Friday 30 March 2012

A Crick in the neck.

I think I'm in danger of becoming the Victor Meldrew of the cut.

Why is that you all gasp?

Crick Boat Show - Look call me old and cynical (complete with a smug smile) but spending about £25 plus in Diesel and adding a load of particulates pollution into the atmosphere at the same time.

Having my leg lifted for a camping pitch 8m x 9m a snip at £48 for two nights. Then I have to cough up another £52 on the door (I don't do advanced payments in case the event is a weather washout). 

I think that £125.00 to get us both in through the door is a bit rich.

People keep telling me I can save a load of money by buying from a traders at the show. But apart from a couple of new mooring ropes there is nothing else that I need.

Now I am fully aware that Crick Boat show is full of people wanting to sell me something. But so is Meadowhall retail complex and I don't have to pay to get in to there. I don't have to purchase £25 quids worth of Diesel. In fact I can travel to Meadowhell on super tram for free.

So what delights await me at Crick?

A cookery demonstration, now that's got to be worth every bit of 5p.
The bouncy castle in the kids funfair, that's got to be worth another 5p.
The handcrafted macrame place mats in the crafts tent, another 5p.
The traditional Punch and Judy show that's got to be worth another 5p.
The non traditional face painting, that's got to be worth every bit of 5p.
The weird named "Vox Pox Sound Booth" that must be another 5p.
The Diamond Jubilee Pageant, displayed on a screen, must be another 5p.

I can however save a great deal more money and just give the festival a miss. After all, I can just visit the Crick exhibitors websites instead, priceless!


Thursday 29 March 2012

Arial Photography

Thursday was another hot sunny day which was enlivened by an unexpected visitor. It was a young man selling framed ariel photographic prints of the marina. A few of us were sat outside on the jetty a couple of days previously. We were all enjoying a cool beer and the good weather (as you do)  when we noted that a small white, high winged, single engined, aircraft was buzzing round. The aircraft made a series of low level passes over the marina. At the time we did not make very much of of it. However, from the supplied print we could see everyone on the marina who was outside at the time.

At a price of £65.00 there was little interest in anyone purchasing any individual prints. However, I managed to negotiate the price down (£50 - 40 - 35)  to what I thought was a much more reasonable £30.00. Now we are the proud owner of a new framed print aboard Rosie. I was made a bit wary when the young man described a helicopter as being used to take the photograph, when I knew for certain that it was a light aircraft. Part of the deal was that a high resolution image file would also be sent via email.

So far the image file has not arrived. So if anyone turns up offering you a similar (20" X 18") print and the promise of a high resolution image file. (Which are in all fairness is in a very good fame and with a very good quality print) Knock down the price and don't expect to get an image file in your email. If the image file does eventually turn up I will publish updated details later.


Wednesday 28 March 2012

Guardian of the Balance.

Not amongst my usual first choice for on board reading was "Guardian of the Balance." A raunchy re-write of the myth of Uther and Arthur Pendragon and their relationship with Merlin. Well researched and bringing a new perspective into an old tale. Introducing into the myth "Wren" the daughter of Merlin. In places a bit fussy over detail, but never the less a well woven tale of of the times. I found some of the “American English” spelling a bit annoying and a spell check for an “British English” version would not be too difficult for the Kindle version. The characters are sometimes brutal which is a fair reflection of the times. More than anything else the story encourages the use of your imagination to build the mental pictures – that's always a good marker for me. I enjoyed Irene Radford’s book and I am certainly tempted to go back to read more. I enjoyed this first encounter with a new to me author.

Now onto another tale of mystery, myth, smoke and mirrors.

Everyone knows that things are about to take a turn for the worse when an ageing and bitterly disappointed, rusting relic in waiting is needed to flog the foundling, fledgling replacement for British Waterways. Whilst we all know that this is just another puff of smoke and a realignment of the mirrors. His Royal Highness, Tampon Charlie of Camillagate, is being wheeled out as the first Patron of the new Canal and River Trust. The news is to be announced at the first meeting of the Trust’s Council in Birmingham. What has not been disclosed is whether TC will be there in person to squeeze the flesh so to speak.

Not to be sidelined and pushing the news for every scrap of gory glory, Tony Hales, Chairman of the Canal and River Trust and recipient of much of our hard earned cash says: “We are absolutely delighted that The Prince of Wales has agreed to become the Canal and River Trust’s founding Patron. As a passionate advocate for British heritage, nature, communities and tourism, The Prince will be an important voice of support for the Trust. The Prince’s patronage is further testimony to the incredible and wide-ranging support the Canal and River Trust has already received, and an important millstone in our journey towards establishing this exciting new charity.”

Must go, I have just had a sudden attack of sycophant nausea.


Tuesday 27 March 2012

I did not know that you can pile it so high!

Recently, we got yet another glimpse of how corrupt our political system is. The co-treasurer of the Conservatives was filmed giving a rare honest account of how lobbying can work. Donate enough money and you get to have dinner with the Prime Minister. It'll be awesome for your business, he said. Click Here

After the MP expenses scandal you might have thought that the party leaders would have wanted to clean up the stacked up pile of manure that is the houses of parliament. After the expenses scandal, public pressure pushed all the parties to make big promises about tackling lobbying. Click Here

The MP's expenses scandal was kicked off by the previous speaker of the house just before he was kicked out. Gorbals Mick refused to publish MP's expenses details. The current Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow has continued this trend. Bercow has made a £600,000 profit on the sale of a mansion flat that was subsidised by the taxpayer. While living in the flat, they claimed back more than £100,000 in parliamentary expenses to cover their mortgage interest payments and service charge costs. The Bercows also let the property out to tenants for around £28,000 per year when the Speaker was given a grace-and-favour apartment at the expense of the taxpayer. Click Here

In 2008 a High Court panel of judges chaired by Lord Judge, now the Lord Chief Justice, agreed the MP receipts should be published. The judges ruled: "The expenditure of public money through the payment of MPs' salaries and allowances is a matter of direct and reasonable interest to taxpayers." But another cover up over the MP expenses scandal is once more in place. Click Here

A ban on secret lobbying is needed to weed out this kind of sleaze. New rules should be in place to force politicians to reveal who they’re meeting and what they talked about. Cameron is worried about public anger about secret lobbying. Cameron predicted the lobbying scandal which now engulfs him Click Here

At the moment, Cameron is proposing a weak and watery "register of lobbyists" which wouldn't cover most lobbyists, and wouldn't include information on what they were lobbying about, or how much they were spending. That's not good enough!

Back when a Labour government was the main culprit, he described it as a "scandal waiting to happen". Now it's his own reputation on the line. A big petition will show him that the anger will just keep on growing if he doesn't introduce a proper legal ban. 38 Degrees members have voted to make it a priority to ban secret lobbying because we know the harm it does on other issues we care about.

