Wednesday 31 October 2012

Greenway Code for Towpaths

Our friends at CART have published a code for towpath users. A code in which the term towpath that has been in use for about 200 years has been exchanged for "greenway" as an aid to understanding. A play on clearway that carries the subliminal message to users that their is no stopping. Plus a further subliminal message associated with the 1970's children's green cross code which superseded the kerb drill. The roads are dangerous take extra care - now the towpath is dangerous to walk, so take extra care. However, few people would feel comfortable walking a greenway at night. Somehow, I felt there was something missing and I felt the need to add my own notes to aid understanding.

Greenway Code for Towpaths

1 - Share The Space

Consider other people and the local environment whenever you're on a Greenway. Remember some people may move less predictably, for example young children or those with visual or mobility impairments. (People could be easily be slipping, tripping and sliding on mud, dog shit and tripping in holes. As well as tripping on lock bollards, worn steps, cycle wheel ruts, discarded bottles and drinks cans.)

2 - Drop Your Pace

Considerate sharing of the limited towpath space is the key. Jogging and cycling are welcome, but drop your pace in good time and let people know you are approaching by ringing a bell or politely calling out before waiting to pass slowly. (Remember ringing your bell or shouting "shift" will give you right of way. Most people will be happy to leap out of your way and shout words of encouragement after each startling encounter.

3 - Pedestrians Have Priority

Towpaths are ‘Greenways’ or shared use routes where pedestrians have priority and vehicles are generally excluded. (Other than cut down motorcycles carrying several local youths enjoying a day out. Their loud exhaust noise negating any need for a bell. Remember that when travelling at high speed the speed gives automatic priority.)  

4 - Be Courteous To Others

A smile can go a long way. Abusive or threatening behaviour is not acceptable and should be reported to the Police. (However, if you have difficulty in understanding the people you encounter, you could take night classes in various eastern European languages. Learning the use of the local vernacular might also help. Look up colloquial words like ganja, spliff, crack, horse and amphet. )

5 - Follow Signs

Follow signs they are there for the safety of everyone. Cyclists should dismount where required and use common sense in busy or restricted areas, recognising that pedestrians have priority. (Most people on the towpath will now understand the universal, single and two digit signs. But there are also the spray on signs that advocate the use of various substances and it would help to have your very own tag.)

6 - Give Way To Oncoming People Beneath Bridges

Give way to oncoming people beneath bridges whether they are on foot or bike and be extra careful at bends and entrances where visibility is limited. (After you - no after you called out in the style of the chuckle brothers is often considered amusing. Remember, anyone encountered loitering under the bridge is often the agent of the local drugs baron and can supply all kinds of additional recreational materials.)

General Towpath Safety For All

7- Travelling In Groups

When travelling in large groups, especially if you are running or cycling, please use common sense and give way to others. (Travel in groups for mutual protection when carrying items from the local supermarket. It is recommended to have someone on point and someone else as acting as tail end charlie. It is now traditional when leaving the towpath to deposit the supermarket trolley into the canal.)

8 - Avoid Wearing Headphones

Try to avoid wearing headphones as this makes you less aware of your surroundings possible hazards and others sharing the same space. (Such as a thief, robber, mugger, footpads, steaming group, druggies, drunks  or  pick pockets.)  

9 - Dog Etiquette

Keep dogs on a short lead and clean-up after them. Dog fouling is very unpleasant and is a health hazard. (If you don't have or own a short lead, just let your dog run free. Remember a boisterous excitable dog with muddy feet is considered enchanting and will always made welcome.)

10 - Children Etiquette

At all times, keep children close to you and encourage them to learn and follow the Greenway Code for Towpaths. (Point out the value of returnable glass bottles that have been discarded. The scrap value of old bikes and the ever present shopping trolley. Teach them the art of spitting on passing boats and the correct technique for throwing stones.)


Tuesday 30 October 2012

Is Britain Broken?

Over the last few years since the MP's expenses scandal the public have become more and more aware of how MP's look upon their job as part of a political cash cow. The current annual salary for an MP is £65,738. 

The vast majority of people working and living in Britain would love to get a  basic  salary of £65,738. Typical comparative earnings in the uk include Office Administrator £16,328 -  Software Developer £28,989 - Operations Manager £34,031 - Graphic Designer £20,644. 

How does the current annual salary for an MP of £65,738. Which works out at  (£28.07 per hour) if the MP attends parliament every hour of every working day.  Now compare to the National Minimum Wage of £6.19 (over 21) or £4.98 (18 - 20) or £3.68 (under 18) and £2.65 (apprentice) It does not compare very well!

