'we apologise for the condition of this letter. The mail collection van caught fire...'.
Posted by Carrie at
11:22 2 comments

Atherstone
Been off gallivanting and come back to some hefty gales below Atherstone! It looks like I missed seeing a couple of boats, including nb
No Problem who's blog was the first I read on narrowboating and which made me think "ooh - I'd like to live like that". I also missed nb Hadar which Jo had kindly shown me over when Hadar was still in the boatyard shed. I was looking forward to seeing her afloat but there are lots of great photos on Jo's blog.The Atherstone locks, as anyone who goes up and down them knows, are beautifully looked after. The lock-keeper's cottage is also well maintained and there are tended flower beds and rose bushes but who is this enigmatic lock-keeper? I can only go on impressions. Was he for example, one of the knot of three portly gentlemen who stood at the cottage, arms folded, staring while I locked down the first two locks, getting redder-faced and more and more clumsy under their gaze? Surely they were there on the other two occasions I've been up and down these locks?! Is the stuffed figure dressed up in camouflage clothes, leaning at the lock cottage wall, with 'Keep Hunting' painted on its lapel, his work? And the long letter in the BW noticeboard addressed to 'Mr Boater' (3 times) asking us to be patient and polite, telling us that he has an MBE, well I guess that's his handwriting. As a Ms Boater, I'm assuming I'm exempt!I've noticed that there are signs limiting a boaty stay of only 48hours in the fairly long stretch in the middle of the flight and that this stretch was completely empty. I've been noticing this elsewhere this winter - completely empty stretches of useful canalside mooring where boaters would presumably have been spending cash in the nearby shops and pubs if the staying limits were relaxed over winter. Where are all the boats? The worst was Cropredy. You'd be hard put to fit another sign along that stretch above the lock, with the 'No running of engines...', 'No more than 24hrs...', 'Overstay fines..', 'Take rubbish elsewhere..' signs every few feet. It really makes you feel unwelcome. We're boaters - we should bloody well be able to use the canal without being made to feel like we're scum. Grrrr...Anyway, enough grumpiness for today. It's great to be back on board and now I'm going to cut up some of the forest I've got piled on the roof.
Posted by Carrie at
07:32 0 comments


Sunday, 24 February 2008
Poised for action
I'm out in the sticks again, but last night - or rather at 2am, I was woken by people running past the boat, then more running like they were being chased, then a little while later, back they came again. There were shouts and of course my dog was going nuts so I thought I'd better be poised for action, which meant putting on socks and a woolly over my pyjamas and having a hot drink. After half an hour, a motorboat came zig-zagging down the canal, no lights with some youts on board. Luckily, they zagged past me so I didn't get zigged, then miraculously they picked up a giggle of girls waiting at the bend in the canal! Perhaps it was a boat-heist, I dunno.Well nothing else happened so I slept in late, cocooned and over-warm in my woolly and action socks.
Posted by Carrie at
02:31 7 comments
Tuesday, 19 February 2008
Low Impact Life Onboard (L.I.L.O)
http://www.liloontheweb.org.uk/Back on the boat after a lovely weekend at the Centre for Alternative Technology at Machynlleth in Wales. We were 18 or so boaters who were getting together to choose our favourite photos that people had sent in to the LILO Postcards Afloat initiative. Our top 25 are being made into postcards to promote sustainable living afloat and it was great to see such fantastic images of boaters ways of life, including a boater wedding, children tending rooftop gardens, a boating community's canalside bread oven, people having fun, mending engines etc etc. Keep an eye out for the images over the next few months as we find ways of sharing them.If you haven't been to the Centre in Machynlleth yet, I recommend it! We stayed in 'eco-cabins' with big wood-burning stoves and here's a picture of them, taken from above (I was perched up at the solar panels and wind turbines at the time). I'd visited years ago and they've really got established now with lots to do and see. A great place to take kids as well.It was also good for a loner boater like me to meet up with friends I don't see often and meet new people too and pick up some boaty tips. And great to be with people who don't glaze over when you talk solar panels, turbines and composting!
Posted by Carrie at
03:22 2 comments
Monday, 11 February 2008
Oy, mate!
This weather or those snowdrops or that friendly face or SOMETHING is making me ridiculously happy so I thought I'd better record it quick before I start raging against the machine again :-)I even managed to limit my remarks to the radio to a rather mild "Tosser!" (George Bush senior) and "Rot in hell you bitch" (Condi Rice). Very mild for me.I've cut off most of my hair which took about 3 minutes and although it does feel very nice, I must admit to looking like a male person. I have proof of this when a bloke called out "Oy, mate - is the towpath closed further up?" in a distinctly bloke-to-bloke manner. I answered him and as he got nearer and realised his mistake it was quite funny to see how he softened his voice and spoke in a warmer, chattier way and ended up saying "thanks love - hope it stays fine for you".I hadn't really given it much thought but I wonder if guys feel a pressure to talk together in a loudish, abrupt way, without much intimacy, if they don't know each other well. I'm happy to be told I'm wrong. O my god, I MUST be happy if I'm welcoming criticism!
Posted by Carrie at
10:03 2 comments


Monday, 4 February 2008
BW noticeboards
I left Brinklow this morning but couldn't leave before taking some photos of the three BW noticeboards I came across there.
This one is the fairly typical one, with the usual 'Don'ts', warnings and threats, although here, there are also some leaflets relating to nearby attractions which you don't always see.







Then there was this second board which was lovely, giving all the latest parish news, details of community events, WI meetings, ramblers doings etc, including all the little local hamlets in the area. Someone obviously takes great care with it. As a rootless stranger, I felt welcomed and included.




















But best of all was this third noticeboard, maintained by the people living at Boat Inn Cottage nearby. Jam-packed with snippets of local lore, hand-drawn maps, information about the woods and notes sent in by passers-by, dog-walkers, boaters. There's a welcoming message inviting people to add to the board. What a pleasure to see.
Posted by Carrie at
11:31 2 comments


Saturday, 2 February 2008
Saturday is ...
Killing Day!The day when idiots in mindless, unfulfilling jobs all week, take up a gun and get to feel like a REAL MAN, pretending to be Hunter Gatherers. The fact that the birds they kill are bred, well-fed, and released from protected enclosures doesn't seem to dent the 'hunter's' self-satisfaction. Nor the actual fate of the shot bird ....
... nor the fact that they stop by at Sainsbury's on the way home, to pick up the food their families actually want to eat.I've had a few slanging matches with 'hunters' near the canals which probably isn't a good idea when you're alone in the countryside and the tallest thing on the skyline. At Pigeon's Lock before Christmas, an irate 'hunter' shot over my head as I worked through the lock, cos I yelled "Pathetic!" at him earlier. It took all my foolhardiness to shout "pathetic!" in return while really shaking in my boots.I wonder if anyone else heard the news about the hunter shot by his own dog.http://www.reuters.com/article/oddlyEnoughNews/idUSN0953765920080109Shame.Hey, that reminds me - seen 'Cows with guns' ? Made me laugh!http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=FQMbXvn2RNI&feature=relatedand by some fab Year 10 kidshttp://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=a5s5qGg01nE&feature=related
Posted by Carrie at
05:20 3 comments


Wednesday, 30 January 2008
Moving on
Lovely morning! I like coming through wooded areas though my dog is in an agony of frustration as he watches squirrels leaping from branch to branch and rabbits thumbing their bunny noses at him. I thought I'd wrapped up warm enough but was freezing by the time I stopped up and am now cosy again with a good fire and stew bubbling on top.My heart's a bit sad today as my friend left the boat yesterday after a short visit and I probably won't see her again for at least three years :-(She's one of the bravest, coolest people I've ever met. She's a passionate, intelligent activist who has worked (for free) as a human rights observer and as a street medic in Russia and Palestine. She's been shot at, tear-gassed, arrested and assaulted while helping injured people but hasn't been cowed by any of it. She's also a great climber. Now she's returning to her homeland to study to be a paramedic who specialises in mountain/sea rescue, which is so exciting for her. I'm happy, but sad too as she used to live with us when I had a house and has been a frequent visitor to the boat.Thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts about the mooring offer. I've decided not to take it up after all. That particular situation isn't right for me but it has made me think more clearly about what I would like for the future. After waiting so long to get afloat, I really don't want to settle into a situation where I feel uncomfortable, beholden and trapped, in spite of the kindness of the offer and the scarcity of moorings.Hope everyone is enjoying the crisp sunshine today x
Posted by Carrie at
03:48 0 comments


