The (Margot & Todd) “Dinette” is now the “Ruddy Library, what, eh?” #narrowboat #pretentiousness #moi


Well, very nearly.

What was a four-seater eating area and a two-person bed is fast becoming a two-person eating area, a redesigned solid-as-a-rock desk, a single bed… with all of the storage it had before PLUS a 75″ x 15″ locker (lined out in carpet) AND a 75″ x 15″ bookshelf with four extra 230v sockets, two USB charging sockets and two 12v sockets. There’s even space underneath for my vast heap of shoes and walking boots to be slung out of sight.

It’s official.

If in the nineteen-seventies it was acceptable for Margot and Todd to call the original a “dinette” then I am damned sure that in the twenty-teens or whatever we’re currently in it is acceptable for me to refer to the space from now on as “The Library”!

Alright, the boat’s far too young to have known what a “dinette” was, but give it a day or two and there’ll be 75″ of luvverly books lined up on that shelf.


These little 12v beasties (just like car accessory sockets) will allow me to run the laptop and similar stuff without needing the inverter to be on – two ampere-ish things an hour saved there that my solar panels can better direct elsewhere.

The table is an entirely new lump of oak-faced ply, varnished by yours truly (out in the mid-day sun – tee-hee, boing, boing, wibble moo fribble de-clomp I think it’s sunstroke, m’lud…) and it will soon be stood standing on a new leg and with new bracing structures so that, unlike the old table, this one stays upright and doesn’t collapse under the weight of a small but lovingly prepared bucket of gin and tonic.

The old table will be going on to do service in the engine bay, as backing for some more panels of soundproofing. Waste not, etcetera, etcetera.

In other news, the Bro did some extremely brave things with the Cardinal’s engine yesterday, including adjusting something called “the tappets”. I gave him (non-alcoholic) drinks, fetched any tools called for and tried to leave him to it so as not to break his concentration.

Henceforth he shall officially be known as ‘Gunga Din’.


Both alternators have been tickled and prodded and suchlike and now treat the warning light on the instrument panel with the proper respect, and they both charge away like healthy charging things, one to the starter battery, one to the domestic batteries.

The (very small, semi-trad) rear deck is now painted and ready for new rubber mat to go down, the well deck will follow suit asap or sooner while this dry spell lasts.

A million (possibly two million) other small jobs have been done, and I am ready for my bed. Oh sheesh, am I ever ready for my bed. I love my bed. If arranging oneself horizontally and sleeping the sleep that only those with a 120db “pig and whistle” snore can truly know were an Olympic event, then I’d be bringing home a swag-bag full of gold medals for England about now.

Sitting down and doing sod-all. Why isn’t that an Olympic event? It’s just as difficult to do really properly as is runnin’ or jumpin’ or throwin’ things.

I shall start a petition to see which of the more accessible, everyday sports we can get included in the next Olympic games.

Re-wiring, re-plumbing and re-woodworking a narrowboat for one, that should be an Olympic event.

We are, now, gently sliding on our raggedy arses down the “almost there” side of the moutainous list of jobs. The end (of the beginning) beckons. Wheeeeee!

Cutting down the cushions to fit the new reduced seating and bed space also beckons.

How’s your needlework, Hutson?

Passable, Gunga Din, passable. I remember once in Poonah, having to sew new uniforms for the regiment’s elephant brigade…



Eating the sun while it cooks me alive #narrowboat #solar


Feed, my little ones, feed…

Yesterday was ridiculously, disgustingly, liver-churningly hot and humid, and today is predicted and looks likely to be even more foul. I do solemnly swear and affirm that if just one more short-shorted, belly-button-revealing-t-shirted, manky-footed-Croc-sporting person wobbles on at me about how “isn’t it lovely?” and “gorgeous weather” I will exercise my cricket-bat on their brain-casing. It’s not lovely, it’s inhuman, even in the shade. Worse than that, it’s un-English! So, quite frankly, are some of the “sights” that this weather brings out – truly, what has been seen cannot be unseen, no matter how much one’s brain vomits. My retinas still bear the greasy after-image shadow of that… lady, the one wearing what looked like a pair of bloke’s too-small budgie-smugglers, the fringe she’d cut off her great-grandmother’s never-washed net curtains and, where human skin ought to have been, a layer of whipped Factor-50, cellulite, bum-fluff and self-deception.