However, our MP's don't even have to attend parliament - they can "pair" with other MP's of other parties if they both want time off. Even when Parliament is in session. Television pictures often show an almost empty House of Commons. 

At the moment MP's could only attend parliament for 13 fridays in the current year! Parliament sat for 5 days in April and our MP's enjoyed a three week break for easter. Then our MP's had a two week break for Whitsuntide. Then they enjoyed a seven week break for the summer holidays. 

Why do our MP's need at that time off? 

Because as an MP you can have a second, third and in many cases a fourth job. Sixty-eight MPs are known to earn more than £10,000 from each of their other jobs. With at least eighteen known to be receiving more than £100,000 in additional pay. As you can see it hard for them to make ends meet and they must struggle with all the additional expense thats created. 

  • In addition, MPs receive expenses to cover the costs of travelling between Parliament and their constituency. The vast majority of people working and living in Britain would love to get their travelling expenses to and from their place of work.
  • In addition, MPs receive expenses to cover the costs of having somewhere to live in their constituency. The vast majority of people working and living in Britain would love to get their mortgage on their family home paid for by their employer.
  • In addition, a large number of MPs receive expenses to cover the costs of having somewhere to live near parliament in London. The vast majority of people working and living in Britain would love to get a little flat provided free of charge with their job.
  • In addition, MPs receive expenses to cover the costs of running an office, employing staff. The staff are also known as wife, mother, son or daughter. Often with no qualifications whatsoever for the work they get paid to do.
  • In addition, the House of Commons provides a cash sum per year for the provision of postage paid envelopes and House of Commons stationery to all MPs This sum is in addition to any costs that may be reimbursed under the IPSA expenses scheme.
  • In addition, there is a contributory final salary pension scheme for Members of the House of Commons to which MPs can contribute either 11.9%, 7.9% or 5.9% of their parliamentary salary.
  • In addition there is an MP's Resettlement Grant, because when they leave office they also get some additional payments. The Resettlement Grant is the name given to the MP's pay package, intended to help MPs with the costs of adjusting to non parliamentary life. It is payable to any Member who ceases to be an MP at a General Election. The amount is based on age and length of service, and varies between 50% and 100% of the annual salary payable to a Member of Parliament at the time of the Dissolution.
  • In addition there is Severance Pay package which is tax free. The amount retiring MPs, or those who lose their seats receive depends on how old they are and how long they have served in the House. Example. An MP who stays in office for one term and then leaves office will currently receive tax-free severance pay of 50% of his current salary, or £32,383 at current rates .
  • In addition there is a Winding-up Allowance. With up to £42,000 on offer to pay for winding up staff staff pay and office rent.
  • But thats not all. There is extra pay terms and conditions if you become a minister or junior minister. Prime Minister has a salary of £142,500. Cabinet ministers receive a salary of £134,565. Committee chairs get £80,320. The Speaker's salary is £141,504.
  • MPs do not even have to live in their constituency - there is no residency qualification at all, MPs could if they wish live outside the UK.

These are the people who we entrust with the management of the country. They often repay the trust we place in them in very unusual ways. Like flipping houses, fiddling additional money out of their already cushy expenses. 


Monday 29 October 2012

Crime Does Not Pay!

More Meldrew Moments
An Austrian court has ordered a bank robber be given back £51,000 that he stole 19 years ago. Bank manager Otto Neuman stole £150,000 in cash as well as gold bars and gold coins from his own branch in 1993. After getting into financial difficulties, he recruited two accomplices to stage a fake robbery at the Erste Bank in Vienna's Doebling district.
By the time police caught up with them, only £51,000 and the gold could be recovered. The rest of the money had gone. The gold went to the insurance company which had already paid the bank for its loss but the cash has been sitting at the Austrian Justice Ministry ever since.
Neuman's lawyer, Herbert Eichenseder, confirmed he been recently been contacted by court officials and asked to help return the stolen money to his client. The bank felt it had no claim on the money because it had been compensated in full by its insurance company. And the insurers said they didn't want it as they had not lost out either. They stolen gold had increased in value so much that it covered all of the money paid to the bank.
Mr Eichenseder said: "I really didn't believe what the court were telling me but I checked it and it was correct. I had to go into the archives in our cellar to find the details of the case as it was already 19 years old - and I managed to track down the man's details and contacted him to tell him the news.To say that he was surprised was an understatement, but he provided his bank account details and the money has now been transferred."

