Friday, 26 February 2010

Snowdrops, swans, rain and randomness

Don't the weeks fly by? Before you know it I'll be holding Squirrel in my arms, knowing if it's a girl or a boy, not knowing if it's morning or night! 

This morning I'm awake really early.  Jam had the final interview for his new job yesterday and they called him to tell him he got the job soon after, so he had a celebratory drink with his friend and I stayed over at my friend's house for a while catching up, having looked after three children under 5 all afternoon ~ only one minor biting incident and a little bit of head bumping and shouting to report!

As I left yesterday afternoon, there was a local man sitting on the bench opposite the steps of the mooring.  He was on his third 1.5L bottle of strong cider and was calling out friendly greetings to me.  Lovely day I reply and he says 'whether it's a lovely day or not a lovely day you have to be sunny in your heart... always happy, now what have they done here, (pointing at the steps on that side), they should have done the same as your side, not saying they should be copycats but it looks much better doesn't it' ~ this chap is often seen pacing up and down the canal with his arms waving around in the air calling out about how great god is, or rambling on about something inane very loudly, nobody listening but the trees and ducks, and me. 

I was in a hurry though so had to press on, bumping into Jam on the way, to wish him luck for the interview and quickly catch up on the days news so far ~ ran out of electricity this morning, ran outside in pyjamas to see if the bollard was ok and saw Paddy leaving and asked him is he was messing around with the electrics, what a silly thing to ask, we'd just run out, but he gave us electric cards, he owed us some for the washing anyway, so that was lucky or I would have been stuck for we didn't have any spare, he then told me he had found somebody's credit cards that had been thrown over the fence from the back lane, obviously stolen and discarded and urged me to look for anything else, nothing found, ironed your shirt and the outfit's hanging up, good luck, ooh yes please I'd love a cookie, ok I won't cycle, I know the brakes aren't working, I love you! Bye!

I love the sound of the rain early in the morning on the top of the boat, nobody else but the rain is awake, apart from the ducks who seem to become more vocal as well.  Another friend and her young child came to visit the other day and it was so exciting for her, she said she much preferred this boat to the other one, it was so much bigger, and even though it rained the whole time she was insisting that it had stopped raining and that we should go and feed the ducks.  The rain eventually did stop and Ma'am made an appearance much to the child's delight.  Ma'am has taken to knocking on the side of the boat these days to make her presence known...this is Ma'am

And these are the snowdrops that popped up a few weeks ago, they are enormous!  My friend's child noticed a tiny orange narcissus that had popped up amongst the ivy on the edge of the mooring, I love the fact that we walk by every day and don't notice the small things.  We need to give ourselves the time to appreciate everything growing around us, all those little treasures!

The Squirrel is definitely growing and Jam felt it this morning, it feels strange, it's not proper limbs kicking out yet, but seems to be quite constant and my belly is definitely protruding lots now.

I'm afraid I've just rambled today, but that's not a bad thing, it's been quite a rambling week, dealing with the boat, looking after children, helping Jam prepare for this interview.  Whilst on the subject of random ramblings, here's a random picture, it's not just of the rubbish that floats down the canal, if you look closely you can see a very large yellow rubber duck, don't know where he came from and we didn't have time to rescue him before he was rescued by someone else, let's hope he's merrily bobbing in someone's bath tub!

Friday, 19 February 2010

On the subject of toilets...

People often ask - how do you go to the loo on a boat?  Well, on our old boat we had a chemical toilet to start with, but the slide handle broke and so it was rendered useless and sent to toilet heaven, and our neighbour Polly sold her boat and gave us her old bucket loo, which is not as hideous as it sounds.  It's quite similar to a chemical loo, but instead of having to change a cassette holding all the waste, you just simply take the toilet seat off and put a lid on it then empty the bucket. 

We have a sewage waste point up at the top of the mooring where our washing machine is.  It can be quite smelly when emptying, especially if not enough 'blue' has been used.  Blue is a disinfectant that you add to the cassette or bucket to hide the smell and cover up the waste.  With a cassette toilet, there's usually a slide handle that you open when you want to go to the loo, the waste goes down into the cassette and then you close it afterwards.  Most cassette loos have a flush as well which many first time users spend hours flushing and hence the cassette fills up fast and you have to change it more often.  Sometimes the flush is built into the toilet and has a 'pink' flush chemical, much the same as the blue really, sometimes the flush is attached to the water system and flushes water from your tank down. 