Yes, I am well aware that I don’t look good either – so that’s why I keep a respectable layer between my “oh-my-good-gods-is-that-even-human” body and Her Majesty’s public!

Just to give you a smidgen of what this weather brings out, here’s a photo of a dead rat’s arse.


Yesterday was so hot that even the plague-rats were leaping into the canal and drowning themselves. Note the lovely oily scum that had settled around this one, floating past yesterday evening. Note to self: never, not never, don’t ever fall in…

Still, being the stalwarts (Stalinist warts?) that we are, the Bro and I got the extra domestic solar panel mounted and wired in. There are now three one-hundred and thirty-five watt panels on there hooked up to a controller designed to keep the domestic batteries happy. Towards the blunt end is a single thirty-watt panel that has been given a separate controller and the assigned the task of keeping the starter battery in Olympic form. If I were to bung my solar-powered torch (possibly the world’s greatest technological oxymoron) and my solar-powered DAB radio on the roof too then I have no fewer than six solar panels gobbling up the sun’s effluence.

Serious confession time. The sun scares me. Honestly, it does. It’s a chuffing great ball of nuclear nonsense, it’s wholly eight light-minutes away, and it can – at the drop of a summer cloud – make my life unworkable. I just can’t do “heat”, and by heat I mean anything much over 63°F with a pleasant breeze and some tree-rustled shade. When, as today in England, it’s in the nineties, all that I can do is to sit and stare at my feet. I can’t walk, I can’t talk and I certainly can’t work. Even my laptop hates it – the fans, as of 08:40hrs, are on high-alert and 50,000rpm.


Yestereve’s relief of Mafeking. Um, I mean “sun-set”, yestereve’s sun-set.

No-one else seems worried. If the sun were, for example, just one light-minute closer how would we ever get our Pimms chilled? Don’t tell me that hot and humid is lovely, and that a tropical island is some putative “paradise” – they’re all Hell.

Consider this if you will. If you were to grab the keys to your Toyota Priapus Hybrid or whatever it is that you drive and head towards the sun at 70mph it would only take some one million two hundred and twenty thousand or so hours of constant driving to get there.

That’s far too close, even if it would necessitate listening to one or two of the CDs in the car twice.

Nota bene: if you wish to know, then paradise, such as it may be, is actually a small, desolate and windswept island somewhere on the Atlantic coast of northern England or even, damn it, Scotchland.😉

Anyway, so alright already with the horror stories, what else have you done this week, eh?

Well, we’ve begun to fit the first of the soundproofing. Wasn’t that just the noisiest job this side of gas-testing the brass section of a Yorkshire-based orchestra. Fourteen holes to drill just for this, the smallest hatch – five for the bolts that hold up the 18mm marine-ply and nine to pin the soundproofing to it. My apologies to the neighbours in the marina (but there’s more, much more to come before things quieten down)…


When fitted, the panels have the flavour of a Victorian buttoned-velour seat cushion.


This is the stuff that’s going in – layers of acoustic foam and various densities of rubber (from “doh” to “ug”, one presumes).

Many, many fine sundry items have been going back in place, such as fire blankets and extinguishers. The washing machine now has its own cupboard, tucked up and out of the way under the gunwale in the galley, soon to have its own power supply. The first of the nifty perspex-and-chrome photo-frames has gone onto the cabin wall, and very sleek it looks too (ten quid plus p&p from Amazon, A3 size). The last of the uninvestigated wiring has been investigated and changes planned, ditto the plumbing and new taps.

The final two of the four “Breezies” have gone on the roof in place of the mush-er-oom vents – tiny wee flying saucers, in a neat formation from stem to stern and with teensie-weensy little fans to push air in or out of the Cardinal’s innards. These latter take the place of the punka-wallahs sitting in the corners with fans tied to their toes. I am an equal opportunities employer, and have given them all a guinea in redundancy money, a letter of reference and the same opportunity to catch a bus back to Poonah from the stop outside the marina.


Batteries not included, although, if they were, my solar panels could now charge them up within nano-seconds.

It is now 09:15hrs and I am already sitting here with a damp flannel on my head and one foot in a bucket of water. Today may very well be cancelled due to inclemencies.