Help stop the rich and powerful whispering in the ears of MPs who are meant to be working for us. Let's up the pressure for a real ban - sign the petition now: Click Here


Taking a turn for the better.

The weather is glorious at the moment and spring has sprung itself upon us. Whilst the lack of a significant rainfall over the winter gives cause for concern about water stocks and where we might cruise to. The sunshine is very welcome non the less. Some outside work on the boat paint has been carried out. the warm weather aids with the drying. The reduced number of kamikaze insects around who can't read the "wet paint" sign also helps.

We have a mallard nest next to the boat with at the last count 8 eggs. The nest is built into the centre of an old car wheel and tyre. These were anchored in place and the centre of the wheel filled with soil to aid plant growth.  Intended at first to provide an easier climb out point for the occasional brood of ducklings. The ducks now use them each year as secure nesting points around the marina.

Yesterday we had a short trip up to the canal basin at Sheffield from our mooring at Tinsley. This marks the beginning of this years boat cruise. The trip was to get an essential black water pump-out done as one of the final preparations. Whilst passing under Brown Bayley bridge at 1:45 in the hot part of the afternoon, we were surprised to find a single Pipistrelle bat feeding on insects. The warm weather is seemingly waking them up from their hibernation and they must need to find a first meal of the season, no matter the time of day. Needless to say, on this occasion we did not need the bat detector. We even slowed down to a crawl to watch the unusual sight. When we returned about two hours later nothing was spotted. There are a large number of empty ex-industrial buildings in this area.

During the summer months, boat trips for volunteers are arranged from time to time to help with litter picking and habitat improvement. If anyone is interested, drop me an email and I will put you in touch with the organiser. We had a group from the Sheffield Round Table on Sunday and managed to get half a boat full or debris that had accumulated over the winter. A Television set and a mattress being the biggest items. Beer cans and plastic bottles and bags make up the majority collected. Bring along some Marigold gloves everything else is provided including a meal at the end.

I have been taking some measurements from our solar panels. When laid flat on the roof in clear Sky's (with the sun in the right direction) we are getting between 7 and 10 amps flowing into the battery bank. This peaks at around 70 % of the maximum rated wattage output. It is keeping the batteries topped up nicely against our estimated power consumption budget.

Update for Tom and Jan :-  The panels are rated at a nominal 240 watts and are of the 12 volt variety. I am using a MPPS charge controller. The highest current measured so far has been 15 amps with a battery terminal voltage of around 14.3 volts. That's around 210 watts. The panels were tilted and aligned directly at the sun for best effect. With the panels laid flat on the roof without tilting the panels towards the sun. The charge is at a variable rate depending on the suns direction. It seems to peak between 7 and 10 amps. That's 90 to 130 watts at the 12.91 volts mark which indicates at 97.3% of capacity as the state of charge on the BMV501 battery monitor. There is some cyclic variation in the output even on a clear day. I think this may be due to the MPPS controller or it could be due to boat movement. I have now mounted the panels 4" clear of the roof to aid cooling, I am hoping that this will improve the efficiency a little bit more.


Monday 26 March 2012

Sad day!

We decided to go out with the boat for a short cruise along the Tinsley canal today, in the company of a couple of friends and an old work colleague. However, the day was to become a bit down beat when we found out about the death of another ex-working colleague and friend. Andy McEwan worked in the same department as myself and Mags at Sheffield Hallam University.

Andy was a well respected member of staff within ACES (Arts Computing Engineering and Science). He will be missed by many amongst both the staff and student body. With an outgoing personality and a reputation for his skills with any number of languages. A real measure of his character was his Mohican hair cut - which he sported for red nose day. Andy was a larger than life and one of the best people I ever met.

It's not a day for writing any more.

RIP Andy.

Mick n Mags.

Unintended Consequences

Insurance companies are not philanthropic by nature. Whenever a claim is made against a policy, the company will evaluate the claim against the policy wording. Most people buy insurance based on costs or perceived cover not on the detail of the policy. The policy documentation is usually not provided until the policy has actually been purchased.

Insurance is a requirement by BW for each and every boat. However, there are changes made in policy details from time-to-time which rule out certain criteria. For instance, our boat insurance only covers us for a river passage made in one journey. (My understanding of this is that as a consequence, we cannot moor overnight on a river) Recently the wording of some insurance polices has potentially excluded anyone driving "under the influence" of alcohol or drugs. Few people would disagree that anyone who is found to be over the drink-drive limit (and driving) should not be able to make a claim against their insurer for damage to their vehicle or themselves.

My concern is that people who have taken prescription drugs could now be caught out. Could someone be taking medication which could then invalidate their insurance. Under the "influence of drugs" is such a catch-all statement! The fact that a doctor has issued a prescription could possibly be sufficient evidence of drug use. Does driving mean only the person at the tiller or would it apply to anyone on the end of a mooring rope for instance who may be taking prescription drugs?

The Road Traffic Act states insurers still have to pay out for third party claims, even if an insurer tried to exclude themselves from providing cover on the grounds of that the driver was under the influence of drink or drugs. This is to deter such actions by insurers. The road traffic act however could also apply to boats but only in certain cases.
It is an offence for a person to be in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place while unfit through drink or drugs. Road Traffic Act 1998 s.5(1)(6) You could also get a £5000 fine and 10 Penalty Points on your driving licence. As well as a 36 month driving ban! I remember a few years ago a pedal cyclist had points added to their driving licence for speeding.

Lets suppose you were on holiday and after a days boating you moor up and settle down for a meal and the odd glass of beer or wine. Something that we as boaters do all the time. Could we be invalidating our insurance. We are after all technically still "in charge" of the boat in a public place. (It is currently illegal to be drunk in charge of any vessel on British Waterways so yes prosecution would be possible) We would never dream of drinking of an evening and sleeping in our car. Yet this is what we do of an evening when out in our boat. Many of us also take various prescription medication - as age catches up with us.

The British Insurance Brokers' Association, says members have also noticed the changes and are worried about their possible implications: "These exclusions have been creeping into some insurers' policy wordings, to deter drink-driving. It could have some unintended consequences. Could someone be taking medication which could then invalidate their insurance?"

The Association of Chief Police Officers said that its interpretation of "being under the influence" means being over the legal limit. Whilst there are limits for alcohol - the rules on impairment by the use of drugs is different. It is down to the impairment test administered and the subjective view of a Police officer.

So before you call out the local police to that rowdy set of boaters moored next door to you - Be aware of the law of Unintended Consequences and how it might just apply to you! When there is an incident reported the police, they tend to breathalyse everyone. If your aboard your boat you're technically in charge! Unless you have a designated driver who is stone cold sober and you can't claim its the dog!