Friday, 25 January 2008
Mooring offer
A kind and generous person has offered me free mooring next to them, on their large piece of canalside land, with the opportunity to grow any fruit and veg I want. There's also the use of a large shed/workshop and a willingness to embrace wind/solar technology if I want to get stuff installed. Why am I even hesitating?! Yet I am. There are some drawbacks, which I won't dishonour the offerer by noting here, but the real problem lies with me.I'm a loner and restless. I know I have to stop travelling around if I'm serious about weaning myself from oil, (unless I can get my boat some solar propulsion like the
Wagglesmudgers).I love being with my dear family and friends but the rest of the time I need to be alone, like the miserable git I am. This probably sounds quite mad to anyone else. Even writing this, I'm wondering why I'm holding back. I will have to think about it very carefully, mull it over for a couple of weeks and then make a rash decision.
Posted by Carrie at
09:44 10 comments


Thursday, 24 January 2008
I was wrong.
I'm always complaining about apathy in this country, but seems I was wrong. My last posting has received more comments than on any other subject I've written about (sorry Haditha), been commented on at length on other blogs and 90% quoted in another (doncha just love those almost-yet not quite-complete quotes!).See, never let it be said that we Brits don't CARE.
Posted by Carrie at
01:53 2 comments


Monday, 21 January 2008
In defence of dog poo
Ok, in writing this, I know I will bring the deepest British revulsion bubbling to the surface but here goes..Like most people, I feel mildly annoyed to see dog mess on the path and VERY annoyed if I happen to walk in it. I have a dog and carry either a trowel or a bag and wish other owners would do the same. But after reading yet another tirade about dog shit, I feel even more annoyed that people can get so incensed over such a minor issue. I don't hear those people raising a murmur about the waste produced by their own cars, their boat engines (mine too), the coal-fired power-stations that make their electricity, the poisonous uranium mining that also makes their electricity, the production of steel and plastic that involve oil production (with all the pollution and deaths that brings about) in the making of dog waste bins and signs about fines...Dog poo does not sit in the lungs, cause cancer, engender wars. Chucked under the hedge, covered with leaf mould, it breaks down completely in a few weeks, feeding insects that feed birds that eat the pests that would otherwise destroy our crops.The World Health Organisation estimates around 800,000 deaths due to air pollution. Long-term exposure to traffic fumes increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, by 76%. Why don't the dog-whingers rant about these outrageous statistics? Perhaps because it would mean they have to inspect their own behaviour and waste products.Now I know dog faeces contains worms that can make people sick, but why don't we treat it in the same way as other hazards? Teach kids not to touch rusty nails, or the black and yellow buzzy flying things, or yellow snow, or animal poo. Get some sense of perspective, in other words.My own theory is that dog poo looks a bit too much like human waste and being British an all, we don't like to be reminded of the fact that we do anything quite so disgusting!
Posted by Carrie at
03:34 8 comments


Friday, 18 January 2008
High waters
I came down the Napton flight on Wednesday which was a beautiful sunny day. All was fine until I reached lock 11, I think it was. The towpath had almost disappeared under water and as I reached the lock, saw that the one bollard was half a foot under water and the bollard nearest the lock, had broken off. I nosed the boat right up to the lock gate and scampered along the gunnels to get off onto the top ledge of the gate. The water in the pound was higher than in the full lock! I tied onto the gate and spalshed my way back to the previous lock to shut the bottom gates (sorry, a photo would have made things clearer) so that matters didn't get any worse. By the time I got back to my boat, the stern had swung across the canal to get its bottom wedged in the hedge. What fun!Anyway, after much faffing about, I managed to get the gate open by opening the top gate paddle and watching water gush over the top of the bottom gate. (This makes no sense at all to someone unfamiliar with locks, I apologise). The boat tried to get its nose stuck on the gate and a lot of hauling and bad language was necessary to keep it clear.The rest of the locks were much easier - phew - and after stocking up at the Napton shop (was running dangerously low on booze and biscuits), moved on to tie up in the sticks. Blissful night, disturbed only by a fox screeching in the nearby copse and my dog thinking he could take him on, if only I would get out of bed and let him out...
Posted by Carrie at
03:19 3 comments


Thursday, 10 January 2008
Water filter

Looks like I survived the rainwater tea, thanks to my British Berkefeld (Model SS) water filter. It's 'Made in England' - isn't that amazing. It claims to protect me from diseases such as Bilharzia, Typhoid, Cholera and Dysentery. I'm not sure what Bilharzia is but I'm sure I don't want it. It can provide 15 litres of drinking water every 24 hours. I paid about 85 quid for this but am hoping to make good use of it and come the apocalypse, I may be glad I bought it!
My tap was unmendable and thanks to Ron from Fenny Compton marina who wrestled it, kicking and screaming from the boat, I now have a shiny new mixer tap that doesn't drip. Instead, I can enjoy the drip-drip of the water filter. Ha! Somehow that's an acceptable dripping!
As for the main water pump, it just mysteriously started to work again. I didn't like to mention it to Ron, in case my bill got bigger, so am just hoping it was a blip and will behave itself in the future.
Posted by Carrie at
02:37 2 comments


Saturday, 5 January 2008
pump 'n tap trouble
It's been lovely to be on the move again and on a sunny day too. But it looks like I'm already going to break my resolution to try and stick around in one place for 2 weeks, due to my water pump conking out this evening and I may have to head towards a boatyard.I had a new calorifier fitted a few weeks ago and there was an annoying air bubble trapped in the system somewhere which meant the water didn't get very hot and there was a delay between turning on the tap and the pump kicking in (so a little trickle for the first 10 secs). This was when I first noticed the kitchen tap dripping, though that may be completely unrelated. It's a mixer tap and when I tried to find the screw at the base to remove the tap head and get to the thread to change the washer. where did I find the screw? At the back of the base, with only half an inch space between it and the cabin sides, so not accessible with a screwdriver. I held a mirror there and it looked like it could be an allen key job, but the 'L' of the key was too wide to fit there too! Barmy set-up.While thinking up fiendish plans to dismantle the tap, I've been switching off the water pump to stop the annoying drip, in-between use. Now the pump has stopped working. I can't see anything amiss with the fuses but will have to wait till tomorrow to investigate the pump properly, cos my torch is a bit rubbish. I fitted that new water pump last year so it had better not be fatal.I have one glass of water and half a bottle of wine left.... Oh yes, and half a bucket of rainwater. Perhaps it's time to put my water purification system to the test - aaagggghhhhh!
Posted by Carrie at
09:51 0 comments


Friday, 4 January 2008
Remembering Haditha
While I was away from the boat, I heard the news that I'd half expected - that the last U.S marine to be tried for the massacre in Haditha has been cleared. If you don't remember this, among all the other disasters of the Iraq war, it was way back in Nov 2005. In revenge for a roadside bomb which killed an American soldier, marines went on a killing spree, murdering 24 innocent locals in their own home, including young children and old folk, which they then tried to cover up. A child survivor spilled the beans.Here's what happened:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5033648.stmAnyway, it reminded me that I'd seen some beautiful, powerful illustrations of this story by artist Emily Johns. I have them on a postcard but was glad to find them again, online (they are copyright free for campaigning purposes).
Posted by Carrie at
11:49 0 comments


Wednesday, 2 January 2008
2008 & notes to self
Guess it's that time of year to be making resolutions. I don't really recognise the official Start of The New Year or even the date (well! ... 2008 years since the birth of one bloke... come on!) but I don't mind the yearly tradition of reviewing what we've done and what we can achieve in the months to come. Just like I'm quite happy to give and receive pressies at Christmas - ha! Writing down plans do stop me getting woolly so here goes. A kick up the backside for Carrie...
Boat plans: Finish building your rainwater harvesting system. It's taken you AGES to work out a system that fits in with your type of narrowboat and how you want it to work. You have the water purification system sorted and part of the water collection bit done. Now you just need to get a move on Carrie and get it finished, then you can put some pics on here.
Find a way of touching up that blacking you took off in the ice (numbskull), without running permanently aground or getting wet.
Make the solar oven you didn't quite get around to this year because of gallivanting.
Try to stay in one place for the full 2 weeks before moving on, to reduce fuel use as much as possible.
Make curtains for your bedroom, you lazy woman.Activist plans:Don't agonise, - organise. Don't get depressed. Don't get paralysed by oppression. Keep communicating with others. Remember the joy of autonomy, justice and freedom.Work plans:Get that bloomin website up and running Carrie, or it's back to the workhouse for you!Finish the bloody graphic novel before going grey.
My dog on the beach, trying to spit out sand.
Posted by Carrie at
00:29 3 comments


