Monday, 23 May 2011

A Quick snap or three.

Not a lot to say really, I just thought I would keep you up to speed with Darley with a couple of photos that I have taken tonight.Came home, had some tea then went down to Darley.  I cleared all the rubbish out of the hold and swept all the sawdust and noggins of wood up while Dawn worked in the back cabin.

Darley’s hold with the completed false floors all finished and creosoted.

Darley and Matt Parrot’s Josher motor boat Tench. (Even Dawn is colour co ordinated with her blue and yellow top!

By this time Dawn was getting a little annoyed at my David Bailey impression!

Bruce’s new perch on the counter and keeping his eye on Dawn for me.
Well that’s it folks as I said, just a quick update.  Write again soon when I have something to say, till then,
Don’t bang ‘em about.

Birthdays, Browny, Boy bands and Bottoms

Well what a cracking weekend overall. Friday we drove down to The Samuel Barlow to celebrate Matt Parrot’s 20th birthday in good company with Viv Scragg and Simon, Martin and Sam, Laurence & Sarah, Dave Ray, Keith Brown, Matt and Kaz, Rebecca Fuller, Joe Fuller and of cause the birthday boy himself, Matt Parrot.  Unfortunately, Dawn being a hairdresser, had to work early Saturday morning so she was driving.  I must extend a very big thank you to Malcolm Burge who had prepared, well he got ‘Drew to prepare, Jaguars back cabin for us to stay in, which I thought was a very kind gesture although we were unable to take it up. Food was provided with various sandwiches, finger picks and chips and trays of lovely roast potatoes, yum yum.  Browny was on form as usual keeping us all entertained along with Lol, Matt and the Fullers constructing a model working boat out of beer mats and birthday card envelopes including mast, top planks and deck board, cloths being provided by Sam Noon’s Fag papers.

Photo L Williams.
  All to soon the evening moved on and we had to make our way home.  Saturday, after Dawn had left for work, I headed off down to Darley, as I arranged to meet the previous owner Terry, down there at to replace the prop shaft mid bearing.  This only took us, well Terry as I only watched, a couple of hours after which Terry left and I carried on with the false floors.  By four a clock, I had finished all the false floors and creosoted them, all that was left was the two under the back end boards, but that was going to involve quite a bit of moving of ‘stored ‘ paraphernalia.  It was time for me to leave anyway as we were going out tonight to a show night at the Power station Club, woo hoo! Except it was a tribute boy band called West Lives. (boring).  Sunday morning saw me cooking Bacon butties for our breakfast then I prepped the dinner before going down to Darley, Dawn was following on later.  I started by pumping out the two plastic water barrels used as ballast, about 90 gallons, well the pump I had would not fit in the filler holes so it meant siphoning them into the hold, then pumping it out with the bilge pump.  After this I set about moving a whole collection of Useful items as well as three bags of coal, two sacks of wood noggins for the range a sack of kindling and many other items.  After moving the two barrels I bailed the rest of the water, leaves and sediment out with bucket and shovel.  After leaving this section for an hour to dry off, I gave it a liberal coat of bitumastic paint, then set about making the two floors.  With these in place I creosoted them then put the two water barrels back on top and started filling them.  During a conversation with Matt on the previous night, he said he was coming up to Great Haywood and was leaving his Josher motor Tench there for a week before moving on up to Stone to load about 18tons of limestone chippings for Alvecote.  I told him instead of leaving Tench on the Junction to come up and breast up to Darley,   so I was keeping an eye out for him.  I had just finished filling the barrels when I saw Tench coming across the Junction and so went onto Darley’s back end to get Matt’s fore end rope.

Photo M Parrot
 That was the end of the work for the weekend for when once he had tied up we spent the next couple of hours chatting to him and his mom, Karen.  By 6.00pm work for the day had finished and my stomach told me food was required.  Dawn, who had been busy in the back cabin with cushions, curtains and covers and making an excellent job of it, went off to get the  dinner ready and finished off then went home and absolutely devoured my dinner.  After a coffee and a bit of telly I finished off painting Darley’s pigeon box with flowers and diamonds.  Just needs a couple of coats of varnish and it will be ready to go back ready for our trip up to Etruria and the open weekend at the Museum there which is our first ‘gathering’ of the year.  To be followed by Braunston, Alvecote, Shackerston, Windmill End, Black country Museum, Tipton Community and finishing off the ‘rally season’ with the end of season bash up at Norbury.  Bring it on!  Still a lot of jobs to do though, although Darley does not need any major works, it’ all the little things to make her ours. So until the next time,
Don’t bang ‘em about

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Wright’s coal tar soap, Wrong!