Our new boat has a chemical toilet, it is ridiculously small - capacity and seat wise.  Now I thought at first it was my widening hips and ever moving body parts that would make for an uncomfortable seat but Jam experiences it too.  As a man it's even more hideous because you risk weeing all over yourself if you sit down to go.  When you flush the toilet it spurts water all over the back of the wall for some reason, and the waste never seems to go down properly and you have the dilemma of wondering how to shut the slide handle without trapping everything in it or having to push it all down with your hands.  Not a pretty picture I'm painting but we are talking toilets here!  We use wooden kebab sticks by the way for that last part, but are still working on a better solution.

Weeing in a bucket, instead of into the cassette is also done by many, to save the number of times you have to change the toilet.  We are lucky to have such a hidden mooring and can send the men (and some women who don't mind the fresh air) out to water the garden and help deter the animals that like to mark their territory and eat our veggies.  I often have a moral dilemma about weeing in a bucket and tipping it into the canal, most people do it and yet it just feels wrong...

On my birthday for breakfast I went to a cafe in Islington, Jam was away working so I thought I'd be all grown up and treat myself.  In the cafe toilet was a fantastic but broken beach hut toilet seat behind the bin and I enquired at the counter as to where they got it from, explaining my possible solution for changing the chemical toilet seat for a more comfortable one and I'd not seen one like that before.  They were very lovely, friendly people and at the end of the meal they asked if I wanted to have that one.  I was strangely delighted and walked out of there carrying a toilet seat, and a silly grin.  I thought I could at least experiment with it and just see if it would work.  Jam thought otherwise and wasn't impressed, but I have managed to rescue it from another bin and make it a humorous part of the mooring garden.  It was too big to use on our toilet and you can't actually take the seat off, it seems to be all fitted, so we are making do - there's no ventilation in the bathroom so sitting down for a long time is not really recommended anyway.  When the layout was done on the boat, the bathroom was unfortunately not put in the right place, next to the window and without electricity sockets, so Jam is intent on buying a small bath and making the bathroom bigger to allow for ventilation.  The sink in the bathroom at the moment is the size of a finger bowl, it's really no use for anything, but hey at least we have the shower working now and Jam finished the tiling and it works fine.  No complaints here and I was talking about toilets anyway - see how easily I'm distracted already!

Now all these toilets have been chemical toilets.  Whenever my god-daughter comes to visit she always wants to go to the loo, just to see the blue, not to do anything else - sweet, the inquisitive mind of a four year old - but why is it blue Aunty Orla? -  I'm personally much more inclined to want composting toilets.  We are considering making a compost toilet outside for when we have parties and during the summer when it's not so cold.  Getting a compost toilet onto a boat is quite hard because most need a flu that goes straight up and trying to cut through thick steel boats could pose a bit of a problem.  They are also very expensive in comparison but the number of times you have to change them is amazing, something like once every six months, most of them having a separate section for solids and when you do change it you have a wonderful compost for the garden.  They also smell lovely - can that be possible?  I've used compost toilets at festivals that have been wonderful to smell - all that eucalyptus chopped up bark disguises the nasties so well.

I'm still investigating this, there must be a more natural and cheaper solution to the toilet than the chemical way.  I'm sure if someone could come up with one we'd all be fitting them instead of having to waste so much water and using bleaches etc to clean them.

I thought pictures might be a step too far for this post...

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Telephone toilet

I saw this the other day as I was walking up the hill ... ha ha! Complete with duck bath mat and marble effect wall covering!

The following day, someone had ripped off the seat, used it and thrown a fag butt in for good measure...

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Nothing runs smoothly living on a boat...

Well, we went away for the weekend, to visit my dear friend Angel and the kids in Hereford.  It was such a lovely weekend, a trip to Hay Bluff, ice-cream in Hay-on-Wye, game playing, violin playing, movie watching, heart-shaped breakfast in bed on Sunday, such a relaxing time albeit too short and despite missing the coach on the way home and them having to drive us to Gloucester we came back feeling refreshed and happy - until we got onto the boat and it was FREEZING - the Heritage stove had locked out.

Argh! What was the problem, it couldn't possibly be lack of fuel could it? I mean we'd put around 250 gallons in, surely that was enough for two weeks? Well, it seems not, for we couldn't get it to restart when we pressed the reset button and we were told not to press it more than 3 times without calling an engineer and at 10pm on a Sunday night, Valentines at that, we thought it was best to try and research Heritage stoves on the internet, have a little argument about what to eat, bought on by being too tired and cold, then fill up our hot water bottles, make up and snuggle down to sleep, wearing pyjamas on top of our underclothes, then a hat and scarf on top of that, with the top blanket tucked in above the pillow.

