A little winter cleaning

When I lived in a flat share, any cleaning I did was mainly for show; I wanted my flatmates to be suitably impressed and grateful for the negligible effort I had expended on our communal living space. (They rarely met my expected levels of praise.) Now I live in a place I also own, my attitude towards cleaning has changed a little. It is still mainly motivated by other people (the episode I am writing about today was in part brought about by a friend – let’s call her Bekky – and her three boys coming to stay) but I am less high maintenance about compliments these days.
I took an uncharacteristically systematic approach to the task, going one room at a time (which meant that things I didn’t know what to do with just got moved further down the boat; this combined with my ever waning enthusiasm for tidying meant that the living area is as cluttered as ever). Early success included a newly created fancy dress drawer in the bedroom, and the creation of a dedicated towel-and-spare-sheet shelf in the bathroom. But the big winner of the day was the engine room.
This had not been cleaned since I serviced the engine, and had been putting off ever since. Tis is beacuase it is physically ore challenging than British Military Fitness and bikram yoga combined. I bruised my ribs in my efforts to rid the tray underneath the engine of residue oil (and was only partially successful). I also pumped out a bit of water from the bilge area, and left a towel under the stern gland to catch any stray drips.  Here is an educational photo:

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I came back to this towel a couple of days later – it was soaked. I don’t really know how much water is an acceptable amount to seep through the propulsion mechanism of a boat, but this seemed excessive for a boat that has just been sitting about without so much as a single revolution of a propeller. At this point I recalled a piece of advice one seasoned boater had given me – put an ice cream tub underneath the stern gland, and then it is much easier to empty the bilges of water (assuming that is the point of water entry). I didn’t have an ice cream tub, but I did have a can-do attitude and a childhood spent watching Blue Peter presenters doing just about anything with sticky back plastic.
I didn’t actually have any sticky back plastic either, so I improvised with a popular brand of cereal box (I don’t want to be accused of product placement unless I am actually being paid for product placement – Kelloggs you know where I am – so just suffice to say it was a breakfast that wass both fruity as well as fibrous), some cling film and tin foil. A possibly waterproof vessel was fashioned and placed under the stern gland, to be inspected in the near future.

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Since then I have been unable to bring myself to check on the drip tray. This may be due to my reluctance to admit I have another problem that needs professional attention. Or (more likely), at the moment I can tell myself that my makeshift ice cream tub is a shining example of my creative engineering skills. Without visual proof, I need not admit that cardboard and cling film are not a waterproof alternative to plastic. You could call this Schroedinger’s ice cream tub. But you probably won’t.

This blogpost was brought to you by “I’ll find my way home” by Jon and Vangelis.

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Communal living – a rant

The showers at Sawley Marina rank in my top five showers of all time.  The two main components of a great shower are water pressure and heat, both of which are spot on here.  On top of that, the shower rooms are huge – one visitor described them as party shower rooms, as you could easily fit a dozen people in one.  (Which is in stark contrast to the shower on my boat – I would struggle to fit in that cubicle after second helpings of Sunday lunch.)  It also means that none of your clothes or towels are in the splash zone.  It has consistently been a great shower experience.

Until today.  The one downside of the Sawley showers is that they are communal (this does not, by the way, refer to the shower parties of a dozen people; if these occur I have yet to be invited).  This has not ever been a problem before – no one is vying with me for the 05.30am slot on a workday.  The Sunday midday slot, apparently, is a whole other kettle of fish.

I was chilly this morning, and so a shower seemed the best way to warm up.  (The getting clean bit was a factor, but not the main motivation).  I sauntered over to the first shower room – occupied.  “No problem,” I thought. “There’s always shower number two.”  More sauntering, and another locked door, with a singing shower-er behind it.  I had three options at this point:

  1.  Queue.
  2. Go back to the boat and come back later.
  3. Use the shower on my boat.
  4. Go to the gym and use the shower there.

The borderline inappropriate hemline on my dressing gown ruled out queuing.  Laziness ruled out going to the gym.  Likewise with showering on Double Fracture (showering would mean having to fill up the water tank sooner).  Waiting on board it was.

I gave my showering neighbours a good 15 minutes before trying my luck again.  This time it was more of a scurry than a saunter – you can saunter once in mid-thigh-length morning apparel, but twice would seem like exhibitionism.  Both still occupied.  And the second shower-er was still singing.