There is no legal definition for the term "in charge" so each case will depend on its exact circumstances and facts. Generally, a Defendant is "in charge" if he was the owner/in possession of the vehicle or had recently driven it. He is not in charge if it is being driven by another person or is "a great distance" from the vehicle.

Matters are more complicated where a person is sitting in the vehicle or "otherwise involved with it". In charge can include attempting to gain entry to the vehicle and failing, having keys to the vehicle, having intention to take control of the vehicle or even "being near the vehicle".


Sunday 25 March 2012

The first barbecue of the season.

The first boater barbecue of the season took place last night. Plenty of good food a few drinks and a good time was had by everyone. The weather during the day helped everyone to work up a good appetite and thirst. The fire basket and a few logs had us all sat around until quite late!! It was so go that we have decided to do it again today.

The first of the marina "Litter Picking" days started this morning. We went out with BW's "Nayburn" where we half filled the hold with junk out of the canal and off the towpath. TV's, and a mattress along with hundreds of plastic bottles, and bags.  We were soon to work up another good appetite and thirst. Which was sated with "Pie and Pea's" with a big dollop of mint sauce and a cup of tea certainly helped.

Bathed the dogs and gave their coats a trim. A few logs collected for the fire basket this evening. Formula one highlights this afternoon followed by today's football highlights later this evening mean its going to be another good barbecue day.



38 Degrees is now a million strong.

I joined 38 Degrees because it brings together people to take action on the issues that matter. To bring about real change in the UK. When we act together we are powerful. You get involved easily in the issues that you care about. After more than thirty years of being a member of a political party. I decided to give it up and become non-political because of the lack of principals and avarice in both houses of parliament. No single party held the balance of my views. The border between parties are so blurred that I don't feel there is a real choice any more.

I think that pressure groups like 38 degrees can become a real force for change. Whilst not an alternative to the political party system. Yet at the same time provide a safety net against the excesses and corruption of the party in government. In a recent poll 38 degrees members voted to start or continue to campaign on the following issues. One of those issues is executive pay which would look at correcting the self imposed pay deals for people like the Board of British Waterways.

The top ten priorities, in order of the number of votes they received is:
  • NHS: Continue the campaign to protect the NHS
  • Tax Dodging: Demand a real clamp down on tax dodging
  • Lobbying: Continue to demand a real ban on secret lobbying
  • Bankers Bonuses: Stop excessive bankers bonuses
  • Executive pay: Stop excessive levels of pay for top executives
  • Protecting our forests: Continue speaking up for our forests and oppose any future sell off
  • Electricity and gas bills: Stop rip off gas and electricity bills
  • Privatising the police: Campaign against plans to privatise key bits of the police
  • E-petitions: Campaign to tighten up the rules on government e-petitions
  • 50p Tax: Campaign to keep the 50p tax rate

Another role for such pressure groups is to organise collectives on issues like the cost of power.  The 38 Degrees Big Switch Campaign is a new way for those who sign up to take the power to set prices back from big gas and electricity companies. We’ll bargain as a group with gas and electricity companies to persuade them to give us the lowest price. With almost 200,000 people signed up the Big Switch is gathering momentum.


    Friday 23 March 2012

    Sour Grapes

    Every day someone gets stuffed by a manager. Today's story is about a bus driver working for National Express. Michael Shephard was given the sack by his boss after he was seen popping a grape into his mouth on CCTV. Mr Shepard from Coventry was in his cab at the time but he says he was not driving. Mr Shephard, has been driving buses for National Express for more than five years and was suspended after the incident on the bus.

    Mr Shephard said: "I don't eat or drink while I am driving but I was just sat stationary at the bus terminus in Bedworth for a few minutes and took a grape to wet my mouth a bit. I had a heart by-pass 12 months ago and the medication dries your mouth so I just take a sip of water or a grape sometimes when I'm sat at the station or terminus. I had already eaten my lunch so there was only a few grapes left in my lunchbox. And rather than getting off the bus to eat the grape I just stayed sitting in the cabin. I explained why I needed to have a sip of water or a grape every hour or so but they said it is still against the rules."

    Mr Shephard said "he was still eating the grape as he drove off from the terminus and may have scratched his nose or put his hand to his mouth to suggest he had put another grape in his mouth. I don't remember my every movement on that day but I might have scratched my face or something while my mouth was still moving. There were no passengers on my bus and nobody saw me so I don't understand the problem."

    A spokesman for National Express said: "The driver in question hasn't exhausted the disciplinary process that we have as a company and as a result we cannot make any public comment. However we do hold ourselves to high levels of safety and customer care standards."

    Call me old and cynical but the care standards of National Express fall short of where they should be when it comes to their staff.

    Following on the trend for a few old biddys to get their kit off for charity. Marks & Spencer get in on the act. A saucy charity calendar featuring scantily-clad Marks & Spencer employees has been sold under the counter after staff said they were told not to sell it in store. The saucy calendar shows staff modelling high quality Primark underwear.

    In January two heavyweight buxom babes are pictured hiding behind newspapers (broadsheets) while March sees cafe staff covering their curves with several freshly baked Large Peshwari Naan Bread. The calendar is raising money and eyebrows for North Devon District Hospital's Chemotherapy appeal.
    Maj Gussett-Smalls (Retired) spokesperson for  Marks & Sparks chiefs denied the calendar has been on sale to the general public. Insisting it was only available to his friends and YouTube patrons.


    Spurious Question

    I am not sure why, but I have been asked by email the following question. "What are your favourite, and least favourite, television shows.  My husband laughs at the shows I watch and I think he spends way too much time watching sport."

    Now unless I am being confused for an Agony Aunt or as would be in my case an Agony Uncle. Or more accurate Agony Grandad! Maybe someone has just pressed the wrong button in or on the inter-web. I'm not at all sure why I should be asked - but I will bite the bullet and try and give my best advice. 

    I am not sure that it is possible to be watching too much sport. However this is a perception you have in common with the majority of wives and girl friends. For men its the same with women who watch soaps operas. The ladies think and feel that sport plays to much of an important part in their partners lives. The partners feel exactly the same about the girls and their obsessive fanaticism in a make believe program.

    OK Mrs, my favourite genre of television program is nature based. For me its programs like Spring watch and Autumn watch. But I also have a thing about anything with David Attenborough involved. I also like most sports, including Formula one, Football and my team - Manchester United. Being a biker I also like to watch Moto-GP.