Jam had to be up at 5.30am for work and he recommended I stay in bed, even texting me later in the morning to make sure I was still resting and keeping warm.

Of course, I had a little lie in, the squirrel was obviously requiring me to rest a little more, but then the urge to eat and go to the loo overtook and I had to get up.  I made some tea, another hot water bottle, then after calling both the coalboats to find out when they were next stopping by (week today) and the chap from the next lock where there's a diesel station, (no answer, left a message, no reply) I decided I would take the 25L fuel can that Jam had bought home the other week and fill her up to at least work out if it was a fuel problem.

The first garage I came to they wouldn't let me fill up for it wasn't in their recommended 5L fuel canisters, and were quite rude to me - what I should have done was fill up then go and pay for it and they wouldn't have been able to do anything about it and probably wouldn't have noticed, but I carried on and decided to walk along the canal to the diesel pump at the next lock.  However my way was soon barred by workmen who are building a new bridge across the canal and I was sent on a detour past another garage and around the back of Kings cross.  I decided to go to the lock first, for diesel would be much cheaper there, because you don't have to pay so much duty on domestic use only.  As me and Jerry (well I feel like I'm walking the family dog by now) approach the gates I see a few people leaving, one of them towards me on a bike. I half recognise him from the previous times we went to fill up when the canal was frozen over and stopped him to ask if the chap that could fill up for me was there.  No came the reply, and the man was late for work and couldn't do it himself -PLEASE my inner voice is yelling out to him, I'm pregnant and it's no fun living in a fridge without any hot water or means of cooking food and keeping warm, OKAY I hear myself saying, I guess I'll try and fill up at the station back there, the other one wouldn't let me but I'll beg them. Cheerio, come on Jerry...

I walk boldly up to the pump, fill up Jerry, wheel him to the door, then pop in to pay. No. 6 please.  'Do you have a nectar card?' Whoop whoop, that's more like it, of course I do, thank you very much, what a nice man, have a nice day and Jerry and I skip home, well, not quite skip for Jerry's quite heavy now, but lucky that Fluffer left me her sack trolley when she went off down under and it's not too difficult to get back, wheel down the steps and Jerry has a fancy catch so you don't have to unscrew the whole cap and can just pour through a tube thing - glug glug glug, I go back inside and try to reset the burner again. Nothing.  It's time to call the engineers.

The Heritage stove company is a small company based in Cornwall.  By now I know the names of nearly everyone working there and speak to J who tells me S will call me back when he's finished with his client.  A few hours pass and I call again, anxious to try and get it sorted so we don't have another freezing night. No such joy, the message is passed on but nobody calls me back.  We're slightly more prepared for tonight though, rescuing our electric blanket and big flat heaters from Ithaka boat and using the stove over there to cook dinner, sausages, sauerkraut, steamed parsnips and brussel sprouts.  Sleeping with an electric blanket makes such a difference!

Poor Jam though in the morning has to wash in cold water, whilst I stay sleeping in the warm bed.  I arise and call the stove company and am immediately put through to S who is very apologetic, had a bereavement in the family and didn't get chance to call back, so we run through some settings and button pressing and low and behold the burner fires up.  This is great news, not for long though, the stove one goes out, so I have to wait five minutes then reset the stove burner three times and hope for the best.  I do the washing up with hot water. The stove burner lights then the heater burner goes out, but they're just going out - the green button going off and not locking out - where the amber button comes on, so I call back, but S is with a client so I'm told he'll call back.  I manage to get a hot shower.  Both of the burner on buttons are now off.  They seem to be coming on and off intermittently.  

This is a photo of the Heritage stove - my friend LLG took it as we were just moving in.

I'm still waiting for the call.  I can't believe that it takes 20-25 litres a week to heat the stove and 35-40 to run the radiators and hot water - that means huge diesel bills (especially if you run out and have to get it from the garage) and they say that is efficient!?!  I'm baffled, there must be a better way...

Sunday, 7 February 2010

I feel so old!