A West Sussex man has told how a fox stole his wife's handbag - before bringing it back to her a few minutes later. The unfortunately named Jeremy Clark of Burgess Hill, near Brighton, was preparing to go to hospital with wife, Anna when the fox pounced. He told the local Brighton Argus newspaper: "We were in the car park and he looked at me for a few seconds before letting out this feeble yelp. Next thing I knew he had my wife's handbag in his mouth and was running towards the bushes."
Mr Clark says he screamed at the fox to drop the bag but the animal scuttled off out of sight. "Anna had everything in there: her phone, money, purse, keys and letters. I couldn't believe the fox had just taken it - it was mad. I thought that was it," he added. But a few minutes later the fox crept back into the car park, with his tail between his legs, and dropped the bag at Mrs Clark's feet before running off. Mr Clark added: "I have no idea why, we couldn't believe it. We see the fox around quite a bit. I think people feed it."

Meanwhile a police force has apologised to a blind man it tasered after confusing him for a man reportedly walking around with a samurai sword. When a Lancashire Constabulary officer thought Colin Farmer matched the description of the man carrying the sword he tasered him. Then in a wonderful "No Shit Sherlock MomentThe force spokesperson said "it then became apparent that this was not the man we were looking for”.
Ch Supt Stuart Williams, Southern Divisional Commander, said the force had “clearly put him through a traumatic experience” and had launched an urgent investigation to find out why it happened. He added the incident had been referred to the IPCC. A force spokesman declined to comment on allegations Mr Farmer was tasered because the officer mistook his walking stick for the samurai sword. 
The officer should have gone to Specsavers!  Lancashire Constabulary confirmed the officer involved was suspended from carrying a Taser after the incident.
The incident happened on the evening of October 12 in Chorley, when a description of a man carrying a sword was circulated. One of the officers who arrived believed Mr Farmer was the offender. Ch Supt Williams said: “He was taken Chorley Hospital by police officers who stayed with him while he was checked over by medics. Lancashire Constabulary deeply regrets what has happened. We have clearly put this man through a traumatic experience and we are extremely sorry for that.”
Ch Supt Williams added: “We have launched an urgent investigation to understand what lessons can be learned.” The force said its officers remained in contact with Mr Farmer and his family since the incident to enquire about his recovery and will “continue to keep in touch with him and keep him informed of our inquiry”.
An IPCC spokesman said: “The IPCC can confirm it received a referral from Lancashire Constabulary on Tuesday in relation to an incident in Chorley in which a man was subject to a Taser discharge. The IPCC has decided to conduct an independent investigation into the incident.


Is Brazil nuts?

Brazil has one of the most robust and stable democracies in South America.  However, it seems that there are few if any controls on what candidates may call themselves on ballot papers. Not to be outdone the girls and boys with common or nondescript names are choosing alternatives that have a bit more cachet. 

So as the winter period exits the southern part of the world and Brazil enters its electioneering season. Amongst those running for office include one called "John F Kennedy Abreu Sousa" there is also a "Jimmi Carter Santarem Barroso" as well as "Ladi Gaga."

But it does not stop there, "Christ of Jerusalem" is making a second coming and standing.  As well as a "Macgyver." There are no less than five "Batmans" a paltry two "James Bonds." However in first place in the name change for election popularity league table are:- Sixteen people whose election name also contains "Obama." City council candidate Geraldo Custodio said "It's a form of marketing strategy" Geraldo now apparently rates his chances to be much better as he has changed his name to  "Geraldo Wolverine." 

This is proves however, that there is nothing new in the world of politics. Do you remember "Screaming Lord Sutch, 3rd Earl of Harrow." He was the founder of the wonderfully named Official Monster Raving Loony Party and served as its leader from 1983 to 1999. During which time he stood in numerous parliamentary elections. My one abiding memory of Screaming Lord Sutch was when he asked the question as to why we have only one Monopolies Commission. 

2010 election Manic-festo:

European Union: It is proposed that the European Union end its discrimination by creating a “Court of Human Lefts” because their present policy is one -sided.

Education: We will increase the number of Women teachers throughout the education System as we are strong believers of Female Intuition.

Sport: We will ban all forms of Greyhound racing. This will help stop the country going to the dogs.

War on terror: As we have not found any taliban terrorists in Derbyshire. Our Soldiers can all come home now.

The OMRLP is a registered political party in the UK. 

Here is the OMRLP thoughts on election of Police Commissioners: You will shortly be asked to vote for your local Police commissionerThe stringent rules regarding standing as a Police commissioner probably omit 50% of the population before the start, and then there is the £5000 deposit required which will eliminate the another 45% (Another case of democracy if you can afford it) or they can be funded by funded by local Political associations. (This will guarantee impartiality I’m sure) 
Another OMRLP propsal is: We will instruct the RSPCA to ensure that all meerkats come in twos to enable the public to effectively compare the meerkat.
Another OMRLP proposal is: Instead of wasting money on flood defences, why not look at this as an opportunity to do a bit of lateral thinking and build a marina where the super-rich can moor their yachts?