Wednesday, 26 December 2007
Fun Christmas
We had a great Christmas - hope you did too.Having my son and daughter and parents under the same roof has been lovely. Mum cooked us THE best vegan meal - a big Mexican dish in a filo pastry 'wrapping' served with just about every vegetable you can find. Really delicious. She's an amazing cook with real creative flair and I always think she makes those t.v chefs look dull!I was spoiled with good presents - a new centre rope I needed (yes, ok, I did drop hints), pyjamas and best of all, cool books. My favourites are 'Life of an anarchist - The Alexander Berkman Reader' and 'Against Civilisation' - yippee! Hours of ranting fun to come!We've been out walking on the beach this afternoon. I always get those 'shall I come and live back here again?' feelings when I'm 'home' with so many gorgeous beaches nearby (I'm in Wales). Then I remember my little home afloat on the canals and get my itchy traveller feet again. Maybe one day...My boat-sitters seem to be cosy and warm and it's good to know someone's keeping an eye on Blackbird in my absence.
Posted by Carrie at
09:38 6 comments


Thursday, 20 December 2007
Frozen wastes
I've been in an internet-poor zone for a few days so it's great to be able to finally read e-mails, plus the spam I've accumulated from not being able to download my anti-virus update due to limited laptop power - phew!

I held out as long as I could but eventually I had to move the boat through the iced-over canal. I was taking it to the place where my friends will be boat-sitting over Christmas. While I crunched grimly forwards through the ice, someone took an axe to pallets in the cellar I didn't know I had under the boat. Well that's definitely what it sounded like! It's also unnerving to keep sliding suddenly to one side or another as large, stubborn plates of ice redirect the boat. Going round bends was difficult as 'the ice' (it became a powerful sentient creature in my mind) wouldn't let me turn properly. Luckily the locks were flowing freely though once I'd pulled in to the side to close the lock gates behind me, I couldn't pull away again! - Had to reverse back to the lock again to re-launch at full power.

When I arrived, my triumph was completely spoiled by noticing that I'd successfully undone the expensive blacking job of the summer. What an idiot! Now I've filled up with water, it's below the waterline, though I don't know if that's a good thing or not.
Now, at my parent's house, I'm in the land of free-flowing lecky, baths, ankle deep carpet, heating, lights, camera, action. It's all very strange but I think I can just about bear it for a few days! I think of my boat-sitting friends who have actually opted to spend the Christmas holiday trying to coax a fire from my stove, putting on 5 layers to be able to get out of bed and scraping ice from the inside of the bedroom window, to see out. A merry Christmas to all boaters! x
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23:40 5 comments


Thursday, 13 December 2007
Lovely blog
Outside it may be cold but I'm toasting myself by the warmest boat blog out there. If you haven't yet had a look at the Smith Family's blog, I do recommend it, although it's such a lovely and personal glimpse of a real family afloat, it almost feels like peeping through their curtains!
http://www.wagglesmudge.blogspot.com/
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12:46 2 comments


Thursday, 6 December 2007
Little folding things
When I moved onto the boat, I had to give up my great big power-hungry fretsaw which I used to make screens. I'm trying to make little ones now, using a small coping saw but it's hard work. I wonder if those cordless fretsaws are any good and whether I would be able to recharge it with my invertor. (need to check the voltage I guess, she mumbles vaguely...)

I'm thinking lots about childhood and fairy tales and surprise and danger.
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08:06 1 comments


Tuesday, 4 December 2007
Compost update
After repeated requests for an update on my compost system (ok, 2 - and I think they were being polite) this is how things are going. It's great! I'm getting down to the nitty-gritty here so you may want to look away now...
I started off combining urine and poo in the same container, covered over with sawdust each time, as I knew some liquid was needed for proper decomposition to happen. Trouble was, there was just too much liquid and it couldn't evaporate off. It starts to drown the aerobic bacteria and gets smelly and you have to keep adding sawdust to keep things dryish. You fill the 5 gallon bucket in a week! This is where a fan to dessicate the waste might be an option. I planned it but decided to go low tech! SO. I started separating out liquid and solid, using the sawdust loo for solids and weeing in the elsan, which sits in the shower tray. Now it was taking 3/4 weeks to fill the sawdust container instead. I 'add' some liquid towards the end to keep things moist. When it's full I store it in the gas locker where I have room for 2. The buckets are black, so their contents are not on view and I have had one or two on the roof when I also had plenty of plants up there! I rotate 3/4 buckets and empty the 'oldest' when I come to a suitable place. This is where responsibility and common sense plays a part cos you can't bury it anywhere near crops, water sources, human habitations and I think you should bury it pretty deep. What you lose in aerobic decomposition, you gain in worm/insect activity. Wild woodlands are good as the soil is easy to move and dense brambles tell you the area isn't a kiddies playground! Can I just say that the sawdust rots down really quickly with a little moisture and all looks pretty organic and decomposed.
So what do I do with the urine? That's easier. I already put some canal water into the elsan so the wee is diluted. This is perfectly safe to empty (via a big jug) into hedgerows and as long as you don't pour it all into one spot, it's not too concentrated for plants. Again, a bit of common sense tells you where a good spot is.
Toilet paper: An origami masterclass!
I don't put toilet paper into the sawdust toilet as it fills the container unnecessarily. It burns very well of course but who wants to carry used loo-roll to the stove every day! I found a use for old newspapers. I make a little bag that slots in my loo bin and the top can be folded over and it can be carried hygenically to the stove to light the fire. I found I can make 3 in a minute once I get going, so it takes 10 minutes to do enough for a month!


Posted by Carrie at 04:35 4 comments


Saturday, 1 December 2007
Banbury cross

It was such a wild windy night, I slept really badly, getting up to stumble into the kitchen for water and stubbed my toe on the bloody fridge (split my nail -ow!), then confronted the horrors I had created - The Birds.
They looked so sinister, hopping around my worktop at night, I decided I'd try and palm them off on some unsuspecting Banbury shoppers this morning. They weren't having any of it! I sold a couple of bags and several cards but not one of the hoppy things. It started
raining and I was glad to pack away as my toe was screaming to be let out of my boot.





On a good note, it's been great catching up with boaters I haven't seen since I was last here, a year ago. In the rootless existence of continuous cruising, I guess that counts as friendship. I don't know much about them and they don't know much about me but we meet like old friends, have tea together and swap stories and anecdotes that fill up the months in-between meetings. We are glad to offer each other help, share wood, lend tools. It's a sort of abridged friendship but suits our lifestyles very well. Would we be friends if we lived in houses in a town? Maybe not! Sooner or later, I'd find out they drive S.U.Vs, are homophobic, work as vivisectionists or something. They'd discover I'm a raging anarchist and it would all be over between us! So I enjoy these blissful relationships for our brief time together and just look forward to our next meeting.
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11:28 1 comments


Tuesday, 27 November 2007
Santa John

Bleary eyed from another late night in Oxford. I went to the anti-fascist protest at the Oxford Union to try and counteract the lies and hatred spread by Griffin (BNP leader) and Irving (Holocaust denier). Some in the press have been banging on about their right to free speech but the fact is that the BNP don't believe in free speech, don't believe in dissent of any kind, in diversity or difference. In the crowd were members of a group I don't want to name and give publicity to (BNP with cameras), who photograph people attending antifa demos and post them on their website as 'targets', who 'will pay one day'. If you even attended the huge anti-war in Iraq demo, you're probably on the site. That's how much they care about free speech.


Today, I paid a surprise visit to a boater friend, John. (sorry - terrible blurred photo). He's Father Christmas at Tooley's Boatyard (Banbury) where the old forge has been transformed into Santa's Grotto! Matt at Tooley's went ahead and told him the next child was ready to see Santa and it was funny to see his face when he saw it was big ol' me. John has carefully nurtured his bushy white beard for the occasion but says it's all coming off after Christmas! The forge is a lovely old building, still in use as a forge today. The poor little building is dwarfed by the massive shopping-complex tumour stuck on its side but at least it's still here.