I feel so old, the other night, our lovely new neighbour Paddy had some friends over from Ireland and I was woken at 2.30am by loud storytelling and raucous laughter. I tried to ignore it and let them get on with it, I mean it was Friday night, it's the first time we've been woken up by him but every time I dropped off again the laughter would pierce through and I'd be bolt upright again, wondering if I should say anything.  It woke Jam up as well, and in the end I decided to don my dressing gown and pop out to ask them to be quiet. 

The chap doing all the talking didn't hear my very polite English requests until I was screaming - Oi EXCUSE ME MATE at the top of my lungs, surely waking up all the neighbours in the block of flats above us.  When he did see me, he didn't seem to understand me and mumbled something, then went back inside the boat.  A few minutes later I receive a text from Paddy soooo apologetic, I reply that it's absolutely fine and it was 'just yer man with the loud voice' but it's no problem really.  He promised to keep them quiet and texted again apologising profusely the next day. 

I felt bad myself for spoiling their fun and being such a kill-joy, and jested with him saying actually he needed to try harder next time and I was quite disappointed in his party efforts.  He laughed a lot at this and this afternoon I saw him walking down the road with a few friends and a plastic cup with a G&T in it.  He asked if they'd woken us up last night, but I'd been out for the count and Jam had stayed out partying with his sister and brother-in-law, so I told him he obviously hadn't been trying hard enough but tonight could be a better effort if he's starting so early. 

It did make me feel so old.  Especially because I'd had to come home early from the bowling night for Jam's sister's birthday and he'd gone on to party all night with them.  I did have to work today though and I am 16 weeks pregnant, really it's the perfect excuse isn't it - a friend said to me, honey you built up enough credit before you were pregnant to stay in every night, so don't worry - yes, I must remember that and maybe then I won't feel so old!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Winning the lottery

Last night an old friend Clark came round for supper, he's been travelling on safari with a young man he met recently and he was full of great stories.  The best is by far the fact that his sister won the lottery, a whopping 2 million at that, she'd been trying to get hold of him to tell him the news but he obviously wasn't picking up the calls, then when he was at the airport he tried her, couldn't get through and left a message saying sorry he'd missed her calls, don't try again because he's boarding, unless you've won the lottery or something! 

She's never had money in her life, single Mum, two kids, living in a rough estate, no idea what a private bank is or a designer label and not quite sure how to spend the money.  Luckily Clark is well travelled and well off and well able to help her out, what a handy brother.  The poor, (well not anymore), lady hasn't been able to sleep and has all these crazy ideas and doesn't know if she's coming or going - she's going on a short holiday somewhere hot to get her head around it all!

 It got me pondering, what would I do if I'd won all that money?  It would seem like you'd need to attend a course on how to handle money for starters.  So much to learn about investing, bonds, offshore accounts, interest etc.  I never really had any good training as a child with money.  I used to earn it, my first job was as a chambermaid at the age of 12, then I'd spend it on a mint green polka dot matching skirt and top from Dotty P's and some bags of sweets - or something like that.  I used to put a pound a week into a post office account.  I used my money to help me through University and then went up and down into the red like a yo-yo.  Following my dreams of acting and music hasn't brought me the good fortune to be independently wealthy, yet ... (go on, please BUY my album - ) but you never know!

So I would often think the money you spend on a lottery ticket each week would be better off put in a savings account, yet that old saying 'you've got to be in it to win it' nags a little too.  I know for sure that my child is going to have some financial coaching from the start, and it may even help me to understand it all a little better as well! 

Hmmm, so if I won the lottery, I'd set up a school with Jam on the farm teaching music, art, wood-making, money skills, start a few of my own projects that are slowly bubbling away, do some travelling, treat myself and my friends to good things, oh yes and employ a tiler so Jam would never have to do it again - ah, I think he's just finished it - finally we can have a shower!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Cleaning always takes longer than you think...

I've moved from a small boat to a larger one. Looking at the amount of stuff surrounding me you'd think I'd moved from a large one to a small one. How on earth all this stuff fitted onto the narrowboat is beyond me. Although some do say that I have a particular way of organising and sorting things out magically. Where's that magic now? I'd like it to clean the boat top to bottom please in 5 minutes!

So, I swept through, took the rugs outside, then got out the vacuum. The problem with the old boat is that it is very damp. The wood is rotten in places and I'm not sure how we are going to fix this. I'm not sure how I lived on it for so long and believe this could have been the cause of my chesty cough that would last for months each year.