Just a quick addition.  As a result of a comment from a good friend, That Chertsey ‘ooman,  I thought I should share this great disappointment with you all.  Last nights blog was me ranting on as usual about ‘the good old days’ so to speak and my love of the smell of creosote, which led me to other related substances including coal tar and all its derivatives.  To my horror, Sarah informed me that Wrights Coal Tar Soap no longer contained ‘coal tar, so I could not resist looking it up and sure enough here’s the official take.

In the late 1960s the Wright’s Coal Tar Soap business was taken over by LRC Products Ltd (London International Group) who sold it to Smith & Nephew in the 1990s. The soap is now made in Turkey for the current owners of the brand, Simple Health and Beauty Ltd based in Solihull in the UK and is called Wright's Traditional Soap. As European Union directives on cosmetics have banned the use of coal-tar in non-prescription products, the coal tar derivatives have been removed from the formula, replacing them with tea tree oil as main anti-bacterial ingredient. Despite this major variance from the original recipe, the new soap has been made to approximate the look and smell of the original product.
Mind you I still love the smell of it (the soap) and while were on, creosote probably does not contain creosolic acid any more, but hey ho still does the job and still smells great.  Have been down to Darley tonight for my creosote fix, a couple of hours creosoting and have now finished just over half the false floors which I should finish off tomorrow night after work. Well that’s it, update over
Till next time
Don’t bang ‘em about

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The wonders of coal.

It’s funny how some smells are so thought provoking and evocative.  At the end of our street in Tipton, where I grew up as a small child was the Birmingham New Main Line and at the other was a small general shop called Cotterills which was owned by a little old lady, Mrs. Cotterill, and it always had huge sacks of potatoes leaning up against this side of the counter and that earthy smell of potatoes always takes me straight back to my childhood.  Another smell which takes me back to that time is the sweets pear drops, and Teddy Grays Herbals, but those remind me of my dentist as Teddy Grays factory was on the opposite side of the road to the dentist and the air was always perfumed with ‘herbal Mixture’. 

But enough I hear you say, get on with it.  I love the smell of fresh creosote!  It always smells clean to me, and last Sunday, I was able to fill my nostrils with its addictive fragrance as I started to creosote the new false floors that I spent all last week fitting into Darley.  I have noticed a lot of people nowadays refer to them as shuts,  I’ve only ever known them as false floors, but anyway.  When I bought Darley she only had half the hold fitted out with some badly fitting false floors.  Terry, the previous owner stated that he had timber at home to finish off the floors and said I could have it and so he delivered that to the mooring on last Thursday.  On Saturday I called in at Wickes to fetch 20 meters of 5” x 2” rough sawn timber to finish off the supports and so since then I have been busily making up the floor sections which, as I say, I finished off on Sunday afternoon and started creosoting them.  For the creosote I mix in about a half-pint of black bitumastic paint to every gallon of creosote just to darken it down, we always used to use old black engine oil but that’s harder to comeby nowadays with everybody going ‘green’.  Whats all this got to do with coal – I’m getting there I promise.  I have also had to add an inch thick strip of timber to the underside of each of the existing bearers as they were only 4”, the size of the original steel keelson, but when Terry put a new 12mm thick bottom in Darley he replaced it with a 5” X 3” Joist and so now the bearers have to be 5” high.  Right here’s how my brain works,
whilst sitting having five and breathing the creosote fumes
 the smell, as I’ve already stated is one of those evocative smells from the past, reminded me of the smell of the BCN.
Especially the bottom of ‘The Crow’ where Midland Tar Distillers were located.
This was where Thomas Claytons boat delivered their cargo’s that they had collected from round the gas works.
Their cargos from the gas works were all coal based by-products.
This then got me thinking what a wonderful substance coal is, or should I say was, The BCN owed its livelihood to it as well as all the associated workers.  To explain (My area only)
Coal was extracted from beneath the ground around the Black Country keeping thousands of local men and women employed.  It was loaded directly into narrow boats, predominantly wooden Joey boats  and transported to gas works at such places as Wolverhampton, half way down the W’ton 21 locks, The Mond Gas at Tipton on the new main line and Swan Village in West Bromwich on the Ridgacre Branch, again employing hundreds of folk.  At the gas works it would be loaded into huge furnaces and ‘cooked’ whilst starving it of oxygen, during this process the gases and other by-products would emerge and be collected, then at the precise moment the contents would be pushed out of the oven into water baths to stall the process.  The results were phenomenal as far as range of products, oh and employing hundreds at each gas works...  Firstly coal gas, or to use local term ‘town gas’ which was put into huge storage tanks called ‘gassometers’ which went up and down in the ground depending on how much gas was in them. 