But I digress....

A similar concept to the OMRLP appeared in the "Election Night Special" sketch on Monty Python's Flying Circus, in which the Silly, Sensible, and Slightly Silly parties competed against each other. With one independent Very Silly spoiler candidate. 


Sunday 28 October 2012

The Seven Blunders!

Robert Aickman wrote in his book "Know your waterways" about what he considered to be the seven wonders of the British inland waterways. He was writing about the achievements of the canal navigators that hastened the changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution.

Possibly the most famous of the seven wonders is the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct which carries the Llangollen Canal some 126ft above the River Dee and is also a Unesco world heritage site. The aqueduct is the highest and longest in Britain and was built between 1795 and 1805 using 18 piers with a 1007ft long trough for the canal.

But what of the seven blunders?

1) For me the biggest blunder was allowing the previous incumbents of British Waterways to become the team for transition into the charity. Here was a one time only opportunity for drawing a line in the sand and kick starting a whole new beginning. The once in a lifetime opportunity for a root and branch change, that people could identify with, buy into, a whole new ethos, but it was lost for ever.

2) Many people had become frustrated in their dealings with the old British Waterways Board. However, the main complaint was the sheer lack of much needed waterway maintenance. I don't see that changing any time soon.

3) Another peeve was getting BW to share information proved to be very difficult. This in turn led to a belief among many that there was culture of hiding bad news. Often associated with things such as poor performance of investments and disposal of the family silver such as historical wharf and basin facilities. 

4) The perceptions held were of an ill equipped gang of money motivated individuals who had little care or understanding of what they were supposed to be managing. Information provided to different groups was seemingly at odds. Robin Evans said that British Waterways non-operational property portfolio contributes £40m net per year. The figure given by him to the Board was £16.1m. 

5) ex BW now CART management are also struggling with a self organised legacy of bad property investments. I remember British Waterways plans to open 100 waterside pubs in a joint partnership with Scottish and Newcastle Pub Enterprises. When did the management of inland waterways create a skill set for the management in managing a pub chain.

6) Litigation is the current way of the trust. I'm baffled at what positive outcome they want to achieve. Joe public always sides with the underdog, perceptions last for a long long time.

7) The crazy mind numbing acts like putting poetry on lock gates and floating trees around in boats. Just demonstrates how out of tough the trust has become.


It's not too late is it?

During British Summer Time (BST), local time in the UK is advanced one hour forward of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), so that evenings have more daylight and mornings have less. The practice was popular following its introduction in 1916, although it now divides opinion. British Summer Time begins at 1:00 AM Greenwich Mean Time on the last Sunday of March and ends at 1:00 AM GMT on the last Sunday of October. 

In 2012, this period was from 25 March to 28 October. 
In 2013 it will begin on 31 March and end on 27 October.

Chronos or Old Father Time

Here at the gates, on the day you were born,
Spooling is breathened and blossomed in thought.
Mind in the head of this child of mine,
Now we're up dancing with old father time,
Raising our glasses to old father time.


Saturday 27 October 2012


What has happened to our british standards. At one time we all paid our tax and a few would put the odd bit of pilfered folding stuff into their back pocket for a rainy day. Now it's a country where the big businesses cosy up to the politicians, bung their party a few quid and the treasury creates a loophole so they can pilfer millions and millions in unpaid tax.

Take Starbucks and their UK tax avoidance scheme. When companies are behaving badly whether is through exploitation of people or tax loopholes what should we do about it.  Should we not as a nation just boycott their outlets?

I for one would be happy to boycott any one I feel is exploiting a situation. About ten years ago Greenpeace organised a boycott of Shell. I started to boycott Shell and I still do.  A couple of weeks ago Tesco sacked a large group of drivers living within my community. Our house insurance was with Tesco - when the renewal arrived we found an alternative and it isn't Tesco any longer. I have to stay loyal to my principles and I do my bit!

However the list of companies exploiting tax avoidance loopholes is possibly a very very large one. Certainly M and S is in my sights - though to be honest I don't tend to frequent their outlets. Starbucks falls into the same category as M and S as it is rare for me to go into one of their outlets. Boycotting is sometimes inconvenient and it will take some time to see results. If my car is about to run out of diesel Shell would be my last choice but I would not be prepared to run out of fuel. However, I would only purchase enough to keep me going until I can get to another outlet.