Posted by Carrie at 08:46 1 comments


Saturday, 24 November 2007
Oxford shenanigans
Home again after a tiring but lovely stay at my daughter's house. I went to a Burma solidarity anti-Total (filling station) demo/protest thingy. (Please don't buy petrol from Total or Texaco!)
It was freezing but many people were supportive and changed their minds about filling up when they read the leaflets. Of course they just go on to the next shite supplier but hey..

It was also Buy Nothing Day! A joke in the densely-packed streets of Oxford but it's an annual highlighting of our consumerist frenzy, at any time of the year, but pre-Christmas in particular. Lucky I hadn't planned to have my little Christmas boat sale today then! So people stage fun things like giving away free food and coffee outside corporate conveyor-belt outlets like McDonalds and Starbucks, having joke trolley-dashes in supermarkets, putting everything back as fast as they can and reclaiming public spaces with art and games everyone can take part in for free. No money - people smiling :)
Finally - and I didn't get there myself - another Close Campsfield Detention Centre gathering. Some people have been imprisoned there for up to 2 years for committing the heinous crime of seeking asylum from oppression and torture. Over the last few years, the government has executed a very clever campaign to link 'asylum-seeker' (notice how they're never referred to as Refugees anymore) with 'terrorist' with 'Islamist' with 'potential threat'. How else to garner enough support for war/s in the middle-east than to make people see 'difference' as threatening and to bring in a load of new laws and limits on our freedoms. It's scary how many people are easily duped by governments and the media.
Ok - rant over. On the way back on the train, I saw the fields that I'd taken looong walks over with my dog a couple of weeks back - all flooded!
Here's a nice bit of painting in Oxford. One of the many murals in Cowley Rd.

And I couldn't help taking a pic of the little boats in Oxford as one of them was named after me!


Posted by Carrie at 08:56 2 comments


Monday, 19 November 2007
Wood (search & rescue)

When I lived in a house, in a street, in a city, logs didn't grow on trees but arrived in a plastic net (that went on to trawl landfill sites for small creatures and birds). Now however, my wood situation is as important as the bread situation and like many other liveabords, I'm out gathering wood every few days. I use a large bow-saw with a blade so sharp that I have several times punctured the skin by letting it swing gently against my leg. Slow learner!
I don't know that much about wood and some things I have picked up since moving onto my boat, but I swear some things must be instinctive to us humans who have warmed themselves from burning wood since forever. It seems right to only gather old fallen wood. If you find a felled tree, the green wood is hard work and the blade slips and the branches won't twist off and it's heavy to carry and difficult to burn - everything is telling you not to fell a living tree. (though if you find a felled one in winter, better use it if you can!). You can look at a big old branch and tell by its weight how much water it's carrying. Or you can find a dense wood like oak and know it's worth dragging home because although it will take you much longer to cut up than other woods, it'll burn long and slow in your stove. But then, if wood is very old, you also know that it'll be home to loads of insects and I can't put that on the fire. If there's grass growing over the wood, there'll be worms and maggots under the bark. Elder dries to crispy sticks that are great for lighting the fire, but I have to inspect those tell-tale holes to make sure there isn't a huddle of woodlice inside. It's good to feel connected to and responsible for how I keep warm. I don't minutely inspect every log, but I do get to choose what I cut up and burn. I guess I can afford to do that as I'm out in the countryside and not in a city using machine-cut logs from who knows where, in plastic nets anymore.
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07:34 3 comments


Friday, 16 November 2007
Exorcising the birds

I mentioned before that I make craft things to sell, so in an effort to get 'the bird thing' out of my system, I've been making a whole flock of them. They're made of papier mache (newspaper) and wire from old spiral-bound notebooks. I prefer them white and sort of sculptural but guess I need to be practical and paint them and try and flog them as Christmas tree decorations (they have bendy feet so can cling to branches!)


I'm hoping someone equally mad will buy the lot to re-enact the 'getting-your-eyes-pecked-out' scene from The Birds. Failing that, I may turn into that old lady in Bleak House who flutters amongst her little birds, calling them 'Death' and 'Taxes' and 'Wards in Jarndyce'.
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01:59 0 comments


Thursday, 15 November 2007
M40 blues
Out on a walk yesterday, my dog scoffed large amounts of sheep poo before I could stop him. If I mention this, it's only to say it had the expected result of him needing to get up in the night to make a few deposits of his own. 2:55am to be precise (it's amazing how precise we are about time when it comes to disturbed sleep!). Anyway, I was standing on the gunnels in my pyjamas, two jumpers and Scarfy and listening to the dreary roar of the M40.

It had been a constant drone throughout the day of course - like a high gale over corrugated iron - but to hear its endless raging all through the night too was depressing. And all brightly lit of course. In my mind, I panned out and saw the electrified motorways snaking across the country, linking and crossing others and then out across Europe and the whole planet, all day, all night, every hour of every year. Every driver has a good reason and an important mission - more important than the planet anyway. Mostly, these thoughts help me try harder to live lightly, consume and waste little, campaign for better public transport, help build Climate Camp, support anti-road building protests, but sometimes, the rude little elf that lives in my heart and who fortunately rarely makes an appearance, pops out, cups his hand to his mouth and whispers " Pssst ..... We're fucked!"

Morning comes and is so lovely, the elf is shut away and hope rises with the sun.

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02:42 6 comments


Tuesday, 13 November 2007
Foraging

I often forage for food, like the tight-wad I am. There's loads of goodies to be had along the towpaths, woods and fields near the canal but many people seem scared to eat what our ancestors took freely. I guess that when people gained wealth, they didn't need to forage or maybe it was seen as a sign of poverty. Well it is!

As I'm vegan, I have to make sure I get plenty of greens for iron and as I was a couple of miles from the nearest shop I collected nettle tops, goosegrass and dandelion leaves. It being winter, there's less out there than during the rest of the year of course, but still plenty of choice. The leaves are a bit tougher now too, so I chop them up finely, short stir-fry with garlic (I pickled some this year in with little chillies I grew on the roof - they're lethal!) and served over little potatoes. Yum.

I'm afraid I also test drove some of the sloe gin I made for Christmas, last night. Well it was cold and dreary outside! Note to self: Just cos it's pink and sweet and very pretty, doesn't mean it won't knock your head off.
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08:20 2 comments


Monday, 12 November 2007
Cccc-cold!


Bit of a chilly start today, but such a beautiful day! Made a fence post smile.
I had 4 locks, a lift-bridge and 5 miles or so to go so there was plenty of work to warm me up. I meant to take a photo of how I do the lift-bridges on the Oxford canal. If it's somewhere populated, the chances are that someone will be walking a dog along the towpath and kindly offer to hold the bridge open while you drive underneath. When no-one is about however, you have to prop it up with your boat-hook and pull your boat through by hand. Some intrepid boaters drive through and pray their boat-hook doesn't give way, but that's not me! Still, although it's hard work, it does feel satisfying managing on your own.


I've sort-of finished painting the 'murial' on the curved partition between sitting-room part and my kitchen. (You can see how it used to be at the start of my journal - perhaps you preferred it before?!) I gave it a coat of varnish last night and this morning I noticed an unfinished leaf or two - oh well.

I've definitely got a bird thing going on at the moment. There are people in amongst the grasses and flowers and visitors to the boat seem to enjoy trying to spot them - a sort of 'Where's Wally' of the plant world!





Posted by Carrie at 10:17 6 comments
Sunday, 11 November 2007
Strange things...

I made a pumpkin lantern for Halloween and cooked a delicious soup on the stove. (Garlic, onion and split lentils give it a lift and texture I like). But by the time Halloween came along, I was out in the countryside with no children to scare with my glowing orange head (pumpkin, not mine!). How deliciously dark the night sky is when you get away from towns - wonderful stary nights at the moment.In the middle of the night, the dog woke me by growling at something outside. There was a snuffling and a heavy breathing. I knew it must be an animal but it was still a bit unnerving, miles from anywhere! In the morning, I saw the terrible beasts - cows grazing right up to the side of the boat. I took a photo from my kitchen window.
Posted by Carrie at 08:45 0 comments
Saturday, 10 November 2007
Tree lover fells tree...

