Sunday, 27 February 2011

Dependent children

Yesterday I needed to fix the support for the tonneau cover on the Erin Mae, to ensure rainwater drained off it properly, so I'd come equipped with bits of wood and a saw and some old guy rope. It was an awkward, physical task, with the cover very taut and unyielding between its press-studs. Eventually, as the afternoon grew gloomy, I crouched underneath inspecting my jerry-rigged handiwork and thought about some friends for whom a challenge like this might be a source of joy in the doing, not just the completing. Roger on NB Maggie May sprang to mind. If he'd been around, I would probably have asked him for some ideas (and muscle, and time, and well-honed expertise in the way things work). It's funny the things I'll ask help with and the things I won't. Today we were talking about which characteristics of children are good to hold on to, and dependence came up. You want your kids to become independent, but you still love it when, as adults, they come to you for advice – too much independence equals pigheadedness. I wouldn't want to be labelled childish, but I'd settle for being child-like sometimes.

Unfortunately, Roger wasn't there.

Saturday, 19 February 2011


Looking at the weather across much of England this weekend, we were glad to be on a visit to the grandchildren (and their parents, of course) in Oslo. The cold is crisp and deep and even at minus 10 fairly tolerable, especially with wool against the skin down to the toes.

It turned out to be party day today – an 8 year old having his class and their families for fun on the snow and ice. Everybody, Norwegian style, brought their frankfurters to cook on the BBQ and eat in potato pancake wraps. So we all went along, except for 6 year old Sam, whose friend was having a pony-riding party – games in the saddle for all the kids, even those who'd never been in one before.

Norwegians really know how to do snow!

Sunday, 13 February 2011


“Have you got one of those hats with ‘Captain’ on the front?” He wasn't the first to ask, and it’s a bit worrying. Do they think it would match nicely the persona they already perceive? Or does the question indicate the lack of a certain je ne sais quoi, to be remedied in this way? I hope it’s not the recollection of Hyacinth Bucket!

Mind you, boaters need headgear. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more leather hats in one place than at last year’s IWA National Festival. Tried a few on, but the difference between sloppy on the ears and tight on the temple seemed to be about 2 mm. Does anyone know whether they stretch to fit before irreversible brain damage sets in?

Well, I’m going to need something more waterproof than the wonderful floppy in my profile picture, something that won’t blow off in the breeze, but which stays on without causing a migraine. If I can find the right piece of leather, the balance between image and function will look after itself. ‘Captain’ on the front? Probably not.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011


We took a couple of students to Doncaster at the weekend – preparation for a practical training week in May for my tutor group. We couldn't resist going via Great Haywood. Well, all the group know about the boat and laugh at our enthusiasm. And we needed to stop somewhere for lunch. And it wasn't too far off the main route north. And we hadn't seen the Erin Mae since last weekend.

So my students were suitably impressed, as much by the central heating as by the lunch (more of Margaret's amazing home-made soup, etc). Steve and Dave, as usual, presented the smiley face of the marina, and the girls decided the toilets were pretty upmarket compared to what they had expected in the wilds of Staffordshire. So's the one in the boat, but it's still shut down for the winter.

Our first visitors – first of many, we hope. It's not really that we want to show off the Erin Mae. It's just the natural hospitality of those who live on the cut, isn't it?

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Second day on board

We won’t count them forever but, for the moment, every one is special. Three and a half hours’ drive each way, plus stops, for only four or five on the Erin Mae (and some of that snoozing). Those not in the know must think we’re crazy.

What did we accomplish? We finally found how to access the switches for the TV unit. We tried to decide whether the lack of signal was due to a fault with the aerial or the digital switchover. We checked that some bits of kitchen equipment would fit and we inspected what seemed a slight leak at one of the windows. We did justice to some magnificent home-made soup.

And then we were reminded that communication is sometimes an arcane art. Engineering had understood a discussion about a service – request for a quote and info about what it would entail – as a mandate to proceed. So a new fuel filter was in place and the oil as clean as you could wish for. All very nice, and we would probably have got them to do it anyway, so no complaints. Just a note to self to remember that communication occurs in the ear of the hearer, not the mouth of the speaker.

A day well-spent? Yup.