I daren’t even go out – that woman with the stretchy budgie-smugglers might be out there again. It’s just possible that with this heat and with Chinese-manufacture elastic having a tendency to give up the struggle when over-loaded the ensemble may have ridden even further up into areas of interest only to gynaecologists, bacteriologists and aliens with probes…

No, much better that I stay indoors, lie on the floor and think about penguins and ice-cubes and lovely winter snow-storms.

I’m not strong enough for outdoors in these conditions.

There are jobs abounding on the “still to be done” list. I’ll just have to start working night-shifts.

In the meantime, I will leave you with my best wishes and my fervent hope that the great bird of happiness craps in your beer.



Exits stage left to the sound of water being poured over his pith helmet.

Ian Hutson 2

Erm – I mean right, exits stage right…

Ian Hutson 2a

Oh, sod it. I am very over-warm Hector.


Exits whichever bloody way is coolest…

Oh, how I remember cool. I have fond memories of cool. Cool? Cool? Where are you, Cool? Cool, come home, you fool, all is forgiven.

Stumbling about the Cheshire countryside soon after sparrow-fart


The skeleton of a Vulcan Bomber, picked clean by feral sheep and field-marmosets in a field in Cheshire.

Body took brain on a walk yesterday morning. Brain didn’t want to go, but cabin-fever loomed and body prevailed, insisting upon at least a brief sashay and a short shuffle in the open air. If nothing else, said body, it keeps that musty smell a little at bay.

Anyway, what did we spy on our perambulations together, but the eerie sight of the skeleton of a Vulcan bomber.

It must be the annual Vulcan Bomber migration season again, and I suppose that this one just hadn’t eaten enough to see it through the long, long flight from Stoke Poges to Mablethorpe, or something, and fell out of formation. Once on land of course they are almost immediately seen to by feral sheep and field-marmosets, and the bones are picked clean.


An R.A.F. Avro Vulcan Bomber, by Sgt. David S. Nolan, US Air Force (DF-ST-86-11850) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

How sad to see something once so dominant brought so low.

The bones will be there for years, I suspect – at least until the next Cold War.

Anyway, the rest of the stroll was relatively uneventful. One of the wheels on my Zimmer began to display a mind of its own. My drip-dry jeans worked wonderfully and hardly left any trail behind me. I suppose it’s just possible that I have misunderstood the directions on the label, and they aren’t intended to be quite so liberating as I think they thunk I thought?

Talking of thinking, I had been toying with the idea of buying Cheshire, but now that I know it’s on the Vulcan migration flight-path, I don’t think I shall. Have you seen the size of the droppings, for one thing? They put seaflaminherongullimots to shame in the poop department.

Work on the Cardinal continues apace, and yesterday he gained a fully-functioning remote isolation switch for the starter battery, courtesy of the Chief Engineer. It makes a nice, satisfying “clunk” when the relay kicks in, means that I can isolate the starter battery from inside and, most importantly, saves some eleventy-three metres of hefty cable which has now been removed from the starter circuit. There’s now very little wire indeed in the engine bay, and such as there is has to stretch on tip-toes to connect what must be connected. It is now a lean, mean, engine machine – with a remote battery isolation switch.

By the time we’ve finished, this boat will be far too posh for me to be seen in.


Meanwhile, the search for the bodies continues in the marina car-park.


If I had to hazard a guess myself, then I’d say that they are digging roughly twenty-seven and a half metres too far due north-east, and two point three metres too far out from the bank, but they won’t be sure of that until they’ve gone down at least one point five metres for the first body, two metres down for the second.

Just a guess.


One of these evenings they’re going to leave the keys in that machine, and then I’ll have some fun.

And I’ll move the bodies again, just to be on the safe side.


Sir Isaac Newton, gravity wells, apples and the Dark Side of the Moon


Don’t sit under the apple tree and change the course of human science with anyone else but me, anyone else but me… The sign didn’t explain where the talking snake was while the apple was falling and why the Mr God then threw young Isaac out of his own garden.

Day something-or-other of our wanderings while Cardinal Wolsey is was being blacked (hull blacked, that is, not black-balled or admitted into the High Order of Blick & White Minstrels).

Sir Isaac Newton’s home, Woolsthorpe Manor, near Grantham in Lincolnshire.