Jul 31 2007,Yes, that's me folks. I set off wonderfully early, on the most beautiful morning. Then I noticed my gears weren't behaving. I tried to stop in a bridge hole but reverse gear wouldn't work and I kept ploughing forwards. Neutral didn't work. I cut the engine and leapt off in the bridge hole with a rope but the boat went crashing into a tree on the non-towpath side, just the other side of the bridge. Not only had I bashed the young tree, but my cratch board and glass was smashed in.I had to pull the boat back about 1/4 mile or so before I could get in against the shallow side and phoned River & Canal Rescue and BW. Both turned up pretty quickly and fortunately the gear problem turned out to be a shot cable and not the gear box - hurray. The BW guys are having to fell the tree though - can't bear to watch. Guess I would have felt worse if it had crashed down onto someone's head though. They also said they needed to get rid of a few more along that stretch which were overhanging. Looks like I'm gonna have to get planting elsewhere to make up for my carnage!Addition: A week on, and on my way back down the Maaclesfield, I see the tree is still there! I hope that means it's been deemed safe by BW and not that it's been forgotten! If so, watch out just after Bridge 9, after High Lane. x
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Macclesfield canal

July 21stI've been a bit slow progressing up the Maccelsfield canal as either I or my daughter have been off gallivanting around the country, taking it in turns to dog-sit. I've been down at the Earth First gathering in Diss to prepare stuff for the Climate Camp next month. It's all coming together now and is really exciting. Check out the website if you want to see what we're up to : www.climatecamp.org.uk and better still, come along in August! My friend is back from 2 months in Palestine now and she too is on and off the boat, catching up with people. My daughter leaves for France next week so I'll soon be back to solo boating with all the fun of swing and lift bridges ahead! Bring em on - I'm ready!What about all this rain then?! My tomato plants are crying out for some sunshine - doomed to stay forever flowers I think. I've managed to get a good amount of Lime flowers dried this year though, as I love lime-flower tea. I also have red clover, rasberry leaf and wild mint drying and the boat looks like an inverted field at the moment with bunches hanging from any hook available.Highlights of the Macc so far? Seeing a badger on the towpath at 5.30am, watching moorhens build a nest, sunset at Dog Lane Aquaduct, Congleton, and gathering rasberries with my daughter.
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11:05 0 comments
Harecastle tunnel

Jun 28 2007,Ok - it's official - I hate tunnels. More particularly, I hate the Harecastle tunnel. After a bad night's sleep, fretting about rising water levels and getting stuck a few hundred feet under the earth (AAAAGGGHHHH!) I arrived pale-faced at the mouth of the beast. I'm not saying there's anything Freudian there, but why was that man emerging from the hole, flushed and triumphant? I went to have a chat with the tunnel attendant about stuff on the roof. He was HOT! As in - hotty-pototty. Suddenly I felt up for a bit of tunnelling and plunged into the darkness, smiling back at him like a loon. 20 feet into the blackness, I had the smile wiped off my face as the walls crept in towards me and the ceiling swooped. I was the last of 3 boats going through and kept my eyes fixed on the little light ahead that was the boat in front. The tunnel guard had told me my flower pots would pass through ok, but now I was cursing the fact that I'd left anything at all on the roof as the ceiling got so low towards the middle, I was stooped down, unable to see anything over the damn things, soaked by dripping water.Ahead, I heard a boat bouncing off the roof sides several times - a noise that filled me with dread. I couldn't believe my boat could pass through such a low space. It took about 40 minutes to get through and I hated the whole thing. No - scratch that, I liked meeting the tunnel guard! Someone told me later that the tunnel is getting 'lower' each year and may have to close as the 8 million quid needed hasn't materialised. Might just be pub talk?Anyolhow, now I am in a haven of peace and tranquility on the Macclesfield.
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11:03 0 comments
Painting the stern doors

Apr 23 2007,After 6 months of having a disembodied, legless 'blot' on one of my stern doors, I finally got round to finishing painting my blackbirds. I'd started back in October, after doing the side hatch doors, but then it got too cold to sit out the back, painting!The side doors have blackbirds on hawthorn branches and these are supposed to be horse-chestnut branches, complete with conkers of course! I'm not sure if they're finished. Might feel the urge to add a leaf or two.
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11:03 0 comments

Making a compost toilet









Apr 7 2007,I wanted a sawdust toilet for several reasons- To not have to lug a cassette for emptying every week. It’s heavy and stinky!- To save precious clean drinking water. In this country, we use 2 billion litres of fresh water every day to flush our toilets.- To feel more self-sufficient. (This is one of my planned steps to be free of BW decisions about where we can fill up with water and empty loos)- To avoid adding chemicals into the environment.Background: Ordinary toilets using a water flush, only allow for anaerobic decomposition – this is where waste is drowned in water and only some bacteria that do well in water can operate. These are pathogenic and this is what makes our waste smelly. A sawdust toilet uses sawdust as a covering material. It is light enough to trap air – allowing aerobic decomposition, but covers well enough to act as a smell barrier. Even with a light covering, there is no smell!Composting: I’ve had some experience of compost toilets (in the Pyrenees) and we built them at the Climate Camp last summer. They were great, clean and sweet smelling. BUT, and it is a big but, these all relied upon having a permanent compost site away from the toilet for the waste to compost down properly. As long as there is moisture and organic matter, the heat will build up and the waste will break down. Our problem on boats, is the lack of space to store waste for long enough for it to break down. There are commercial compost toilets available that try to get around the problem by speeding up the process. An electric fan may help to evaporate off the liquid, as well as providing oxygen – vital for composting to take place. Some separate out solids from liquid – a sort of desiccation which is not true composting but which leaves you with less matter to deal with! These are very expensive and I am trying to find out if I can find a method that allows proper decomposition (to a safe-handling state), within the confines of a narrowboat.
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11:02 1 comments


The Ashby canal
Mar 23 2007,A windy ol’ stretch of water is the Ashby! I suppose it’s because it’s flat open countryside and some of the hedges are missing, presumed dead and also because it’s March, you numpty!Anyway, it’s still a really pleasant journey, even if I had a few battles with the boat – me holding onto a rope for dear life, the boat trying to make a dash for the opposite side of the canal. On the map, it looks like there are plenty of places to stop for water, rubbish emptying etc, at boatyards but I couldn’t get onto the moorings at Stoke Golding for their own hire boats. Luckily, I had started using my compost loo by then so it’s already proved useful and a welcome respite from having to think about ‘the next emptying place’ (I’ll put up some pics on that subject, next entry).Hinkley was really useful for stocking up on food and they’ve got a Holland & Barret’s, so I was in vegan heaven among the nuts and sesame snaps! They had a farmer’s market on so I could get hold of lots of fresh, locally grown veg – a bit of a treat on the canal.At Stoke Golding I saw a carrot mountain (sorry, forgot to take my camera) at a farm. Honestly, I’ve never seen so many carrots together, it was a giant orange pyramid! It was to feed to the farm’s dairy herd! That would have kept several families in carrots for a year – how barmy that we use precious land and water to grow them to feed to cows, so we have milk during the winter. (Apparently we throw away a third of our milk undrunk - doh!)Near Market Bosworth, everything possible is named after some connection with the Battle of Bosworth Field, so it’s King’s Bridge here, King Richard’s Well there, Battlefield house, etc. I do like the village centre cos it’s unspoilt and not swamped by big chains and NO TESCOS for miles – yay! Really nice fruit and veg shop. I was going to tie my dog up outside and shop, but then I noticed there is a secondary school right on the village square with the windows open and the students being taught. I knew Milou would start his woofing as soon as I disappeared, so I had to walk back to the boat and leave him there and return to shop. As the village is nearly a mile from the canal, I was a bit knackered with the four trips!The best part of the Ashby (in my opinion) is the last 3 miles of lush woodland overhanging the canal and the way it twists and turns towards its end. Very peaceful and undeveloped. You really do feel like you are disappearing into the wilds. The tunnel is suddenly there, bringing you down to earth. I thought all tunnels were like the well-lit, high-ceilinged one at Newbold, but I have to say, I found this one a bit of a nightmare! So low I could touch the roof with a bent arm, and unlit (I discovered that my front light is stupidly placed on the cabin front, partially masked by the cratch structure in front, although I had rolled up the canvas sides). Worse still, the tunnel is bent! Now I know these are wonderful feats of engineering an all, but a bent tunnel! WHY?! Then of course you have to turn round at the end and do it again. I’d meant to take a photo in the tunnel, but was too busy pooing my pants to get round to it. Now I know why they say ‘No naked flames’ in the tunnel!
Posted by Carrie at
11:01 1 comments
The loneliness of the long-distance narrowboater