    My least favourite programmes are Darts, Soaps and Alternative Comedy. Working on the assumption that the alternative to comedy is non comedy. Most of the alternative comedy shows have lived up to my expectation. Darts is like washing your feet and leaving your shoes socks on. My personal hate is any of the television soaps. How can I put this in a delicate way.... Soap's are after all, just brain numbing fodder for the unthinking masses.

    Where is Joan Bakewell when you need her!

    I hope that answers your question. It has certainly made me question why you asked!


    Thursday 22 March 2012

    Leeds & Liverpool Canal Restrictions.

    As we plan our summer cruise, I have started to put together a list of the areas where we will have to take extra care if we are to avoid staying overnight in bandit country. Being aware of opening and closing times of the locks is one essential. However, when passing over the LL last year we came across several locks that had closed early - in one case by over two hours. This after assurances given over the phone from BW at Ferns Wharf in Leeds that the lock would be open. With me assuring the person on the phone that we are "at the lock" and "the gates are chained shut" and still being assured again and again that the lock was open. We had to reverse back over a mile to get to a "Safer Mooring Spot" for the night.

    Leeds & Liverpool Canal.

    Field Lock.

    Monday 12 March 2012 - Wednesday 31 October 2012
    Summer Opening Hours.

    First passage commences at     08.15 am
    Last passage commences at     16.00 pm

    Bank/School Holiday.

    First passage  commences          08.15 am
    Last  passage commences          18.00 pm.

    Bank Holidays and local school Holidays.

    Easter Holidays      2nd April to 15th April.
    Bank  Holiday        5th  May to 7th May.
    Queens Jubilee       4th June to 10th June.
    Summer holidays   21st July to 2nd September.

    After the last passage time, Field lock will be locked up until the following morning.

    Enquiries: 01942405700

    Newlay Top Lock to Kirkstall Lock - including Forge Lock.
    Kirkstall to Newlay Top Lock - Including Kirkstall lock
    Monday 12 March 2012 - Wednesday 31 October 2012

    Summer Opening Hours.

    First passage commences at     08.15 am
    Last passage commences at     15.00 PM

    The time restrictions have been put in place for water conservation. The last passage time will ensure you pass through all the locks between Newlay and Kirkstall lock before 16.00pm. Staff will usually be in attendance during working hours in the summer months to provide assistance.Overnight mooring is available between Office Lock and Kirkstall Lock and also Rodley Visitor Moorings.

    Please Note: After 16.00 pm all locks between Newlay and Kirkstall lock Will be locked up until the following morning. Non-stop passage is advised on this section.

    Enquiries: 01942405700

    Bingley Five Rise and Bingley Three Rise
    Monday 12 March 2012 - Wednesday 31 October 2012

    Summer opening times

    First passage commences at     08.15 am
    Last passage commences at     16.00 pm

    Bank / School Holidays
    First Passage commences at     08.15 am
    Last passage commences at     18.00 pm

    Bank holidays and local school holidays

    Easter Holidays      2nd April to 15th April
    Bank Holiday     5th May to 7th May
    Queens Jubilee    4th June to 10th June
    Summer Holidays     21st July to 2nd September

    After the last passage time, Bingley Five Rise and Bingley Three Rise
    Will be locked up until the following morning

    Enquiries: 01942405700


    Wednesday 21 March 2012


     House of Commons
    Oral Evidence
    Taken Before the
    Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

    The Draft British Waterways Board (Transfer of Functions) Order 2012
    The Draft Inland Waterways Advisory Council (Abolition) Order 2012

    Tuesday 13 March 2012

    Tony Hales, Robin Evans and John Kittmer
    Clive Henderson and Howard Pridding

    Evidence heard in Public

    Questions 1 - 122


    £100,000 how to wash your hands video!

    The board of British Waterways comes in for some well justified criticism from time to time about their various financial cock-ups. Its a hard earned accolade that has been bestowed upon the incumbent screw-ups of Ivory Towers. However, BWB are not alone and there are several others hot on their heels who can run them in a close second place.

    FFFF Award
    You need to be very special in the realm of cock-ups to be able to make a challenge against British Waterways. After all its what they do best. Loss making ventures like Pubs have earned the BW top management a nomination in the "Flying Fickle Finger of Fate" award. (Gold Standard)

    Like "Call me Dave" Cameron and his Farcical, Fraught, Feeble and Fatuous attempt at a "trendy" YouTube video. (Silver Standard)

    West Sussex County Council  has been criticised after spending £100,000 pounds making videos on subjects such as 'how to wash your hands' and 'how to make a phone call.' 

    The videos uploaded on to YouTube also advise local people on how to read maps and the essential user guide to using a compass. Another movie features Buckingham Palace-style Christmas greeting (the Council and I)  from its  Tory Council Leaders.

    Recently the council revealed it has spent just over £100,000 pounds making YouTube videos since setting up the film unit five years ago.The figure has against all expectations angered residents who have seen big cuts in other services, like day care for the elderly, bus routes and library opening hours. The cash-strapped local authority is seeking to make £79,000,000 pounds worth of savings on its 1bn pounds a year budget over the next three years.

    Lib Dem Councillor James Walsh claimed only a few hundred people out of the county's 750,000 population had bothered looking at the video's. He said: "That doesn't seem like good value to me. It's a kick in the teeth for all those elderly and younger adults who have had their care packages reduced or stopped, in the name of saving cash for the county. Can the Tory leadership really believe that a YouTube film unit is a higher priority than providing care packages for the frail elderly or residents with a learning disability? This luxury enterprise seems yet another step too far, and demonstrating how far the Tory county council is divorced from reality."

    In the film titled 'How To Use a Mobile Phone' the presenter explains: "I have my phone firmly in my right hand and then select the digit of choice, in my case the left index finger. Place your finger on the button - don't come at it from a distance." Another essential video for tax payers, called How To Wash Your Hands Effectively, tells viewers to "wet your hands before you apply the soap" and "work up a lather and dry with a clean hand towel."

    Some of the other eyecatching videos on the councils YouTube Channel have had as many as 350 hits in 5 years. The council admits it spent £40,000 pounds on a the camera and editing equipment. The film unit's annual running costs are £26,000 pounds, which includes a part-time person who films, edits and maintains the equipment. The part time person, also cleans the council leaders bespoke toilet and makes the tea, But only after watching the how to wash your hands video.

    Digging a deeper hole in their ozone like credibility. Council leader Louise Goldsmith said: "The Conservative run county council realises how important it is to keep residents informed particularly at a time when it is faced with the challenge of finding 79m pounds. The YouTube film clips are a good way of keeping our residents informed in all sorts of important areas, such as Age with Confidence. Pictures are worth a thousand words, and the council has always been firmly committed to finding new ways of reaching out to, and communicating with, the residents we serve."