There is a group of activists at UK Uncut who do take positive action against such businesses by organising a spot of instant shop occupation. UK Uncut started with occupation of a Vodaphone shop a couple of years ago. I'm not normally a proponent of direct action. But when you see the aftermath on YouTube or TV  it seems like its good fun. It has the knock on effect of raising their tax fiddling profile. And like Tesco says - every little helps!

Looks like UK Uncut are planning to visit a few of Starbucks outlets in the near future.


Passport to the Canals

As the ever growing side effects of Health and Safety come into more prominence in everyday life. There is a periodic return of an old favourite onto various on-line boating forums and magazines. The old chestnut is should some sort of accreditation be made available for all boaters who will handle a boat. This is not rocket science or a new idea.  In many commercial operations involving water craft there is a requirement to demonstrate the necessary professional skills.

We have covered quite a few miles and negotiated a similar number of locks. In the main people in trouble that we have encountered have been first time hirer's. But not exclusively the first timers.  We have come across a couple of very experienced boat owners who seem to have experienced some sort of mind aberration. The best boat crew that we ever shared locks with were a crew of hire boaters on the Rochdale canal. They had honed their locking techniques to perfection and we learnt a thing or two from them. They had been hiring for years and were very proud of their skills. 

I wrote a bit about this over two years ago. Click Here

We have owned our boat for three years and we have hired boats prior to that. I can say that the level of hire boat handover the first time consisted of a ten minuet run along the canal as far as a winding hole and then a return trip back to the boatyard. During that time the controls were explained as were the workings of the imaginary locks. Further advice about locks was offered - it consisted of being told to "Go that way, its much further before you reach a lock."

The second time we were asked if we had hired boats previously. When we said yes we were just left to get on with it. We did however find a pamphlet on board that explained the controls and the things to check each morning before we set off. 

Our third experience of handover was more comprehensive the boat controls were explained. A copy of the Boaters Handbook was given to us to study and we were escorted to the first lock for some hands on tuition.  Mooring, locking and handling were discussed and explained. For the first time I was made aware during a handover of the hazard of the lock cill. 

Subsequent hiring handovers seemed to make much more sense but by then we already had much more of an awareness and understanding of the advice and tuition being given. In hindsight I wish that in the first few times we hired that there had been an option to elect for a few hours tuition in basic boat handling skills. I would have quite happily paid extra for the additional support. Years and many miles later and with experience of negotiating hundreds of locks. I now realise more than ever how vulnerable we actually were in the early days.

Using an analogy, would you take your family on a climbing trip with no knowledge of the basics of climbing. No awareness of climbing techniques and the correct use of safety equipment. Why would you want to do something that is dangerous without some training.

I still like the idea of a boaters passport, however I feel that there has to be a fixed curriculum based around the handover. That there should be a compulsory hands on escorted element. As well as an elective element for additional help.

Compulsory element: After the handover procedure has been completed. An escorted basic hands on steering, speed management, stopping and mooring element. Emphasis on safe lock operation where practical. With additional safety awareness for the whole crew.
Elective element: To redo the whole tuition curriculum or any part where the hirer feels they or their crew need help with their understanding.

I know from conversations I have had with a number of experienced retired boaters. Some who have done the RYA Inland Helmsman course who would be happy to give some of their time to help others. Maybe this is a revenue raiser for CART. As well as being a proactive step to raising health and safety awareness with all boaters.

Now for the vexed question - should this passport element be extended to the rest of the boating community as a minimum requirement. I know that people will claim that they have years of experience already. But if the passport was to be phased in with all new boat licence applications. Followed by second hand boats that change ownership and come up for licensing with a new owner. 


Friday 26 October 2012

Charitable Donations.

The Poll Function in Blogger is broken.

I will re-post the Charitable Donation message when the problem is fixed.

Thursday 25 October 2012

CART Poll Early Closing

I set up a poll on the blog asking the following simple question. "Will CART Succeed." The poll was intended to run for a period of one hundred days. It was carefully calculated to end by the first day of January 2013. 

Quote: Here is your chance to vote using your own "X" factor on our poll. I have created a poll that will run between now and the 1st of January 2013. It's not very scientific. Its a simple question "Will CART Succeed". You have three choices Yes, Unsure and No. Now you can vote for one of the three choices. If you change your mind before the poll closing date. You can come back and change your vote. (I wish we could do that for politicians and the Independent IWA members on Council) You will find the poll option on the right hand side just below the members pictures.

However after only 28 days the result was an overwhelming rejection by blog readers that CART would be a successful venture. In only a few months since coming into being the perceptions raised in the boating blog community is that CART would be an abject failure.