Normally I don’t mind a bit of shower kareoke.  I even indulge myself at times.  But at that point, the warbling was adding insult to injury.  “I’m warm and clean, and you are not,” she was trilling.  “I have all the time in the world, but you’ve only so long before your circulation becomes compromised.”  (The chorus probably needs some work.)

I’m not proud of what I did next.  It was out of character, and if I could take it back I would.  I think it was a combination of the cold and the hemline that made me do it.  I went for the aggressive door rattle.  The singing ceased instantly.  A few seconds later my lovely neighbour from a few boats down, looking a little shaken, emerged from the shower room.  Guilt washed over me, and I slunk inside.  Guilt was then literally washed away, maybe even steamed off me, by that magnificent shower.

If only I could get one all of my very own.

This blogpost was brought to you by  ‘Motorcyle Emptiness‘ by Manic Street Preachers.

I love a little narrowboat

I have recently joined a bunch of narrowboating groups on facebook (which are much like any other community groups on facebook, with a mix of helpful people, informative people, smug people and needy people), and one of the users posted this poem by Pam Ayres today.  Whilst it doesn’t quite describe my canal-boating life, its something to aspire to.

I love a little narrowboat, I love the old canal,
Imagining the tales these ancient waterways could tell,
I love to work the lock, those oaken gates so firm and strong,
With know-alls up above to tell you what you’re doing wrong.

I love to see the native creatures busy at the bank,
The otter and the water vole, the terrapin and mink,
And peering in the water, into shallows green and still,
To see somebody’s goldfish from the kitchen window-sill.

I love to moor along the bank and hear the gentle rain,
To cook a meal and watch the world beyond the window-pane,
Little bobbing moorhen chicks, the mallard and the coot,
Exhausted lovers hoping that their effort’s bearing fruit.

I love the ancient bridges, every keystone, every corbel,
The singing of the little birds, the chirrup and the warble,
To feed a lonely swan, so perfect, white as alabaster,
Who struck me with his wing; observe my collar-bone in plaster.

I love to meet the other folk who use the waterways,
The walkers and the fishermen on sunny languid days,
We drift beside the towpath and we breathe the summer’s breath,
Till roaring motor-bikers come and frighten us to death.

I love the inland waterways and if it’s in my power,
I’ll just keep on a-sailing at about three miles an hour,
And when I see that final tunnel, into it I’ll glide,
I’ll raise my yachting cap and see you on the other side.

This blogpost was brought to you by ‘Hit me with your best shot‘ by Pat Benatar.

A personal top 10

Canal Boat magazine recently published their 10 ways to beat the winter weather, with their list including heating (they think you should have some), dressing appropriately (summer wear will just not do) and getting a dog (there’s barely enough room on here for me, let alone a dog bounding everywhere.  Because if you’re going to get a dog, it needs to be a proper Beethoven-esque dog, rather than a handbag dog.)

Inspired by these pearls of wisdom, I’ve come up with my own winter survival plan.

  1.  Get vegetable oil.  Olive oil just isn’t made of stern enough stuff.
  2. Don’t try to ‘improve’ your stove just as the cold weather hits.  Not being able to use said stove because the door doesn’t shut does not comply with any winterisation list on the internet.
  3. Double glaze.  It may look like cling film and double-sided tape, but it seemed to get the job done last winter for a warmer, less condensation-prone home.
  4. Always have marshmallows available.  Once the stove is operational again, sculpting toasted marshmallow into modern art exhibits will be my new favourite game.  (I imagine the Tate would be interested in the insightful social commentary the sculptures provide on modern life if any of them were to have a lifespan of longer than 10 seconds.)
  5. Don’t let winter put you off taking the boat out.  Unless the canal’s frozen.  Then staying put is a good option.
  6. Keep the diesel tank full.  I was told this when I first bought Double Fracture – it helps prevent condensation in the tank.  And also means I have plenty of fuel for the diesel-heated radiators.
  7. If your fridge breaks in winter (or never worked at all), there’s no need to replace it till spring.
  8. A kangaroo onesie is not only a great fancy dress costume, it is also a warmer substitute for PJs.costume picture
  9. I’m sure a Pikachu onesie would also be just as cosy.
  10. Ideally have more than just beer and tomato chilli jam in your fridge, just in case you get snowed in.  (That one remains a work in progress.)  But if that’s just not possible or practical, then filling the fridge with my new favourite beer Einstoek is a good plan B.

This blogpost was brought to you by ‘Falling‘ by Haim.