Just, wow.

The place felt magical – steeped in history (and none of the history had been washed off or “modernised” or commericalised away). Bucolic landscape – twittering birds, rustling trees, rolling meadows, grass and wildflowers singing to themselves as they grew.

What can beat standing in Sir Isaac Newton’s own bedroom, looking out of the window he looked out of, straight at a direct descendant of the very tree under which he was brained by a ripe apple? What a connection to history eh? Just casually wandering about the room where he conducted his experiments with prisms and light – what a privilege, what a secular scientific pilgrimage!


Mr Newton was either unaware or cared less than a fig that IKEA could do him a nice window treatment for less than eleventy-three guineas.

Newton, undoubtedly one of the top one scientists throughout human and alien history, was the inventor of gravity, a slayer of apples, and latterly a manufacturer of the “Rainbow Ray-Gun” used to enforce prism reforms… Notice how, even after all of these years he can control the gun from his portrait using just an index-finger…


Mr Newton pictured here without his customary wig. Many, if not most, of the people in Wolverhampton think of the seventeenth century and onwards as a time of dull, beige and sober quietness, but in fact, from 1666 onwards after Mr Newton’s work with light, history buzzed and fizzed to the sound of his Rainbow Gun.

He also invented the Gravity Well (and planet Earth was immediately moved into one, since it was deemed fashionable)…


Initially, Mr Newton was pleased, pleased that is until his invention led to an increase in the number of brass euphoniums being played.

Worse was yet to come, when someone down Mexico way turned a gravity well upside down to see what would fall out, and invented a new fifty-gallon hat…

Mexican Hat

However, after working really hard to make things right again, Newton became the fifth member of Pink Floyd and wrote Dark Side of the Moon, so all was forgiven.


Alright, alright, I am finished with my tacky jokes (“jokes”) section. Back to the serious world of Woolsthorpe Manor.


Sitting in Newton’s garden on a sunny summer’s day (and, no, in England “sunny summer’s day” is NOT a tautology but more of a rarity)!

This is one of the eighteen-thousand two hundred and seventy-six top reasons why I love England. Where else could you just wander along to a scientific giant’s old birthplace and family home, cough up half a dozen quid each and then wander in to gawp at liesure? The estate is really tastefully managed, with coffee (and cake) room hidden away in one of the barns and an interactive display for part-formed, untamed, smelly humans (i.e., children) – also hidden away from the main building. Visitors can also hang about in the wholly unsupervised garden wherein grows a descendant of a descendant of a descendant of a descendant of the actual, genuine, real apple tree in question – how brilliant is that?

The house itself – no “tours”, just a couple of knowledgeable guides dotted around, happy to answer questions and watching that visitors don’t run off with any of the larger laws of motion, or tuck the original copy of Principia into their bag. Relaxed, human, thoroughly enjoyable.


Mr Albert Einstein called in to visit – not while we were there though – to pay his respects to the spot. I would say when he visited, but it doesn’t really matter, since time is all relative.

I like to believe that he stood where I was later to stand (although how he would know this, one can but conjecture) and said something akin to ‘So, Newton, time and space already? You want I should tell you a few things about time and space? Oy!…’


Folk weren’t shorter in those days, they just didn’t lie down full-length to sleep, sleeping propped up instead for health and anti-snoring reasons.

In fact, the only thing that wasn’t civilised about this visit (and even then, only in the brother’s view) was the lady on the desk as we first walked in to buy our tickets. She took one look at us, up, down and sideways and then asked (with an evil grin) ‘So what’s all this then? Father and son on a day out? …’

Once again I found myself in the position of having to restrain the Bro from violence and mayhem, while simultaneously explaining that, no, it’s just that Steve’s had a hard life whereas I have been cosetted in the lap of luxury and privilege for most of mine*.

[* As open prisons go, I have been held in some of England’s finest.]

The custodians of the Newton place are an august body going by the name of the The National Truss, so we don’t have an individual or more approachable FaceBook of Twitter presence, just the major all-encompassing one.