Votes Cast
Yes!         4 votes. 8%
Unsure!  5 votes. 10%
No!        42 votes. 82%

I considered it would be a much kinder outcome and to save any further ongoing embarrassment for CART. I have decided to close the poll early. I would like to thank all those people who took the time to vote and share their personal perception.


Quick Trip

Last weekend required a trip up to the local canal basin to enjoy the pleasures of a blackwater pumpout. The weather was surprisingly good and the sunshine was warm. The trip though short proved to be quite enjoyable. For this trip we were accompanied by junior day crew member "George" who like most kids today took instant charge of the computer systems and our two dogs. 

This set in train my thoughts about a comparison between my childhood and Georges. I suppose the nearest equivalent to the computer for me was the radio. Not only that, but programming for children was on certain days and at specific times. For George entertainment was available on the tap of a button. I wonder if he would enjoy Dick Barton special agent?

There were similarities in that we both enjoyed time afloat. He in the centrally heated comfort of Rosie and me in the occasional privations of a grain barge. Yet thinking back, I would not swap my childhood for his. I had the freedom to roam at will. Each day brought a different adventure. I had a large group of friends at school and living nearby. We made our own entertainment. George by comparison keeps in touch with his friends by email.

My parents positively encouraged us to "go out and play" with our friends and we were soon streetwise  We knew instinctively who to avoid and we were often accompanied by our family dogs. In fact dogs roaming the streets were as common place as children playing out.  Today children roaming at play are as rare as dogs roaming off a lead. Today, George lives in a cosseted loving environment. Where he is dropped off and picked up from school. I walked there and back twice a day because I came home for lunch. I was often escorted both ways by the family dog. 

No one ever asked where the car keys were because you either did not have a car or they were left in the ignition. Thinking back, we had a lock on our outside toilet and the rear house door. However, I don't ever remember a time when they were locked! If the toilet was in use, you learned to hum a tune. The torn sheets of newspaper always spoiled a story because you never knew the ending. We never drew our curtains. A house with curtains drawn had the universal signal of a death in the household.

We played football and cricket in the appropriate season. For one week every year (TT week on the radio) we were Geoff Duke on the Norton, MV or Gilera. At other times we went fishing or building a tree house den. Distance was no object because we walked everywhere. If time was limited we would take any short cut including climbing walls and fences. If it was raining we went swimming - as long as the water was not too cold. When the weather turned cold, we would run buckets of water down any smooth slope knowing that overnight it would freeze into a slide for the next day. In the autumn I could take you to all the Hazel and Sweet Chestnut trees in our local wood. We knew the location of all apple and pear trees, wild or cultivated. All windfall fruit were ours by right and we would sometimes encourage them to fall.

A treat was a visit to the local cinema and a visit was a must the week after the Isle of Man TT. The Pathe newsreel always came on just before the main feature and we could get the sight and sounds of the TT action. We had conkers, when I see them today I still have to pick them up and admire their potential. George has transformer toys, playstation and other expensive playthings. 

I still think I got the best childhood deal!

Trip Total
Distance: 5.5 miles
Locks 4 
Swing / Lift Bridges 2
Tunnels 0
Pump-out 1
Engine Hours: 2.2

Accumulated Totals
Miles: 1321.6
Locks: 896
Swing / Lift Bridges: 169
Tunnels. 22
Pump Outs: 15
Engine Hours: 2491.6


Wednesday 24 October 2012

X Factor

Latest X Factor news from our African correspondent Annette Curtain.

An X Factor style "Best Sheep" competition is a TV ratings winner in Senegal. The sheep based talent competition has proved to be a surprise TV ratings hit. Simon Cowell may well be preparing to unveil a dancing doggy style X Factor soon. However, it seems that, over in the West African nation, sheep are the animal of choice. 

Senegal, which views the livestock as companion animals, has been introduced to Khar Bii, which translates as "This Sheep" in the local Wolof language and is now in its fourth season, winning over audiences nationwide. It involves a search across the country for Senegal's most perfect specimen and helps to keep alive the tradition of sheep raising. 

Finalists from each region are chosen and compete to win two million francs, as well as extra prestige for their future breeding credentials. Abou Aziz Mare said: "Some people love cats, some people love dogs. Here we have sheep I live with him like a close friend."

This X Factor competition for Sheep remains extremely popular as it goes into its fourth year, with nearly 9,000 fans on Facebook alone! Plus a growing number of entries hoping that the composure, size and appearance of their animal will leave them and their companion victorious.

More X Factor news now from our European correspondent Don Quay.