I then took a trip to the shop to buy a decent mop. The market didn't have anything mop like, everything I touched in the mop department of the supermarket fell apart! So I tried a pound shop place, they had something limp and yellow, but it wasn't very appealing and they didn't have any washing up bowls, nor did they seem to know what one was, despite my dramatic actions and explanations. So I tried another shop which seems to have everything, Zebedee's, great ladies that work there, always bickering with each other in front of the customers but in a funny way. One of them saw me struggling holding lots of things (I'd found a cutlery drawer, washing up bowls, a baking tray, glasses, some tea-towels...) and she rushed to my aide and put it all down at the counter saying 'that's for the lady over there, she's pregnant' - I grinned sheepishly, then seeing nothing else bought my stuff, including a proper mop with handle that you have to bash on (I'll get Jam to do that in a minute, it didn't look like it would fit to be honest). It was a little pricey, but I had at least got what I went out for, without too much hassle and came home.

Jam was resting, he's a bit exhausted, up for work at 5.30am then always something to do on the boat - tiling, but that's another story...) so he was having a rest and I sat beside him with my book, thinking 'I'll have a little read then get on with the mopping, when suddenly my phone rang, my book was on the floor, neck cricked and dribble running down my mouth, two hours gone by, hmmm. So a quick chat, cup of tea and a tea-cake, and I'm off to do the mopping, although I may just leave it until tomorrow morning and catch up with the sorting out of this boat, or just one more chapter of Agatha Christie? I feel like I've been cleaning this boat for years!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

All in a day's work

Today the electrician came to try and sort out our electrics. Funny how just like when you visit the doctor with a disease you're sure you have, it all seems fine when they examine you and sure enough the electrics were behaving! Still the very nice man carried out lots of checks and found a couple of problems that were easy enough to fix, then noticed that the boiler had a blank valve that was leaking so he found a washer in his van that fitted and sorted that out with some wax stuff usually used on steam engines, a very nice and informative man.

There is a problem with the inverter though, and he is intrigued by it for he is the Superman of the waterways and seems to fix every boat around. The coal boats happened to be passing and they were shouting over asking him for a new head gasket, 'those types of boats are not actually using them' he says, then I'm lost in the jargon and carry on back up to sit with the van so he doesn't get a ticket, nowhere to park round here. I'm not complaining, even though it's cold for I have a good Agatha Christie in my bag that I'm devouring!

So he comes back up the steps to get some more tools from the van and thinks that the batteries are all fine, he's tested them and it's just the inverter is unable to cope with more than 16amps, which isn't very much, and we can't just run from the mains electricity from the shoreline for then the batteries won't charge. He says he's seen it on three widebeam boats already this year, all brand new and yet only set up for cruising with nothing much running. Not really the words we want to hear and I wonder if we can't just run another line from the mains with an extension lead adapted on the end so we can run more electric through without overloading the battery converter, he says that would work, but unfortunately didn't have any of the connections in his van, but he was sure Jam would be able to sort that out. I'm going to monitor the output and write down what we're using so we can work out when it overloads and take it from there, he's keen to know why this is happening, it's not a great solution and we just have to be frugal with the electric, but it's quite frustrating for I only had the boat lights (that run off the 12V battery)and the computer and nothing else on and it cut out.

So our lovely engineer was quite frustrated at not being able to sort the problem out, and had to head off to rescue a narrowboat that had sunk in the Maida Vale area, he tried his best, and we'll have to get him out to fix the electrics on the narrowboat, meanwhile I'd better get on with the cleaning of it for the landlady's daughter is coming to stay on it at the weekend!

Monday, 1 February 2010

I'm being followed...

Gosh, all new to this part of the blog where people actually read you! My dear friend LLG ( has tweeted about me and I must admit I feel quite naked!! I will get my head around adding photos and posting links and being regular and understanding all the jargon I promise!

Right now I'm surrounded by boxes and bags of things from the other boat and can't see my computer with my photos on - or is that an excuse to just use Jam's fast laptop and delay the inevitable sorting?

I'm exhausted and excited and ever so slightly amused as Jam is cooking and can't seem to find anything 'I know there's a spice drawer around here' as he scratches his beard looking perplexed and hungry. Dinner may be a while, we're still getting used to the Heritage stove as well...

Still moving...

Hmmm I'm not sure how much fun this is! Being pregnant I can't lift heavy loads and so am moving things bit by bit and it's taking rather a long time! I'm just stopping for lunch and still there's so much to do, then there's the cleaning...