National Truss on Facebook

National Truss on Twitter

BUT, they do have a dedicated interwebnets page here – Woolsthorpe Manor

AND you can use Googoil to find them with this map thingy

Would I recommend a visit? Ab-so-lutely yes. The history there is momentous, stupendous, mind-boggling. The establishment well-run, relaxed, tasteful and generally spiffing. I’ve sat in Sir Isaac Newton’s garden! I’ve poked around his house and his bedroom/study! I’ve eaten cake and swilled coffee where his family used to keep their cows! All while trees rustled, birds twittered and where someone thought that I looked a lot, lot younger than my bro!

[Sniggers into lace handkerchief…]

As far as I am concerned, if you don’t know who Sir Isaac Newton was then you don’t deserve to stick to the floor.

I will leave you with the Newton coat of arms; crossed bones. A coat of arms so very similar to the Hutson arms, ours being crossed spoons with bezants grand and badgers rampant.


English poet Alexander Pope was moved by Newton’s accomplishments to write the famous epitaph:

Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in night;
God said “Let Newton be” and all was light.

Newton himself had been rather more modest of his own achievements, famously writing in a letter to Robert Hooke in February 1676:

‘If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’

It occurs to me however that, had the coconut tree been as popular in England as was the apple tree, Mr Newton might have formulated his great theories only for his cerebral lights to go out permanently almost immediately afterwards. Wheeeeee… ‘Aha, now it all makes sense!’ … Splat! – ‘Oh, I’m dead!’ Result; no Newtonian physics, not never.

Once again, the English climate is responsible for so very much that we may be grateful for.


Newark Air Museum – just a load of old aeroplanes really. Splendid!


A machine probably best described as “a heavily-pregnant pushmepullyou”.

Day three of our mooching around Lincolnshire while the Cardinal’s bum was being blacked – the Bro and I set off for the Imperial War Museum Duxford. Well, it was a roasting hot day and no sooner had I got the Aston into top gear than the navigator informed me that Duxford was something over a hundred miles away and most of it on the A1(M).

The “A1” is a motorway that I particularly dislike, more so than most other motorways with the exception, possibly, of all of the others with names lying on a scale of M1…M999. This is because the A1 is not really even a “motorway”, it has bends and curves and roundabouts and junctions and even “Pedestrians Crossing” signs and that is why it is nomenclatureded as the A1(M). Think of it as the Great North Road gone wrong, and you won’t be far amiss.

Anyway, given the unpleasantly warm weather and the fact that the Aston’s air-conditioning is, at the moment, operating like something akin to an enthusiastic butterfly flapping its wings over half an ice-cube, we decided on R Soles to Duxford. With the luck of Zeus’s pet cat, Lucky, we spotted instead a nice brown “tourist information” sign emblazoned “Newark Air Museum”. What could I do? Fourteen miles of “B” road versus one hundred and five of pretend-motorway? No contest, we’d have a gander. I swerved, mercilessly cut off two minibuses of pregnant disabled mendicant nuns taking orphaned puppies for a final day’s fun at the seaside before they were to be euthanised, and we made the necessary turn on two squealing wheels.

OssifiedArriving a little before ten o’sundial of the ante-meridian we found the car park open, the gates flung open and even the door of the “The Entrance” unlocked, so we went on in. Silly us. Now it should be mentioned here that the tag-line of the museum’s website and literature is “The friendly aviation museum”. This may be thought surprising by some, since we were greeted by an ossified specimen of humanity with a gravelly ‘We don’t open ’til ten, and the same goes for over there’. No eye contact, no smile but just a nod in the direction of the exhibit hangars.

The brother was on the teetering verge of answering with his opinions of her probable business hours (and offices) during the blackouts of the last World War, but I managed to slap a driving-gloved hand over his mouth and we went back outdoors into the blazing heat to idle away the requisit eight minutes. We re-entered, somewhat pedantically albeit in defence-readiness, to the sound of my telephone relaying at full volume the third Greenwich “pip” of 10:00hrs. By this time though a lovely lady had taken over at the counter and till, and Ms Customer-Service-Kiss-My-Arse was busying herself in a dark corner, chewing on some paperwork in much the way a wasp chews on paper prior to making a new nest.

We paid our entrance fees and skipped on in!

What a fantastic place!