    The movies were dismissed by the Taxpayers' Alliance, which said "No-one wanted to watch the films. Some councils either have more money and time than they know what to do with, or have a misguided understanding of what their job involves. Publicity and communications has long been an area where some councils simply don't seem to understand what is a good idea and what isn't. More worryingly, some of them don't seem either able or willing to learn from their mistakes and stop pursuing poor ideas when they have clearly failed."

    Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award - Called the Rigid Digit, the Winged Weenie, Wonderful Wiggler, Friendly Phalange or the Nifty Knuckle, was presented for the dumbest or craziest news item of the week. Available in Gold, Silver or Bronze, the award is a "hand" mounted on a trophy base. Its index finger adorned with two small wings.



    Tuesday 20 March 2012

    Neighbourhood Watch

    I have said many times that its a funny old world that we live in.

    Neighbourhood Watch is a case in question. The nanny state runs unchecked by sensible perspectives. Now, we are all corralled inside our metaphorical "walled castle" The issue is are we keeping ourselves walled in or other people excluded out.

    The concept of banding together and lending mutual support to each other is a welcome one. However, sometimes this can be taken to far and becomes counter productive. Neighbourhood watch, is a lovely concept, that can be very positive in creating a sense of sharing with others.

    Like all things in this world, unreal expectations lead to over kill and unfounded fears. Neighbourhood Watch in the wrong hands can have the same outcome. If you have the wrong people organising the locals and it eventually leads to a siege mentality. Everyone being warned to be extra careful about half baked threats.

    Its like the parable of Elephants and Salt. The village idiot is walking around scattering grains of salt everywhere. When asked why he is doing it, the idiot says "its to keep the wild Elephants away." When its pointed pout that we don't have wild Elephants in England. The idiot replies - its good stuff, is salt.

    What defines the typical Neighbourhood Watch fear merchant. Usually someone pretending to protect you from non existent or highly unlikely threat. All conjured up in the fear merchants own mind. But Neighbourhood Watch led fear, can lead to vigilantes mounting guard over an irrational expectation. Taking it in turns to spend the wee hours of the morning looking out half expecting to see their street fill up with pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers and gun runners at the stroke of midnight.

    Now we have car alarms, house alarms, automated flood lights, security television, movement detectors. All monitoring an almost empty street. As new technology is supposed to solve real problems. But it just enabled us to download digitised photographs of Jack and Jill from across the road in a coprophilic "ménage à trois" with Bill from next door.

    Neighbourhood Watch and CCTV seem to go hand in glove. The CCTV is like a burglar alarm giving a false sense of security. That is until the someone comes along and steals the camera! 

    But it gets worse with the fledgling "Global Neighbourhood Watch." The UK is eight hours behind Australia, which, in turn, is eight hours behind the USA. So when it's prime crime time in any of those places, it's late morning or early evening in the others. People are wide awake and if they are Wired types, they are also near their computers. The plan is to find neighbourhoods in the UK, USA and Australia that also have nocturnal monitoring systems that are also inhabited by computer users. They'll set up cameras in their garden and patch them into the Net.

    Everyone gets watched over by everyone else. A community formed from a load of computer nerds with a repressed voyeuristic tendency. In our modern society, we now have more in common with fellow homeowners on the other side of the planet than we do with Fred living next door.

    Now, my marina has a "Neighbourhood Watch" scheme. The members of which seem to be totally fixated on locking the marina gate. The majority who come and go in the marina seem to be fixated on leaving the gate open. Its a slapstick pantomime, a bit like "The Last of the Summer Wine" meets "Ello Ello" but on steroids!

    But the marina Neighbourhood Watch gate keepers are a tenacious lot. Always out to lock the gate against the marauding hoards. - Who can if they wish - walk into the marina at any time day or night - irrespective of whether the gate is open or closed - by the simple act of walking over the lock gates! 


    Monday 19 March 2012

    Maureen, of Wardle Lock Cottage.

    Maureen passed away on Saturday evening at Leighton Hospital near Crewe. Maureen was a very well known character who used to live at Wardle Lock Cottage on the Middlewich Branch.

    John Watson of Nb Tam Lin wrote on CutWeb:  "Many boaters will have encountered Maureen as they passed through Wardle Lock, she had something of a reputation of speaking her mind if you made a mistake :-) but this was just her way and she helped and advised many an inexperienced boater and always had time for those who were prepared to listen. Maureen was part of the Jinks boating family, she worked on the boats for many years firstly with her family and later with Jack her husband on their own boats. We had a passing acquaintance with Maureen for a long time but since coming to live in Middlewich we got to know her well. She was a kind and generous person with a fund of stories about her life on the boats and she will be sadly missed by many."

    RIP  Maureen.


    A suitable candidate for CaRT Trustee

    I have discovered a job seekers video for a young American man who could make an ideal CaRT trustee. With all the necessary background expertise and work ethic experience. This young man demonstrates a customer service focus to his job skills. Finding the best candidates for managing CaRT is not easy. As can be seen from the recent "independent -v- IWA" elections to the CaRT Council.

    Click Here to View.


    Sunday 18 March 2012

    DNA testing for Dogs!

    I'm a dog owner and like any responsible dog owner, I clear up behind them. When dealing with errant dog owners it is essential to get everything in perspective and proportional. So it should come as no surprise that the biggest pile of poo that I have come across is:-  by Hyndburn Borough Council "Dog mess could be subjected to DNA testing to identify the pets and owners responsible."

    Now I know that pets have a poo on the footpath. But DNA testing dogs and their owners to create a DNA database is going a bit far.

    Hyndburn borough council has a history of stupid actions towards dog owners. It might be said that the borough council is a bit rabid about dogs and their owners. Hyndburn borough council are in discussions with forensic vet over plans to analyse dog dirt found on pavements and in parks. The scheme is seen as an option to help tackle the growing problem of dog fouling. Ken Moss, the idiot councillor who proposed the scheme, said talks about DNA testing are at an “early stage”. If it goes ahead, it would be the first scheme of its kind in the country.

    Ken, it could also be the only such idiotic scheme ever in the country as well! You must have something special for brains Ken.

    Hyndburn borough council  is the same one who came up with using night vision goggles in dog fouling crackdown. Councillor Moss, who is chairman of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee, said: “I am led to believe there are only two of these vets in Britain and they work by analysing the samples and identifying the dog by DNA. It’s something that has been used in tourism hot spots on the Continent and is something they are looking to get a foot hold of here in England."

    Somehow I think Councillor Ken may well have put his foot in it again!
     He added that he did not know what the project would cost. “It would probably rely on some database,” he said. “It might be that it’s unrealistic and cost too much or rely too much on voluntary information from the public.” He said: “It is possible to identify dogs from a faeces sample, but you need to have a database with all the dogs in the area to identify a particular dog.” He added that there were legal issues to be taken into account. “If somebody has seen a dog fouling and wants to report a particular dog, you would need to take a sample and that would require the owner’s consent. I am not aware of any legal framework that would allow this to happen.”
    No shit Sherlock!