My last visitor left yesterday - and suddenly my boat feels HUGE! My first reaction was 'phew, it's great to have my space back' but today, it feels a bit empty. I know I will soon be back into 'solo and lovin-it' mode, but today, I'm just having a 'missing my peeps' moment. I was thinking about a thread on a forum about whether singleton life aboard might be suitable for someone suffering from depression. I don't suffer from depression, so didn't take part in that discussion, but it's made me think about this solo life that I embraced so happily and still enjoy. I don't think it is for everyone. For a start, continually cruising means that you don't build lasting friendships as you don't stick around for long. I've met with many lovely people - for a short time! That's fine for me but some people need a solid support structure of friends they can rely on in a crisis. The evenings can be long, particularly in bad weather and you have to like your own company if you don't want to spend all your time in the nearest pub, with the temptations that offers! I get the impression that boater couples get friendly with other boater couples. As a single woman, I only seem to get offers of tea/beer from single men or women, never couples!I usually prefer to moor out in the countryside, away from other boats and then it feels a bit strange to arrive in a busy town and to have to TALK to other people. You turn semi-feral. Your eyes get attuned to picking up on small movements of birds in the woods, noticing tracks on the ground, then noisy cars and loads of people become an assault on the senses!. I shop as quickly as possible and leave. I don't know, but I imagine this might not be a good thing for someone with depression.This boating way of life is definitely seducing me on the quiet. I used to go to a lot of events across the country, but I'm getting more and more reluctant to leave the boat, so friends have to visit me instead. For anyone thinking of doing solo narrowboating, I would say that it helps if you are self-reliant, have lots of hobbies and activities (are the 'I'm never bored' type) and have friends and family who are willing to do all the running!
Posted by Carrie at
11:00 0 comments
International Women's Day
Mar 10 2007,I wonder how many people realised it was International Women's Day on Thursday 8th March? In recognition of the sufferings of so many people in the world, because they were born female, I've posted some facts from development agencies and human rights groups. It ain't about boats.* 75% of the world's poorest people are women.* Violence against women causes more deaths and disabilities than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents or war.* Women produce half the world's food but own less than 2% of the land.* Half of all murdered women are killed by their current or former spouses or partners.* Every minute a woman dies from pregnancy complications.* Women work two-thirds of the world's working hours, yet earn only a tenth of its income.* 43 million girls are not able to go to school.* 2 million girls aged between 5 and 15 join the commercial sex market every year.* One woman in three will be raped, beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime.Here's thinking of all my sisters ...
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Rain, wind, more rain

Feb 28 2007,I'm trying to crawl along to Bedworth before Friday, when my visitors arrive, but the wind doesn't want to me to get there! I had to stop yesterday at Rose Narrowboat marina (just past Brinklow), to empty the loo. It didn't augur well when I came to the little swing bridge and 2 blokes stood by to watch me manage this by myself (luckily, I accidentally did it well, so boo ha, who needs help!).I needed to find a mooring further on as the first 4 places on the 14 day moorings are taken up by their hire-boats and these happened to be all the places with mooring rings too, of course. But that wasn't the problem, it was the gently sloping canal sides which mean you cannot get close to the edge! Why advertise these as 14 dayers when you might as well be out in the sticks, dodging rocks! I had to leap ashore with rope, mooring pin and mallet in hand and when I dropped the pin in the canal, you could have heard my blue language in Manchester. I had to 'leap' back on the boat to get another one, by which time the wind had taken me off the side again and I had to start over. I was lucky enough to retrieve my mooring pin in the end, thanks to the very sloping sides I had been cursing!Anyway, with the wind up, I decided to stay here overnight. That's when I heard and felt the first Virgin rushing past. No, no scantily-clad girl in flowing white robes - I was right next to the railway line. I'm still here today as the wind is worse than yesterday and I'm a bit rubbish in high winds.Good points are that I walked into Brinklow to post a letter and met a really friendly woman working at the shop who came out to feed my dog biscuits while he cried as I did a bit of shopping! I also walked up Brinklow Motte & Bailey and had a brilliant view across the whole land. When the landscape was densely wooded areas, I bet they used to look out for tell-tale camp-fire smoke above the trees. There's a pub in Brinklow with a beautifully painted sign, called The Raven. Didn't sample its wares, but cool sign !Hope I make it to Bedworth before Friday
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10:58 0 comments
Rugby
Feb 22 2007,I’m in Rugby for a few days as I want to take a train to London at the weekend and I’m not far from the station. I’d like to leave after that, but the trouble is, I’ve got friends coming the following weekend, who have arranged to arrive in Rugby. I have nothing against Rugby but I’m already longing to be back out in the sticks like the hermit I am at heart. Perhaps I could pay for their taxi if I move out a bit – is that rude of me?Well, one good thing about the town is that I could go to the laundrette at last. My jeans were starting to stand up by themselves! I usually get chatting to people in laundrettes (ok, so I’m a semi-hermit) and met someone else who lives on a boat – small world. His world must be very small actually as he lives on a small motor-boat with 6 largish dogs! I also met a little toddler whose mum ignored him completely the whole time I was there, including when he fell and bashed his head on the floor. He and I got on very well and read some books together and discussed politics and the like (ok – it was about ducks). Later, I took the dog to Newbold Quarry park – home to the discarded coke can. It’s probably very pretty in the summer.Another good thing about being so close to BIG shops is that I can at last buy some wood glue and a voltmeter. The first is to get on and finish my compost toilet, the second is to work out what’s happening with my solar panels and controller readings.
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Villages
Feb 18 2007,One of the things I love about cruising is tying up out in the sticks and walking across the countryside and having a look at villages (churches, ancient stones, medieval settlement sites etc). Yesterday, I walked the mile from the canal to Barby village (3 miles from Braunston) to post a letter. As no-one walks anywhere anymore, there were only pavements in the centre of the village and most of the houses had 2 cars outside. I noticed how high people's fences and hedges were - people obviously didn't go in for a lot of chatting with neighbours over the garden wall! No-one was about but I saw one man tinkering with his car (he'd left his gate open so I spotted him) and I called out, asking him if he could tell me where the postbox was. He looked at me as though I was an alien and said "That way". When I smiled and thanked him politely, he remembered that he was a human being and a nice man at heart and added a few details about where to find the letter-box.When I got there, I saw a village shop and thought I'd buy a newspaper. A big sign on the door read 'NO MUDDY BOOTS'. No 'please' or offer of a mat around. I cleaned my shoes and went in. Curt, disinterested service (well, I'm used to that - it's not a village thing in particular) but as I was leaving, 3 lads of about 13 yrs old were coming in. I held the door for them and they couldn't have been more pleasant and courteous, thanking me with a smile. The third boy stayed outside and I said "Aren't you coming in?". He said "No thank you - they don't let more than two children in at a time".I imagine some shops have problems with security, but this tarring all children with the same brush is awful. Imagine if there was a sign saying 'Only 2 women allowed at a time'. It's really discriminatory and reflects the lack of respect we show our youngsters in this country. Kids often live up - or rather down - to our expectations of them. Anyway, I know this is a big rant but the village thing - it was horrible - that wealth that seemed to bring nothing but a fear and mistrust of losing it.
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Decorating

Feb 7 2007,With the cold weather, I've been finishing some indoor jobs. I've finally finished (sort-of) my daughter's bedroom and ..er well ..it's colourful!My daughter found the pot of paint and I did the donkey work and made the curtains. The colour scheme's not what I would have chosen but it's actually quite cheery to walk through that part of the boat and it's growing on me. As this is her only home, apart from halls of residence and she comes to the boat pretty often, I wanted her to have her room as she liked.I still have my own room at the end to do. Hmmm .. think I fancy bright yellow curtains now!
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Breaking the ice

Feb 6 2007,Yesterday, I showed off my true novice status by failing to start the engine, bow-hauling the boat through the ice, and down through a couple of locks before getting it aground in a pound, convinced I had punctured the hull with ice and was sinking. Marvellous!Eventually a kind passer-by came along and pushed Blackbird off a shelf I swear wasn't there before and the engine started first go. Oh well. Today the canal was frozen over again, but an intrepid hire-boater forged a first path through the ice and I followed on an hour later. It still makes a wonderfully scary, crunching sound, but is quite exciting.
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10:54 0 comments
Winter warmers

