Time flies like an arrow but ducks fly like a banana #narrowboat #canal #England

We’ve had the heat-wave, we’ve had the decidedly cool snap, and now we’re into what England does best – sort of sunny, a bit stormy, windy, cloudy, wet-dry, warmish take-a-coat-but-never-need-it-unless-you-don’t-take-it weather.

The canal, the clouds, the sun, the wind and every other scrag-end of nonsense that Her Majesty’s Meteorological Office can dredge up from the bottom of the global weather barrel…

As I sit sittingly at my study desk, to one side (port, or “larboard” if you’re old-fashioned) I have thick, low, dense grey cloud moving slowly like a Russian army bogged down in mud, to the other (starboard) I have several layers of different breeds of cloud, all at different altitudes, all moving at different speeds and showing small patches of blue sky. The breeze is almost a wind, and is sufficient to make the Cardinal’s canvas covers flap like sails being forced the wrong way around Cape Horn (both ways are the “wrong” way). The trees, the bushes and the long grass are akin to shoppers in a January sale – tottering wildly in one direction, then spotting something shinier and cheaper, and immediately tottering wildly in the opposite direction. Confusion reigns.

There has been sufficient starshine since two bells in the morning watch for the Cardinal’s batteries to be now in “absorption” phase, my meagre overnight demands being well on the way to being replaced even in this meteorological eccentricity. With the side-hatch open but glazed, and the bow doors ajar there is quite sufficient draught to clear away the nocturnal vapours and to give my lungs something fresh to chew on.

I have no close neighbours at the moment, just as I like it – and as I endeavour to arrange it when I may.

This is as well, for when I do have neighbours my dawn ritual draws the more-than-occasional look askance. Upon rolling out of my (questionably stained) hammock each morning and falling to all fours (“all fours” is what I call the deck in my cabin), I prise open whichever eye seems most eager to face the world and make my way (still on all fours) to find my clothes. If the previous night’s social gathering was particularly riotous this journey may take me the full length of the boat (57′). Then I loosen a hatch and crawl outside to squeegee off my solar panels.

Chateau Dingo’s Donger, with overtones of paw-paw and a bouquet suggestive of a wild canine’s todging tackle in high summer.

Rainfall is a wonderful thing, in moderation, but in this country at least it is never clean. With each drop comes a couple of buckets of Saharan sand, or two sacks of coal-dust from the mines of Westminster, or particulates and tiny living creatures (spiders with the faces of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn) thrown up from the nearest busy thoroughfare.

By simply rinsing my panels with fresh water and gently squeegeeing them orf each morning I can double their output in the tangential early hours of the day, and gain at least a five percent increase in output from then until dark. Is five percent worth the effort? Well, when did you last receive five percent on any account you hold with a High Street bank? Yes, I thought so…

The problem with neighbours comes with my choice of receptacle for the fresh water. A wine bottle is just and only just enough to rinse down five panels so that is what I use (water aboard is a precious commodity, as valuable as is single-malt grog).

I am thus well on the way to going down in canal folklore as “that chap who used to sacrifice a bottle of Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru du Dingo’s Armpit ’53 to his solar panels every morning at dawn“.

Sometimes, if my investments in the South Seas Bubbles Ltd., and in the East India Company are producing returns on the lean side of starvation, I may appear to substitute a bottle of Pinot Grigio Plonk du Plonk. Sprinkle, soak, wipe, squeegee.

The industry swears by tilting panels – swivelling the little beasts, in order to present more surface area directly to the nearest star, currently in my case, “the Sun”. However, that is all just so much nonsense – far better simply to keep your knees, the backs of your ears and your solar panels clean instead. Ninety-eight people out of a hundred (and that’s almost the entire canal population) do not tilt or adjust their panels correctly, and all of those ninety-eight and one and a half  of the other two never re-adjust them during the course of the day – or take note of the varying orientation of the boat, since canals do tend to snake around somewhat. Their efforts generally lose them more than they gain.

Washing them, however, and washing them early-on in the day, well… the Cardinal can harvest between one and two Imperial kWhs without breaking into a photovoltaic sweat, and can pull in power over longer days, and for longer seasons, than can an inferior, un-wined, un-squeegee’d set-up.

This is where my connection to the Sun approaches my batteries, via half a ton of best copper.

In “Other News” the usual things have been happening.

My MiFi set-up is suffering from what methinks be a loose connection in the rinky-dinky little MiFi unit itself. Damn it.

Lots of DIYery has been going on, new wiring for the panels, new aerials for the Interocitor, that sort of thing.

The Cardinal began his life as a thoroughly conventional narrowboat, and I have left him as such, but with all of the new functionality and improvingments fitted and made obvious in a sort of very gentle “Red Dwarf” fashion, with lots of visible ducting and generally good-looking clunkery. The photograph above shows the new feed wire from the solar panels, along the industrial cable-tray in bendy conduit, out into the open and thence into the Electrickery Hub. It’s a look that I love, the new embracing the traditional.

Too late – you’ve already been spotted, logged, photographed and sent into cyber-space.

The new lights and aerials towards the bow need only the cctv cameras to be installed now (on that raw-looking bracket and bolt, for the purpose) to complete the look. It’s all very non-Castles-&-Roses, and it gets the Cardinal and me cursed by the more traditional boaters. Unlike the traditional boaters, however, I can tune in to Radio Moscow on a whim where they struggle to find even a local taxi radio on the A.M. band.