    But Hyndburn Borough Council is a beginner in addressing the issue of fighting deposits of dog poo. Hastings Borough Council issued car stickers, most of which started with Oi!, and include the phrases "Have you got shit for brains?", "We're not taking your shit any more!" and "Sort your shit out!".

    The campaign was launched by Hastings Borough Council as part of a get tough policy against dog fouling, litter and fly-tipping.

    Now ask yourself, which of these two options is in perspective and proportional?


    Saturday 17 March 2012

    When is a door not a door.

    Do you remember the old trick questions that children asked each other, such as "What's Black and White yet Red all over?"  (Read = Red) or "When is a door not a door" (ajar = a jar).

    So let me ask you a question, When is a Charity not a Charity?

    When its a limited company?
    When its not registered at the charity commission?
    When it has directors and not trustees?

    Looks like CaRT has started to put to good use the old smoke and mirrors tricks as practised by British Waterways. Now, would you put your hand in your pocket and give a charitable donation to a limited company - especially one with a well known piss poor board of management who are on large remunerations and bonuses? You know - the same ones who say I shall not be taking my bonus - but then go on and do so. The ones who have failed the freedom of information requests and now look highly likely to be taken to task by the FOI commissioner.

    I have written to my MP and asked him to look into the whole matter.

    Watch this space.


    British Waterways survey of boat owners.

    From time to time British Waterways conducts a survey of boat owners. This year we were included in the random sample. Intended to gauge customer satisfaction and to gather boat owners thoughts on a number of aspects of boating life. The feedback is supposed to influences spending priorities. Unfortunately there is no question in the survey about payment of staff bonuses. (YES / NO)

    Now, surveys can be used to pre-determine the survey outcome. It all comes down to is how the questions are constructed. And whether you trust British Waterways to use the feedback honestly.

    Let me give you a an idea. lets suppose British Waterways want to build even more off-line Marinas in a given location.

    Then the question might be constructed:-

    What are the important "must-haves at a mooring site." Tick all the boxes that apply.

    Mooring Rings.
    Mooring Bollards.
    Mooring Pontoon.
    Water Point.
    Elsan Disposal.
    Pump Out Service.
    Electrical Supply Bollards.
    Shower Blocks.
    Toilet Block.
    Rubbish Disposal Point.
    Secure Parking.

    Now any boater would want all of the above items at any mooring and would tick all the boxes.

    The question says "Mooring Site" and makes no mention of a Marina. So you might think this applies to all mooring sites. Now stand back for a moment, where is the only location that these sort of services can be provided - IN A MARINA. Marinas are the cash cows for BW, They can also be used to remove on line mooring areas. Which may not be what you have in mind for your favourite bit of canal. The one thing that marinas do however bring about, is localised congestion if the number of available berths is large. Can you hear Nero fiddling?

    British Waterways then says:- The result of our survey 2012 suggest that boaters want all the services - which can only be supplied by a marina facility located at Twonks Wharf on the Twaddle cut. Simples!

    The supporting email suggests that :- "Findings are completely anonymous and can never be traced back to individuals." However, in my case they ask enough questions in the questionnaire to narrow it down enough to have a very good idea. So I used a bit of slight of hand and massage some of the responses given to point to a nearby location.

    The information says "We’re sending out emails to a random sample of boaters. Each one contains a link to the on line survey that can only be used once and only from that email address." This is not true as the email address that British Waterways have for me (which is automatically forwarded to my real address) works perfectly fine. Whether you can use the provided link more than once I don't know.

    One of the questions responses asks if you would join CaRT as a subscriber. A curious question this one - as the Trustees have already stated that they don't want a CaRT membership. When you feel the need to question the motives for the survey - you have to ask yourself - is it in my best interests!

    While I'm in the mood for dispelling myths - have a read at this.

    Paddy day!

    My grandfather was born in Ireland. Known as a hard working and hard drinking individual who was not to be messed with. Yet he was also very supportive to his close family and friends. He was however blessed with the logic of the Irish. Comments such as "I wish I knew the place where I will die, because I'd never go near the place."

    So I shall bring a similar story for Paddys day.

    Patrick Murphy had studied all the facts very carefully, he was planning a holiday where he would travel on an aircraft.  Paddy came up with the following conclusions. The odds against being on a plane which had a bomb on board were 10,000 to 1. However, the odds against being on a plane which had two bombs on board were 10,000,000 to 1. What is obvious from the data I can inprove the odds on a safe flight he said. 'So from now on, every time I fly I'm taking a bomb with me!'

    Happy Paddy's day.


    Save the NHS

    Dear friend.

    Have a look at this:

    I’ve just signed a petition to Save the NHS. Right now the government is rushing through plans which experts, and groups representing doctors and nurses, warn could break the NHS up and hand control to private health companies.

    On Monday afternoon, the House of Lords starts its final votes on the NHS changes. An influential crossbench Lord, Lord David Owen, has agreed to deliver the Save Our NHS petition. It will be carried right into the debating chamber, just before the debate starts.

    Our petition will remind Lords that the public care about these risks to the future of our health service. It could persuade some wavering Lords to vote the right way. Please can you take a second to sign the petition here?


    Friday 16 March 2012

    Being of a certain age.

    I paid a visit to Homebase to get a few items for the boat. On the way out, I noticed that they have a "Charity Book Shelf" where you can choose a book and pay a small charitable donation. Whilst looking round I spotted a pile of CD's. Including the CD version of Carole Kings "Tapestry" album. As a young man, I had owned the original LP which I played so much that it eventually wore out. So as I am paying for the items and the CD, I mentioned having the original on a vinyl LP. The young lady asked if that was the same as the 45's her dad was always talking about. It makes you think!

    This set me to thinking - not only do I remember 45's but I also remember 78's. My parents had a few classical single sided 78's. Then I suddenly realised that I am at that "perfect age." An age when everything has to be, just so. I realise that I am old enough to know better about almost everything but I'm still young enough not to care.

    So I started to muse, I remember going out to various coffee bars especially the ones with a juke box. I don't know why, but Dell Shannon and "Runaway" was always playing whenever I went in. There were about four that we would visit in turn. A cup of coffee slowly consumed (whilst trying to look cool in jeans) in each one. Before a blast off on the motorbike to the next venue. Unless of course you pulled. At which point your biker mates would be summarily abandoned and you and the young lady of choice would go off and do your own thing.