Feb 1 2007,My first winter is going better than I’d imagined. Apart from a couple of days of snow (actually, I was at Radley lakes – see last entry – when it snowed and the lake was just magical!), it’s been pretty mild. So what’s been surprising? Well, firstly that leggings are definitely back in. On my boat at least. And decently covered over with jeans. But back in. Also, that is possible to wear 3 pairs of socks before my wellies refuse to go on. Also, that wellies are not proper boating attire and you fall on your arse on the roof if you wear them up there. My evil Gore-Tex boots are, however, excellent and have got a great grip on slippery lock-sides and ladders.I have an incredibly long scarf that was knitted by 5 friends, taking it in turns. I can see where my learner-knitter friend did her bit – that’s the best part!I still haven’t sorted out good gloves, but since I bought new ropes last week and have kept them mostly dry, tying and un-tying is less painful in the cold.I’m cutting wood every other day or so and it’s a strangely subsistent way of living, making up the fire in the morning, if I’m not moving the boat, putting my dinner on the stove top to cook (usually a stew, soup, rice, spuds etc), doing some of my work, then cutting wood in the afternoon. I hate to admit it, but I broke my stove door mucking about. It was pretty windy, so whenever I tried to have a fire, I got showered in ash when the wind came down the chimney. In the end, it was two days before I could get hold of a new glass for the door and I cooked things in the gas oven to keep warm.The canals are still lovely and empty, although now it’s getting a bit milder, some are venturing out to play. Every so often, I keep seeing amazing things like four deer springing up out of nowhere on the edge of a wood, or massive fat-bummed swans weighing down to land behind the boat, like low-flying aircraft. Otherwise it’s just me and occasional bloody hunters, firing at things in the woods! Getting up at the crack of dawn to go to a peaceful part of the countryside, to kill things. I don’t get it.
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Radley lakes
Jan 26 2007,I left the boat for a while to go spend some time down at Radley Lakes, near Didcot. There’s a campaign to save the lakes from being filled in with toxic ash from Didcot power station. I didn’t expect the lakes to be so large and so lovely! I joined a group of people squatting an empty building edging the largest lake and the beauty of the surrounding trees and number of water birds make it seem incredible that its destruction is planned. I’ve seen the planning paperwork and all the woodland surrounding the main lake is to be bulldozed, the lake is to be drained and filled with ash. One of the other lakes has already been filled and is labelled ‘Ash lagoon’ in the official papers, - so much nicer than ‘toxic dumping on the cheap’!This ash can be recycled (made into breezeblocks apparently) but this dumping is the cheapest option. Officially, the trees need to be destroyed before nesting starts – miraculously on March 1st (birds always check their calendars), but I saw grebes and moorhens carrying nesting materials, so nest-building is already underway on the lake at least. An otter has also been spotted, but no-one managed to take a good enough photo in time!Npower are behind it all. They won a court case on Thursday to evict the squatted building but that’s not the end of the fight. The irony, when I returned to my boat to read the Independent and see a big page advertisement for ‘green’ Npower, making out they care about the environment. Bastards.Have a look at the local campaign :
Radley lakes
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Solar panels

Jan 13 2007, 09:55 AMI decided to get solar panels so that I could use 'free' power from the sun. Of course, you have to buy the damn things in the first place and you have your first dilemma - where to get em from. If you are going to spend money, it may as well be in a way that does not further the wealth of countries with poor human rights. I went with a small company that buys ethically - not from China. The guy is called Rumi and he can be contacted at www.sustainable-systems.co.uk. I'm plugging him cos he's one of the few 'green companies' that actually does give a shit about the planet and human welfare.I kept good records for the first 6 months of how much power is produced by my 2 panels, but stopped after Christmas cos I was too busy. But the range goes from 17A/day in September (it was mostly sunny and warm) down to 4-6A/day in December on grey-all-day days! The overall power output since installation was 500A (pre-Christmas) and I had used only 55A. This means I was too frugal in the early months, worrying about running the fridge too long, etc. But I now have a better idea of how much I can afford to consume in the summer this year...The panels weren't cheap - about £300 each I think, plus whatever the controller was. But Rumi installed them for me and has since given free advice and offered on-going support. People go on about panels paying for themselves after x amount of time, but it wasn't an sisue for me. I was determined to reduce the amount of diesel burnt, just to run electrical items.
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10:52 0 comments
Books and more books
Jan 9 2007,I put some shelves together at last, for my books. Before moving out of my house, I'd had several serious book culls, passing on to charity shops what had happily served as insulation for the house for a few years! Some of my books have even moved with me from when I used to live abroad, so I didn't want to get rid of old favourites when moving onto a boat. Of course, experienced boaters had already told me the space for books would be limited, but oh no - I thought my boat would be a kind of tardis. Now I realise that they won't all fit on!Not only that, but I've had to stop fitting more shelves along the saloon wall as the boat started to lean a little on that side! I can't get any of the paving-stone ballast out of the inspection holes to make good the difference and hesitate to mess with the fitted floor and lino covering. Instead, I crammed books into shelves and a cupboard on the other side of the boat, in my room. There's another load above my bed too!
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Making changes

Jan 2 2007, 12:29 AMMaking the boat feel more like home:What I’ve done so far:- I didn’t like the curtains! In summer, the dark linings absorbed the heat and it was like an oven in the boat. They also looked a bit hotelly instead of like my home. So I’ve made new ones with a light cream lining that reflects the sunlight really well and cut the draughts in winter. Still have a few more curtains to make for the end rooms – always got something I’d rather be doing though.- There was so much varnished wood inside that it looked like a Swedish sauna! I painted the lower half of the boat plus some partitions a warm cream to keep it light. I think it looks quite good with the wood.- I like roses and castles and admire this tradition, but didn’t admire the ones on my own boat. So I sanded down the inside of my hatch and stern doors and repainted them. I’ve finished the side hatch doors and have painted blackbirds on hawthorn branches. I still have to finish the stern doors with blackbirds on horse-chestnut branches! Waiting for the better weather for this as it’s too cold to sit for long at the back with the doors open. My daughter has half-painted a lovely scene with moorhens on the bathroom door – hope she finds time in her Uni holidays to finish it! She’s dotty about moorhens.- I painted the front of one small cupboard and the fridge door with blackboard paint and use them as ‘reminder’ boards or shopping lists. The fridge door was no good as I keep rubbing out my lists with my knees, so that was a mistake!- I made some rag-rugs for the floor as I have lino fitted throughout. The lino is handy for cleaning but not very cosy for winter.- I got rid of a large radiator in the saloon part as I wanted shelves along there for my books.
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Plans