But the tiny nation of the Faeroe Islands are not to be outdone by the Senegalese and have unveiled a Hollywood star of their own. As the poster boy of the Faeroe Islands farming industry. Reggie the ram loves nothing more than flaunting his enviable figure for the camera. With his photogenic good looks and mesmerising presence in front of the camera, the horned model has what it takes to become a global star.

Cross-eyed Reggie the ram is a natural in front of the camera. However, the island could be about to lose one of its stars if the bright lights of Hollywood come calling for Reggie. The tinsel town of Hollywood however still remains a distant dream for the ram. He's stranded on Streymoy, in the Faeroe Islands, which are situated between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. Streymoy, or the island of currents, is the largest of the Faeroe Islands and is known for its fishing and sheep farming industries. 

Does CART have the X Factor.

Here is your chance to vote using your own "X" factor on our poll. I have created a poll that will run between now and the 1st of January 2013. It's not very scientific. Its a simple question "Will CART Succeed". You have three choices Yes, Unsure and No. Now you can vote for one of the three choices. If you change your mind before the poll closing date. You can come back and change your vote. (I wish we could do that for politicians and the Independent IWA members on Council) You will find the poll option on the right hand side just below the members pictures.


Monday 22 October 2012

CARTgate - popcorn anyone?

Being a grumpy old curmudgeon I initially found that the ongoing continuous cruisers  (or CART's derogatory "Continuous Moorers" description) -v- CART to be something of a questionable activity. I thought CART were a charity and as such out to woo the public and boaters into supporting a national treasure. A treasure with a history of kick starting the industrial revolution and the changes this brought to the whole world.  However, it seems that I was mistaken on all my presumptions.

Rather than recognise that there are people with different needs and working with them to ensure an harmonious future. CART seem to have gone off the rails a bit with their myopic view.  As a boater who is not a constant cruiser - we have a home mooring - but we spend enough time on the cut to be the next best thing. (a sort of semi-constant cruiser)  In a strangely perverse sort of way I am now finding the whole process highly entertaining.

I expect what I call the "CARTgate" saga will have legs and run and run for a long time to come. So much time will be spent in posture and counter posture before developing into any chance of a real confrontation. 

I am going to offer for sale a notional gallery chair with cuddly toy and a notional world record sized popcorn pack. So we can all sit in comfort as we watch the whole tawdry spectacle of CARTgate unfold.

The story so far: "It seems that someone at Ivory Towers with too much time on their hands has take umbrage that KANDA has published items on their website that are already in the public domain having been obtained under the freedom of information act." 

CART rather than giving the typical French gallic shrug of the shoulders. Then in a voice like Officer Crabtree from ello ello saying "what is today's news mon ami (on a small boating website) is tomorrow's pomme de frites paper." Typically, CART has however, taken careful aim and shot themselves in the foot. 

This has been achieved by 1) bringing the KANDA website and the disputed materials to public prominence. Giving KANDA an online  profile that even money could not buy. 2) Keeping up CART's now regular appearances in Private Eye magazine.  3) Whilst at the same time continuing to provide even more materials for NarrowboatWorld. 4) As well as a huge amount of fodder for blogger comments. 5) Plus a good amount of exposure to anti-CART vitriol on various boating forums. 6) This will then get into the monthly boating magazines. 7) Some national newspaper on a quiet news day will then run the story. It could even hit national television.
Pamela Smith, the owner of the KANDA website who has my complete admiration for standing her ground. Pamela has confirmed that she will now make a complaint to the police under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (section 2).

This is a self inflicted public relations "coup de graceof epic proportions by the CART charity. I wonder what the members of CART Council think of the unravelling debacle - we should be told. But only when the embarrassment has subsided.

However,here is the rub. Can CART front it by holding up their hands and saying "We were wrong". Personally I don't think there is a set of gonads big enough to take that decision. Because it would mean that CART Management would have to acknowledge that CARTgate is a mess entirely of their own making. 

Round One: Read Here
Round Two: Read Here
Update: Read Here

Popcorn get your popcorn!


I have created a poll that will run between now and the 1st of January 2013. It's not very scientific. Its a simple question "Will CART Succeed". You have three choices Yes, Unsure and No. Now you can vote for one of the three choices. If you change your mind before the poll closing date. You can come back and change your vote. (I wish we could do that for politicians and the Independent IWA members on Council) You will find the poll option on the right hand side just below the members pictures.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Goggle Box (3)

We have looked at the terrestrial television provision on a boat. The next one is broadcast television through the use of satellite technology.