    If you were a bit flush for cash it would be an evening spent in the back row of the flicks.  Trying to find out if nylons came in two pieces. When all good girls wore high heels. The Pathe Newsreels complete with a crowing clock, always came on before the movie. At a much earlier part of my youth, a visit to the "Bug Hut" AKA the "Flicks" always involved a peashooter and a bag of dried peas. Well you had to make your own entertainment in those days. 

    Before then, all significant decisions were made by going "eeny-meeny-miney-mo". Being old referred to anyone who had left school. It was magic when dad would "remove" his thumb. Any small injury such as a scratch were kissed better. Spinning around and getting dizzy, then falling down was good fun. Older siblings were the worst tormentors, in the world. Blackjacks and fruit salads, hide and seek, hopscotch, butterscotch. Climbing trees, making farts, cops and robbers, cowboys and indians, and house doors were never locked!  Laurel and Hardy, The Lone Ranger and Tonto, Roy Rogers and Trigger.


    Thursday 15 March 2012

    A leap of faith.

    Whilst working away doing upgrades and repairs on the boat I have been thinking again. Bad news I know -  But I can't help myself. I might need to join the TA (Thinkers Anonymous). I can just see myself, "Hello my names Michael and I'm a thinker." But I digress!

    So what's rattling my chain on this wonderful spring morning! "British Waterways Moorings"

    Some of us boaters have a BW mooring for which we pay a fee each year. Some of us are located upon residential and some of us are located upon leisure moorings. My idea does not differentiate between both types of mooring. Depending upon our personal circumstances, our boat may spend very little or a considerable amount of time away from our mooring - particularly during the cruising season.

    Our BW mooring has showers, toilets, elsan disposal, rubbish disposal, electricity, water, secure car parking and even your own private telephone services, a storage unit and a solid fuel bunker are also available. There is a nearby BW pump out facility and also a chandler.

    However, other BW moorings may have some or non of these.facilities available. Again I don't intend to differentiate between the different types of mooring available.

    My idea depending on the individual boaters good will and their cruising habits. A previous mooring neighbour was opposed to anyone using their mooring when they were away cruising. The reason for their preference was that other BW moorings that were empty were not available for them to use.

    My idea springs from my individual choice of how my BW mooring is used in my absence when we are out and about on our boat. So what would I see is a workable alternative to moorings being left empty when they could be used by passing boaters for an over night or short term stay.

    First of all, the change in use should not present any difficulty or additional workload to BW. So it has to be done by personal choice. Further more it should not present a difficulty of any kind to my BW mooring neighbours.

    So my idea is based around the following Basic-Rules.

    To qualify you must hold a BW mooring licence.
    The period of use should not be longer than seven days.
    You should leave the mooring in the same condition or better than the condition in which you found it.
    You should not cause any disturbance to other people within the area.
    Considerate Boater Link

    It will require your mooring to be identified in some way if you wish to participate. Maybe with a small sign attached to the bank side. Maybe you could print off and laminate a copy of the Considerate Boater Logo!

    Have a look at the Considerate Boater web site. I was quite sceptical in the past that the ethos of Considerate Boating would work. But it does seem to be quite popular and I have seen CB stickers on several boats.

    I don't intend to complicate the matter in any way by levying a fee or pre booking. It has to be a simple open ended agreement. However, if I was using someones mooring with an electrical point I would top up their meter with a card, or leave a note of thanks with a neighbour.

    OK, that's it - a basic idea which I am throwing open for constructive comment. I know that some people feel possessive about their patch of water. I know some people will want to use the facility without reciprocating in any way. It is important that as a process it is not required to be policed in any way.


    Wednesday 14 March 2012

    Workload or load of work.

    A visit to the airport this morning with the Memsahib and some of her cronies. They are about to fly to Benidorm for a week of filming fun and frolics in the sun. However, there is a more serious side.


    The Memsahib is acting as a body doubling for Madge. She has done her CBT on the Mobility Scooter and so she is ready to take on the challenge..

    I have been busy, the boat has been fitted out with a 33' long roof rack and the problem we were having with the chimney has been fixed. The solar panels have been mounted and the LED lights have been fitted with their own constant voltage regulator. I am looking at a reduction in the list of jobs which is almost a barometer of when we will set off on our next cruise. The other main problem is - you set out to fix an item on the list, only to discover another problem that needs to be fixed!
    The Current Job List:-

    1. Sterilise the water system throughout the boat before draining down.
    2. Fix problem with pump out tank level indicator. (waiting for replacement part)
    3. Check the antifreeze level in the central heating system.
    4. Checking the antifreeze level in the engine coolant.
    5. Engine oil change and oil filter change.
    6. Visual check of all engine belts.
    7. Dose the fuel tank with diesel bug treatment.
    8. Check the roof joint on the stove pipe and reseal.
    9. Fill up the diesel tank.
    10. Rust spot eradication on roof.
    11. Cure small leak round saloon window.
    12. Battery bank replacement.
    13. Insulating the windows for the winter.
    14. Front cratch cover fitted.
    15. Rear cover fitted.
    16. Gas bottle replaced.
    17. Update lighting to LED
    18. Repair to pram cover.
    19. Fitting the washing machine.
    20. Modify the saloon table.
    21. Additional shelf space. (Started)
    22. New boat pole. (parts ordered)
    23. Rope replacements. (parts ordered)
    24. Side fender replacements.
    25. Button fender shackle replacements.
    26. Modify the top box height.
    27. Install and test new diesel generator. (delayed to see how well solar panels work)
    28. Install and test new solar panels.
    29. Prepare paintwork for re-painting. (delayed to spring 2013)
    30. Install self pump out pump. (parts ordered)
    31. Replace floor covering in bedroom.
    32. Re-varnish saloon.
    33. Fit finishing strips to saloon area.
    34. Black the hull.
    35. Replace water pump.
    36. Pump out the toilet system and drain down for the winter.
    37. Install Villager Puffin back boiler. (delayed to spring 2013)
    38. Fit 12v regulator into lighting circuit, to hold at 12v for LED lights.
    39. Fit MPPS regulator for solar panels.
    40. Fit tray to boat roof, for holding items.
    41. Make and fit new curtains.
    42. Fit new carpet in saloon and kitchen area.
    43. Make angle brackets for mounting solar panels.
    44. Replace stove door seals. (parts ordered)
    45. Test run ALDI central heating system.
    46. Repair to back door panel.
    47. Repair lock on boat outer doors.
    48. Fit internal lock on inner doors.
    49. Fit new lock to side hatch.
    50. New stove chimney.
    51. Install satellite TV system.
    52. Build and install new roof hand rails.
    53. Build and install new cratch "A" frame.



    Tuesday 13 March 2012

    More CaRT crap hits the fan.