The bro wasn’t quite so convinced, finding as we did several examples of aeroplanes that he’d worked on and flown in actually in a museum (flown in while a civilian, but working in photo-reconnaissance and electronickery for the RAF). This one below for example, which I think are an Canberra, and which on some variants was boarded via the nose-cone opening up… once in there was no way out until following a successful landing and some third-party unhinging the nose-cone again.


Now, do stop me and ask questions if I get too technical for any of you out there, because I know that it’s not easy being bombarded with science when you’re hard-of-thinking or clinically stupid or whatever the politically-correct phrase is these days, but we saw grinning aeroplanes…


Is this not the best grin you’ve ever seen?

… and we saw sinister bits of disturbingly sinister aeroplanes…


Even just looking at this nose-cone from a De-Havilland “Scary Bastard” was a scary experience. It looks to me as though it is just desperate to explode, and explode with more than the power of ten billion butterfly sneezes. I think that even my camera was a little bit frightened.

We saw two of my most very favouritest aeroplanes ever, ever, ever. Firstly, the Hawker Siddely Vulcan enbombinator…


The Vulcan “Bomb The Shit Out of Anything” of the Cold War era.

My father worked on the “V-Bombers” in a period of his (civilian) career, so when I was knee-high to an ice-cream van I was very used to the sound of these beasties roaring.

Secondly, the English Electric Lightning…


The English Electric “Faster than anything, higher than anything”, also of the Cold War era.

The Lightning was basically two Rolls-Royce Avon jet engines with a screaming and wholly insane pilot strapped on top. It has a top speed of 186,000 miles per second and can reach an altitude of roughly “Mars orbit”. Well, not quite, but very, very nearly. I would love a ride in one. Seriously, I’d perform a couple of assassinations as payment if someone told me that was the price of a ride in one. Three? OK, I’d do four… anyone, just fax me, I’m flexible…




There are two hangars full of exhibits too…


The exhibits range from the sublime to the ridiculous.


Exhibits include a gen-u-ine “Bouncing Bomb”…


A “bouncing” bomb

AND Britain’s very first H-Bomb, “Yellow Sun”. The notice attached advises visitors that the bomb was “never used”. No shit, Sherlock. I can’t imagine that it would be in one piece as a museum exhibit had it been used (no matter how much the Welsh, the French or even Londoners may have deserved it).


Britain’s first nucular (sic) bomb – unused condition. “Yellow Sun”.

Withdrawn from service – get this – in nineteen-seventy! I was ten years old! No wonder I used to go to school in short but wipe-clean trousers, a tin hat and anti-flash goggles.

Talking of which, to the right of frame below is a chap who looks to have damaged his eyeballs by looking directly into the flare of the mushroom cloud, and alongside him a short chap with no neck but wearing a tin hat similar to my own. He has a similar posture and bearing to my own, too, and I have no doubt that he could command a room just as easily as can I.


One exhibit of the era not in this museum is the British United Airways Bristol Britannia aircraft that our family flew from England to Hong Kong in when I was seven months old. The flight took three days to complete (flights just did take that long in those days) and apparently I screamed the whole way there. No surprise eh?


British United Airways Bristol Britannia – this is a photo of the actual one I flew in when aged seven months. I wasn’t at the controls.

… and I spent the whole trip – days only, the aircraft couldn’t navigate at night, so stops were made and everyone pootled off to hotels en route overnight – in one of these.

A “sky-cot”.


“Sky-cots”, dangling for the pleasure of my fellow passengers from an open luggage rack. Three days of a seven-month old brat like me screaming in one! Surprised only that no-one threw me out of a porthole.

So. Newark Air Museum. Not, as one might have thought a dry and dusty warehouse full of bell-jars of 78.08% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.038% carbon dioxide, and traces of hydrogen and helium through the ages, but an aeroplane museum.


They have a website.

They have a Twitter account.

They’re even on Facebook

and you can find them here:

One “must do” when you visit is to eat and drink in the cafeteria – staffed by the most incredibly pleasant ladies, full of vim, vicar and character. Seriously – great company, great service and great cake! It did my heart good to hear behind-counter talk of ‘I’ve bleached that…’ and we’ll scrub that later…’ A proper cafe!

Just, whatever else you may do, don’t find the museum by accident and wander in through the open door to reception unaware of their opening hours, eight minutes early.

Old “Yellow Sun” herself might be on the entrance till, and then you’ll be sorry.