Satellite technology has moved on from my first experience of using "OSCAR" satellites (Orbital Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio) which were in (LEO) Low Earth Orbit. I would transmit a signal on UHF to a satellite passing overhead. The satellite would retransmit the signal on VHF back down to earth. I could communicate with fellow radio amateurs in other countries. The first amateur satellite, simply named OSCAR 1, was launched on December 12, 1961, barely four years after the launch of world's very first satellite, Sputnik II used an array of antennas that could track the satellite as it passed overhead. The commonly accepted definition for LEO is between 160 kilometres (100 miles) and 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) above the Earth's surface.

Today, broadcast television is transmitted from the ground up to powerful satellites that are in GEO (GEostationary or GEosyncronous Orbit) The satellites then retransmit the television signals back down to earth. geostationary orbit is a circular orbit 35,786 kilometres (22,236 miles) above the Earth's equator and following the direction of the Earth's rotation. An object in such an orbit has an orbital period equal to the Earth's rotational period and thus appears motionless, at a fixed position in the sky to ground observers. The GEO orbit also overcomes one problem with satellites in LEO. There is no need for an antenna system to track the satellite.

There is another change, which is away from using Yagi-Uda type antennas to one using a satellite dish. The change is because the television signals are no longer in the UHF television band. But are now broadcast on one of the microwave bands. The most common application of the "parabolic reflector" is in satellite dishes. A satellite dish is designed to receive the microwaves from satellites, which transmit broadcast quality images, such as television. Satellites are not limited to TV but are used for other kinds of data, such as the Internet, telephone calls and weather images.

The early transmissions from satellites required quite large antennas to be able to collect enough of the very weak transmission signals. Modern satellites are now use high power transmitters which means that satellite TV to the home now requires much smaller dishes. Times have changed and there are automated satellite locating systems available (at a not insignificant price) that can be installed on your boat. Which will automatically sense the satellite location and point the dish. However, I prefer to use the "Armstrong Method" and do it by hand, ear and eye.

Because the geosynchronous satellites are hovering in orbit over the equator, the satellites are not directly overhead for us. They appear to be much further down towards the horizon.  So one possible problem with satellite television on your boat is to ensure that trees or other objects are not blocking your view of the satellite. So you will need to establish the satellite position to ensure that you are pointing your dish in the right direction. For this you will need a boy scout with the orienteering badge.

There are one or two bits of kit that you can obtain to replace the boy scout to help you point the dish. The first is a basic marching compass. So that you can find which direction is South. The direction that we are most interested in lies between South East through South to South West. 

Now comes a critical bit that confuses a lot of people. The geostationary satellites which have to be parked over the Earths equator can only move either to the east or to the west if they are to remain stationary in our sky. From the due south position we could expect to receive signals up to about 40 degrees either side of due south. When you look up the data for a satellite it will be described as being at a specific location either East or West of south measured in degrees. Say 1 degree West or 13 degrees East. satellite due south of the UK would be at an angle of about 25 degrees above the horizon. The further east or west the satellite is, the closer to the horizon it will be. So you can see why we need to have a clear aspect towards the south.

There is little room for error when setting up a satellite dish. The beamwidth of a dish is very narrow. Mounting a dish on a boat can bring additional problems. The slightest movement of the boat can be enough to move the dish off the satellite.

But all is not lost. There is a simple solution to the problem. Mount the dish on a short pole with a weight on the bottom and place the antenna on the towpath. The boat may move about a little but the dish will stay in the same place. Unlike a terrestrial antenna a dish does not have to be high off the ground. Just a view of the satellite unobstructed by trees and buildings.

You can also purchase a small folding tripod which will do the job equally as well. If its a large dish, then some additional stability is gained from using tent pegs to secure the feet. One trick I have seen used is to use the base and bottom section of a picnic table parasol. The plastic container bottom being filled with sand.

I use a small electronic device (SLX Amazon £10) that lets me tune the dish to the correct satellite. As a signal is detected a tone is given out. The tone goes higher in frequency as you turn the dish onto the satellite. I just tune for a constant, loud, high pitched squeal.

Note: Television transmissions from the Astra satellites can be received on an 50cm dish. However, if you are wanting to include other satellite broadcast you may need a bigger dish.

Here is the Astra 2A, 2B, 1N footprint. Most of the UK falls within the 50cm dish range. The outer rings would require a 90 cm dish or larger.

I have created a poll that will run between now and the 1st of January 2013. It's not very scientific. Its a simple question "Will CART Succeed". You have three choices Yes, Unsure and No. Now you can vote for one of the three choices. If you change your mind before the poll closing date. You can come back and change your vote. (I wish we could do that for politicians and the Independent IWA members on Council) You will find the poll option on the right hand side just below the members pictures.