    Its a funny old world we live in.

    Its often the case that we tend to evolve in social circles based around age groups. The old fuddy duddy or poison pensioner is now seen as a drain on the state. Bankers screw up the system and the public bails them out with our billions. Pensions that need a few billion to boost them - its no way Jose.

    The armed forces are under staffed, under resourced and at the same time, expected to police the world. Billions for bankers is taken away from the already strapped for cash and equipment armed forces budgets. Bankers fritter away our money and the NHS is having to make cuts and to undergo a reshuffle of priorities. Bankers bonuses are an embarrassment to us but seemingly not to the bankers themselves.

    Our canals are mismanaged for years, money is spent on "pub and housing" projects that turn sour. The family jewels are sold to bolster failing business acumen. Now when we had a chance to put in place people with ideas. Hopefully bringing a breath of fresh air and a whole new perspective. It's more of the same old "same old" only this time under a new name.

    The CaRT council should be a peopled by independent thinkers who have a vested interest. People who can challenge without fear or favour the old working practises. Independent of any strictures forced upon them by other organisations. The IWA should be challenging and questioning not having a little cosy up.

    Once again the scene is set for a few more episodes of the comic opera that has beset the Inland Waterways. Conspiracy theories of deals being done in dark corners. But then its a business - for that is what CaRT is a Limited Company.  A company that openly wants to avoid the Freedom of Information legislation. What could CaRT/BW/The Secretary of State of DEFRA  have to hide?

    Companies House records reveal that the "Canal and River Trust" which was incorporated on the 12th October 2011 is a private limited company.  Record No. 78072760.

    The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the British Waterways Board will actually own the Canal and River Trust Limited. So a public asset is being handed over with a huge amount of money, to a private company. So if you thought that BW was a thing of the past. That the Fat Cat big bonuses and pensions were a thing of the past. Think again, this is a charter for asset stripping on a grand scale. So much for being a registered charity!

    I wonder what the IWA will do now. Will the IWA wash their hands of the "Poison Chalice" or maybe the IWA were already aware of what was afoot. Maybe there were some deals done in dark corners.

    Welcome to Inland Waterways and the World of smoke and mirrors.

    Trebles all round as they say!


    Monday 12 March 2012

    Pig in a Poke

    The long awaited Canal and River Trust election results, for independent boat owner candidates have been published. If I was to say I was disappointed it would be putting it mildly. So what exactly have we got for our votes. Well, I'm not sure there is any real level of "Independence" anymore as the IWA has in hijacking the election in my opinion devalued the result.


    Number of eligible voters:28,805
    Votes cast by post:5,029 
    Votes cast online:2,427 
    Votes cast by telephone:142

    There is a criteria missing, that's the number of votes influenced by the IWA three line whip.

    The following IWA candidates were elected

    Clive HENDERSON, IWA Chairman
    Ivor Henry CAPLAN, IWA Trustee
    Keith Vaughan WELCH, IWA Trustee
    Ann FARRELL, IWA Tea lady

    So I should imagine that the party at Ivory Towers went on late into the night. It must be good to know that the "Pig in a Poke" party line will continue. Building a new dynasty around the pay, bonus and pension trough.  Tom Rolt and Robert Aickman "fighting for every mile" and their epic battles with the fore runner to British Waterways (The much loved British Transport Commission) must now be revolving at high speed in their graves.


    Sunday 11 March 2012

    On Manoeuvres (12)

    This is one of an occasional series of stories about manoeuvring a narrow-boat on the canals and rivers. There may be other ways to achieve the same result. However, the method I employ has been devised or adapted by me using trial and error. (Trial and Error are two of my regular boating companions) Our boat is a semi-traditional in style and just over 50 feet long. Rosie has a keel depth of twenty five inches and weighs in at a tad over eighteen tons. The techniques described are intended to help new comers to boating.

    We have already had a look at working a boat through a lock. This brings me to a point where boat crews work together as a team, to work a pair of boats through one or more lock. If the boats are travelling in the same direction and passing through wide locks you might pair up to share the task. If boats are passing in opposite directions its usual for the lock crews to help each other.

    On the surface, assisting each other might seem to be a good thing. The problem is that you may not understand the working methods of the other boat when passing through a lock. So, if I am waiting to enter a lock that someone else is operating. I do not operate the gate paddles. I only assist with the manual opening and closing of the lock gates. If someone else comes along to lend me a hand I always say that I will operate the gate paddles and they might lend a hand with the heavy gates. The opening and closing of the gate paddles is crucial to our safety.

    When working as a pair with another experience boat through a wide lock. I like to have a quick word about working together. It's better if one crew do the top gates and the other crew do the bottom gates. That way the team on a pair of gates already knows the position of the paddles and any other apparatus. I like to agree which boat will leave the lock first. The first boat out of the lock picks up one half of the lock team and moves off along the cut to the next lock. The second boat out of the lock picks up the second half of the team and follows on behind.

    If the other boat is a hire boat - I assume that the crew has limited experience (not always the case) and I take extra care to keep an eye on what the other crew is doing. If they are at all unsure about what they are doing, most new comers are more than happy to be "shown the ropes." We saw the best and the worst of hire boat crews last summer on the Rochdale canal. The first crew consisted of five friends who hire a boat together every year. They were the best and slickest crew I have seen for operating locks. The Memsahib learned a trick of two from them.

    The second hire crew was busy draining down a top pound because they had the paddles open on both ends of the lock. This was their first ever lock. They were stood around looking into the lock and could not understand why the level was not changing. We soon fixed the problem for them and they decided to moor up and watch a few boats pass through the locks before continuing.

    If the other boat is not a hire boat and owned, then I expect the crew to be a bit more experienced. However, it might be that the boat has been loaned to friends for a holiday cruise. Not all owner crews are good at sharing a lock. Last summer we met the owner crew from hell coming down the Wigan flight of 23 locks. The lady who became known to us as Mrs Bucket was leading the locking crew of four for the boat in front of us. She insisted on not sharing their lock. They preferred to lock alone. However, she insisted on locking up each gate paddle even though we were stood at the side of her and waiting to enter the lock. As she explained, "It's the law you know, all gates must be locked up again after leaving the lock."

    Never argue with an idiot, they will only drag you down to their level and then easily beat you with years and years of experience.

    The Bucket boat crew eventually paused in a pound about half the way down the flight for a cup of tea and a sandwich. So we passed them into the lock ahead that they had just set. Mrs Bucket was not happy and came over to take issue with us. I explained to her that "Lock flights are not mooring zones, its the law you know." No, we did not lock the gate paddles behind us, though I was very tempted, neither did we offer to share. We were soon at the bottom of the flight as a boat coming up left all the remaining locks set for us to go straight in.