Mothers in Tipton would look at the gassometers and if they were quite low down would blame the pressure of the ‘gas is low’ for the slow cooking of the Sunday roast.  Coke, a clean burning fuel used by smiths in their hearths, it’s had all the nasties taken out of it so less effect on the metal to be forged, also used in blast furnaces for the smelting of steel burning at a higher, cleaner temperature than coal.  Next there was coal tar which would be pumped into Clayton’s tar boats and taken to Midland Tar Distillers for distillation into many other products including tar, paints soaps as a few examples.  Also Clatons would take away loads made up of creosolic acid (main ingredient of creosote) used very extensively by the developing railways for treatment of the railway sleepers.  As a lad I remember walking over to the Mond Gas with your own tincan to buy, very cheaply,  a gallon of creosote for sheds and fences etc. Not like this modern stuff though, this would kill anything!  Another product that was taken away by Claton’s boat was a foul smelling liquid called ‘gas water’  I don’t know what it was or what it was used for but it smelt of bad eggs and smelt the same as the sulphurous fumes that came off the coke as it was quenched out of the ovens.  So there you go, next time your washing your hair with coal tar dandruff shampoo, or washing your hands with Wrights coal tar soap or even creosoting that fence, think of where it came from and the wonders of coal, till next time, as always
Don’t bang ‘em about.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Sun, sea and surf!

Spent Saturday morning sorting out various boxes of stuff taken off Minnow and putting into other boxes to take down to Darley.  By 12.00 pm all was packed and I was off.  Just over 10mins later see’s me unpacking the car boot into Darleys back cabin. Spent rest of afternoon tatting about cleaning brass fitting knobs and generally getting her ready for our first trip. At about 5.00pm I fired up her Petter and left her ticking over ready for Dawn’s arrival so we could get straight off.  Dawn arrived at 6.00pm and we stowed the bits and pieces she had brought and were off by 6.15pm, with no pre-determined place to get to, but I knew we would get somewhere round Rugeley.  The evening was quite pleasant as we dropped down the shallow Haywood lock after 100 yards the moored boats finished and we could ‘stretch Darley’s legs’ along the pound as it passes Shugborough Hall.  As Dawn put it, “next time I’m bringing my water ski’s”  Overall we had a lovely first trip out apart from after about 7.30 the sky’s began to darken with rain clouds and by the time we tied up at The Ash Tree pub at Armitage at about 8.30pm it had started to spot with rain.  As the Ash Tree stops taking food orders at 9.00pm, we did not bother washing or changing, we just walked round as we were , walked in and ordered our meals, got a dring and sat down in the bar area.  We then took it in turns to go to their toilets and have a good wash!  It wasn’t long before we were tucking into out meals, two for the price of one.  I had a Mega Gammon and Dawn had a Chicken Combo for £15.75.  Mine was two very thick 8oz gammon steaks, two eggs, pineapple ring, chips and peas, while Dawns was A butterfly Cajun breast, a battered chicken breast, four chicken wings, chips and baked beans. Absolute value for money well worth a stop.  By 11.30pm, and 4 pints later, it was absolutely chucking it down with rain when we came to leave and the gaffer said “do you want to borrow an umbrella”  Dawn jumped at the offer and the gaffer said “keep it as it’s only one that has been left here and weve got loads!”.  All night long I kept waking to the sound of rain thundering down onto the cabin top and then at about 7.00am it had stopped.  As we were in no rush and we had hours to go nowhere, we decided on a lazy start so that by 9.00am the sun was already out when we pulled our pins, after Bruce had been off for a walk.  He has took to boating like a duck to water except he is daunted by the drop into the Large Woolwich back cabin compared to that of a josher.

 When once we were ready Dawn started up the Petter and we headed off to wind the boat at Kings Bromley Marina. As we approached the winding ‘ole at Handsacre we were greeted by a coupl of familiar faces and boats.  Andrew & Andrea off Dove , but on this occasion they were on their cabin boat Achilles moored up with ex Steamer Marquis and new build More Jam Than  as we passed Achilles pulled out behind us and proceeded to chase us down the pound.

 As we approached the entrance to the marina I pulled Darley over and waved Andrew on.  After he had passed we winded at the Marina entrance then we reversed back along the canal to our old moorings to see our neighbour Brian off ‘Our Di’ as we had not spoken to him since we left the mooring with Minnow last October. Spent the next hour catching up with Brian then we bid our farewells and headed off back to Great Haywood.  Dawn cooked us some bacon butties and coffee and we enjoyed these in the spring sunshine as we skipped along towards the Armitage Shanks factory which always puts me in mind of that clip from the Harry H Corbett film ‘The Bargee’ where all the factory girls are hanging out the factory windows shouting’ hey Hornblower show us your tatoo’s’ and ‘Where’s Hemmel’ – ‘He’s havin his dinner’  By mid afternoon we were tied up back at Darleys mooring and unpacking boxes and bags from Darley to our cars.  Soon we were ready for the off and after an excellent first trip we locked Darley up and headed home.  After we had both had a shower at home and Indian take away was delivered as a perfect end to a perfect weekend.  We will be going down to Darley later in the week as theres lots a jobs we want to get done, so till next time, as always
Don’t bang ‘em about.