Dec 30 2006, 12:36 AMWhen I bought my boat, 6 months ago, I intended making a few changes. I’ve achieved some of these, some are in the pipeline for this new year and others have been ditched because they are too impractical or I find I don’t need those changes after all.Making my boat less polluting: What I’ve done so far :- Bought 2 solar panels which give me enough electricity and charging power via my inverter so that I don’t need to run my engine just for this purpose.- Organised recycling and ‘compost’ storage on the boat. This just means having allocated storage bins for tins, bottles and paper to take to recycling facilities ashore. Vegetable food waste is collected and then dug properly into suitable land (not good for meat/dairy as animals will dig it up – another good reason to go vegan!).- Made sure only biodegradable and harmless products are used for cleaning.- Tried to use fallen wood for heating to cut down on coal burning.- Dismantled the pump-out toilet, prior to setting up a compost toilet. Got hold of first large batch of sawdust to get me started!- Cooked my dinner on the stove when it’s lit, to make use of free heat and save on gas.What I intend doing:- Making a small, basic hot-water system that uses heat from the stove flue to warm water in thin-bore copper pipes that are wrapped around it and fed from a tank on the roof (again small – 20l/30l or so). This is for winter water – just for washing-up, washing hair etc and not for showers and is just for those days when you aren’t moving the boat which would heat your main water in the calorifier. For summer, the tank can supply a simple black hose-pipe laid on the roof that again, will supply some hot water on non-moving days.- Finishing my compost toilet. Making space in my bow-locker for compost-container storage. I have 4 large gas bottles and don’t need more than 2 in there. * I’ll post photos when it’s finished.- Doing more thinking about rain-water collection.- Growing what edible plants I can on the roof and in the bow.- Building a solar oven on the roof.- Thinking more about electric propulsion (haven't given up on this one yet!)What’s been ditched:- Using the long glass solar collectors I was offered, to make a hot-water system. This is because I would have 6 x 5ft glass tubes on the roof that would be all too tempting to a stone thrower.- Installing a wind-turbine. I just don’t need any more power at the moment.- Using purely bio-diesel. I don't want to use bio-diesel which is commercially available and comes from slashed rainforests. As rapeseed bio-diesel grown in this country is difficult to get hold of when cruising, I reckon my best bet lies in reducing the amount of ordinary diesel I use. Using it only for propulsion, not idling.
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LNG
Dec 23 2006, 09:16 AMI've left the boat for a Christmas stay at my parent's house and it's the first proper stay away from my boat in 6 months. I hired a van as I'm hoping to bring all my books 'n things that have been stored at my parent's. I had the 'boat wobblies' as I call them, yesterday - the sensation of movement when you stand still on dry land but are used to a slight rocking. My parent's house feel unnecessarily huge - every house now feels like a waste of space! But I AM enjoying the change. I took a shower (no great cravings for a bath, funnily enough) and didn't stop the water to lather and shampoo - gasp! I'm so used to being frugal with water. Same with lights - although I was a bit of a turn-lights-off freak before going on the boat.I've also brought anything you can fit into a washing-machine (my Mum's face crumpled when she saw it all - but I'll do it!). This is because I couldn't get to a laundrette for a few weeks before my last mooring and had used up my store of clean bedding. Also, is anyone else disappointed by the level of 'clean' you get at a laundrette? Hmmm. I also have hand-washed jeans and jumpers that could do with a more efficient going over than that afforded by my wash-board and scrubbing brush.Heating is the big comfort here. Warmth is evenly spread in the house whereas on Blackbird, I have a hot zone near the stove and could see my breath at the other end (my bedroom). That's going to be hard to go back to if the cold gets colder!I'm taking the opportunity while I'm here to go and visit some anti-LNG people in this neck of the woods. For anyone not knowing what this is about - there's a massive liquid natural gas pipe being laid across Wales, cutting through the most beautiful land, destroying hillsides, woods, farm-land, anything that stands in its line. It's also controversial as LNG is incredibly dangerous if it ever explodes. And of course, explosions never happen do they (remember Buncefield?). It'll be good to catch up with some fine people involved in trying to protect this gorgeous area.Well, looking forward to Christmas in 2 days time - my children are here too - lovely. Here's wishing everyone, health, peace and happiness in 2007. x
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Going solo
Dec 19 2006, 12:18 PMHaving been asked by several female future boaters, how I cope alone, I thought I would post some of the remarks I sent them. This is NOT a professional ‘How to’ guide, but by posting my own bumbling beginnings, I hope to show that if I can do it, they certainly can!What’s so different about being a female lone boater? Well, not much, I reckon, except that most women are physically weaker than most men and can therefore feel more vulnerable. Perhaps women also tend to feel intimidated by looking after the engine and getting to grips with maintenance.Beginner’s nervesJust before moving onto the boat, I had some sleepless nights about drowning, sinking the boat, etc. Last minute fears I didn't share with my friends! I could never look as though I had doubts and feeling wimpy. And when I was on the boat, there were still some worrying times - I slept badly each time I knew I was going to do some manoeuvre the next day (first time doing a lock alone, first time turning in a winding hole, getting diesel etc). Then as I survived each little exercise, the worry subsided and I started to take a pride in doing these things well. There are other trials ahead - going on rivers, etc, but I always tell myself 'other people do this alone' - and they do! It's amazing how many people you see solo boating and there are quite a few women out there too.LockingI have a technique, based on what my boat handling course taught me and what Colin Edmondson (think that's his name) wrote in 'Going Solo'. Going up, I drive the boat in, reversing gently when half way, so that I arrive gently at the front gates. I try and time it so that I’m up on the roof and onto the ladder before it touches the gates, so that I’m not bumped off! I really could do with a step to get up on the roof as, although I’m fit, I’m not an athletic type. When there are people around, you get lots of offers of help, which I am always happy to accept, but I actually prefer when I'm alone as I take my time properly. Going downhill is peasier, I find. I tie up, prepare the lock and sometimes I just pull the boat in (think that’s bow-hauling), or drive in and step off. You don’t have to be strong for this really, because it moves slowly anyway, so no-one can get impatient with your weakness! I can’t be doing with climbing down onto the boat roof when the lock is empty – so again, I bow-haul out of the lock, tie up, go back and close the gates and push off again. Closing double gates is either more leg-work (you walk around to close them) or more arm work (you can pull it shut with a boat hook). As I’m a poor swimmer and there’s no-one around in winter, I often walk around.Mooring upMooring up is a personal preference. I actually feel happier out in the wilds, as long as I can get provisions when I need them. Having a dog that barks when someone loiters near your boat is great. It helps if he has a 'big boy' bark rather than a yap. I haven't had any problems yet and don't feel more vulnerable here than in a house, but I guess it's early days. You could team up with other boats in travelling to begin with, till you became more confident. You quickly get chatting to other boaters (avoid those who leer and ask 'are you on your own' within 30 secs!) and it's cheery to recognise their boats on your travels. As it's the same water road, you see em again and again.Engine maintenanceI don’t know very much about my engine so asked people who do. I would like to say I’ve completely got to grips with it, but I haven’t. But there are many experts who are kind enough to explain things, show how to run basic checks etc. I had the engine serviced and I also took the precaution of taking out a break-down policy with Rivers and Canals Rescue for peace of mind. I do prefer to learn things myself rather than rely on others so will do an engine maintenance course next year, but the point is – don’t let a lack of engineering knowledge stop you going ahead with your boaty dreams.ShoppingShopping is a bit of a pain. Gone are the days you could pick up planks of wood from your local DIY shop, stop by at the market for veg, nip into the chemist etc. whenever you need stuff. You have to plan ahead and sometimes the only place to buy anything is from a tiny, overpriced Spar or whatever and you buy what you can carry back to the boat and no more! A bike is useful - I have a folding one. The dog runs alongside, licking my leg the whole way. Very off-putting!Getting physicalOh yes, that brings me on to exercise. You get very fit! I tie up somewhere and then explore in all directions over a few days, then move on somewhere else. I walk miles and miles. You also get loads of mysterious bruises on your legs. Think that's from climbing on the roof in locks (it's my least favourite thing as I'm scared of heights and falling, but it actually works well and is pretty easy). And the fitter you get, the easier the whole locking thing gets. Finally, sisters, if you do happen to want to find a male partner of your dreams, I have noticed something in the short time I have been on the water. Once the summery mists of families, students, stag parties and honeymooners have faded away into Autumn, the canals are inhabited by liveabord single men over 40!
Posted by Carrie at
10:46 1 comments
Beginnings
I'll try to get some photies up as soon as possible because pictures are far more interesting than words. Oh dear, that doesn't bode well for a blog, does it!Ok. I bought my second-hand narrowboat in June, so have only been living afloat for 6 months, though it seems longer. Not in a bad and boring way, but in a 'I was always meant to do this' kind of way. It suits me. I am a fairly restless person and like to be up and off, so upping and offing my home is just right. It's also more comfortable than being homeless, squatting or camping, all of which I have sampled.For some background, my boat is 20 years old . My life currently seems to be filled in cutting wood, walking miles without maps, selling my craftwork as I go along and occasonally doing some illustration work. It's enough and I am ridiculously happy doing it. My dog, Milou is a party to the whole madness.What's happened since I got started then?I bought the boat in Banbury. Only a couple of weeks later, in Oxford, my two cats disappeared. After 14 years together, it was a real blow and I am still guilt-ridden. One cat was killed by a passing dog, the other ran off and was missing for about 5 weeks which kept me on the Oxford canal for longer than I intended. Eventually, someone found him, half-dead and we had a few happy (on my part) weeks together. He had to be put to sleep in November with a cancer tumour. So anyway, I only got up as far as Leamington Spa - so much for my big summer of exploration! After Christmas, I'm heading north.
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Welcome!
Welcome aboard my narrowboat 'Blackbird'. Hope you enjoy reading about my exploits and my efforts to be a green boater. It's a work-in-progress so your comments are very welcome x






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