Friday, 6 May 2011

‘Push the button’ by the Sugababes! Feat Dawn

The end to a perfect week and the start of what will be a cracking weekend.  I am now sat at home writing this, it’s just after 10.0pm, it’s pouring down with proper rain, the fork lightening is illuminating the cooling towers at the back of our house but nothing can spoil my weekend.  It all started last night when we went over to Darley to meet Terry and Tina to receive the keys to her and other bits and pieces.  We met at Darley’s mooring at about 7.30pm and stood chatting about boats, of cause what else, for the next hour or so then we retired to the comfort of the Clifford Arms where we continued our chat about boats, interrupted by the occasional pint, until it was 11.30 and time to go.  We went home, having had a wonderful evening with great company, cheers Terry & Tina.  At 3.00 pm Friday I finished work and raced home to chuck on some tatty clothes and zoom off to the boat.  Later on Dawn came down to me with fish and chips from our local ‘battered’ chippy and we sat in Darley’s back cabin eating gorgeous chips in gorgeous surroundings.  Aahh heaven! 

Those of you who have read and followed me with my other blog, know of our trials and tribulations with our previous boat Minnow, or should I say Dawn’s inability to kick the Bolinder over.  When we finally sealed the deal on Darley, Dawn said that she wanted to be first to start the Petter PD2 and so with great ceremony we finished the evening off with Dawn ‘pressing the button’ and firing her up. 

I am spending the day down Darley tomorrow while Dawn is at work then she is joining me when she finishes and we are off out for a little sally probably to Crown Bridge and the winding hole at Hansacre. (I must remember to be careful and not hit the legs of that summer house that was built on stilts over the corner of the winding hole which I reported to BW and they did nothing about.) So there you go,  I’m sure I’ll have more to report back after the week end so until then
Don’t bang ‘em about

Monday, 2 May 2011

D day approaches

D day approaches - that's Darley day! Just a very quick up-date.  Dawn and I popped over to Stafford today to do a bit of shopping and on the way back we went via Great Haywood, just to see if Darley was back.  It was and Terry, Tina and Nick were on board busily emptying all their own bits and pieces.  We parked on the car park, went round the farm shop and bought some bedding and basket plants, which we put in the car before going round to them.  We had an hours chat with them and arranged to meet them down the boat on Thursday evening for them to give us the keys and other bits and bobs.  So Thursday’s the great day, can’t wait for the week end and the opportunity to spend some time on Darley and get to know her, might even take her out for a short trip and I’ll try,
Not to bang ‘er about

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Good Food and Good Company

I am just like a little kid on Christmas Eve at the moment am so excited and can’t wait for Terry to return from Ellesmere Port and for me to actually take possession of Darley.  To help take my mind off this, me and Dawn went for a cracking meal last night at one of our local canal side pubs at Armitage,  The Ash Tree. We received a text off friends Jim and Sarah who were returning from Ellesmere Port with their Large Woolwich motor, Chertsey, which is a litter sister to our own Darley. At first it was a little confusing as I knew they had stopped just below ‘Star’ Lock at Stone and the text suggested that they were at bridge 88 which is only a short way down the cut so I thought they had either had a bad day or had an idle day! But a second text changed it to bridge 68 and so we arranged to meet them in the Ash tree at 8.0pm.

The next three hours were spent eating drinking and talking canals,  don’t ask me what though.  At just after 11.00pm all too soon, our taxi came and we said our goodbye’s arranging to meet up with them at the Braunston show in June.
Talking of shows I have filled in all my show registrations over this weekend  ready to post off.  This year we are hoping to get to :-
4/5 June Etruria Canal Festival
25/26 June Braunston Working Boat Show
8/9/10 July Alvecote Historic Baot Gathering
3/4 Sept Shackerstone Family Festival
9/10/11 Sept Black Country Boating Festival (Windmill End)
17/18 Sept Tipton Canal Festival
24/25 Sept Black Country Museum Historic Boat Gathering.
15/16 Oct Stourbridge Open Weekend
29/30 Oct End of Season Bash @ Norbury Junction.
So I look forward to the season and to meeting up with friends old and new.  Just as a closing point while I was sitting at the computer filling in these registrations this afternoon, I heard the beat of a Bolinder passing the bottom of the garden I turned, just in time to see my old boat Minnow going for it heading for Fradley Junction where his mooring is.  All the best for the future Grayham
And don’t bang her about