The “winter warmer” is almost in place – tubery that will suck warm air from the forward cabin and force it to the back of the boat, warming up my sleeping cabin more quickly during the more frigid seasons. The stove flue surround has been removed, tickling and cleaning and improvement for the purposes of, and is about to be replaced by a – yes, you guessed it – more “Red Dwarf” arrangement of exposed metal and a latticework to separate coat-drying area more securely from flue.

It’s all go, you know.

In the time that it has taken me to type this blog post Mr Sunshine has left the building (presumably along with the KLF), the clouds have thickened and healed over into some deadweight goose-grey duck-down duvet and the breeze has become more ill-tempered. The English summer is in full swing.

Mr Diesel-Boiler is currently on, heating up the water for my shower. A tank of hot from either running Mr Engine or Mr Diesel-Boiler remains pleasantly and practically hot for two to three days – the tank is under my bed, and is insulated more soundly from thermal reality than is your average grasping politician.

Yestereve I bade Mr Sainsbury’s call, and we met in a car park mayhap a quarter of a mile away for our smugglers’ exchange – I gave him coin of the realm, he gave me a fortnight’s comestibles. Fresh food for a week, packets and ship’s biscuit for the week after. Salad wraps for lunch today, “Straight-to-Wok” noodles with live weevils and Soy Sauce next week. Essential coffee supplies have been replenished. Mr Trolley and I had our work cut out ferrying goods over the bridge and along the towpath, although our job was made easier by the CaRT contractors having coup de grâce this week.

Um, I mean having cut the grass of the towpath this week, ta very muchly, I doubt that it was the final cut of the year. Although, what with budget cuts…

I suppose that after I’ve showered and changed I’d better do some more laundry, since the clothes that I am in probably whiff of the perfume of an old man confined to a ship’s bilges for a week. I think that Lynx do some sort of fancy body-spray in a similar vein, it’s called Lynx “Sweaty Armpit with Essence of Oil of Incontinence”, and costs about 99p a tin if you buy it in the right, desperate, sort of outlet. Apparently one spray across the torso can make one utterly irresistible to the rest of one’s species, although I must say that it seems to take quite some time before the effect kicks in (five and a bit decades without tangible effect, so far)…

Laundry again, that’ll be fun. What larks, eh Pip?

So. How has life been where you are, dear reader?

Still battling venereal disease and the urge to strangle something?

Chin-chin for the mo, Ian H.
(Admiral of The Feet).


    1. I do wonder how much confusion “starboard” and “larboard” must have caused at sea during storms and wotnots. ‘Eh? Come again, Captain?’…


  1. Our Oregon weather keeps us guessing too. First day of summer was 20 degrees cooler than the previous day, and we had thunderstorms all morning. What a way to run a railroad…

    Strangling–yes. There were several people in my radar this week. Lucky for them they were nowhere near me.

    Your word-wizness and descriptions always give me a laugh–keep on boating!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s good to know that there is at least one other part of the world where the locals all look sartorially confused, carrying a bit of everything, just in case! Should you actually throttle anyone please do let me know – I have a spade and several favourite places where I bury bodies, happy to help and to share… 😉


  2. It”s good to know that you can still be relied upon to find he right wine receptacle to keep the boat in tip top shape. I’m sure the occasional neighbour doesn’t think you’re a dipsomaniac. May the wind fare well for you and may the clouds part over your solar panels on a regular basis.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I like to think of myself as having been more of a dipsopath rather than a dipsomaniac. Maniacs are always so animated, whereas we dipsopaths are much more dignified, even if we do always open our wine bottle with one swing of an axe… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I was wondering how you do your laundry? At the boat or in a facility? When we had our RV we had a washer / dryer. But most of the time we were hooked to potable water supply. You don’t have that. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Scottie, I have a twin-tub washing machine on the boat, built into its own little kennel in the galley. It is just big enough to cope with a double duvet cover. Once through the spinner I then bung everything to dry on an old-fashioned wooden clothes horse. If the weather’s good I can stash that outside on the bow or stern. I use bio-degradable detergent because all grey water goes straight into the canal. It’s a bit of a manual process but only uses what fresh water I give it to use, anything from twenty to forty litres a wash (I have a 545 litre fresh tank), and the electricity is provided by the batteries and replaced by the solar panels. The machine is worth its weight in gold, it has saved me £££ and many hours finding and sitting in laundrettes. 🙂 I’ve got all of the mod cons aboard!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Grand. Like I said we had a machine in the RV but we always parked in places with full utilities. Our freshwater tank was 400 gallons. We had a grey water tank and a black water tank. Hugs

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello, and thank you! I am indeed a legend in my own tartan slippers… Well, I say “legend” but really “subject to ongoing investigation by Interpol and three experimental psychologists specialising in fruitbats” would be more appropriate. If only I had money then I might just be plain old eccentric. Sighs, and exits stage left, weeping… 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hello there! You sound suitably eccentric to me. It is a noble state of mind and probably doesn’t require cash. At least, I hope it doesn’t – I’ve been playing the eccentric card quite strongly for years now!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I think I’m just now getting to the age where I can be considered “eccentric” rather than “weird.” It’s very confusing–behaviorally (I think that’s a word), I’m probably younger than my adult kids, while age-wise I am actually ***mumble mumble*** years old. I gave up being an adult one year for Lent, and decided to keep on with it. I really think I would get on famously with both of you.

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    1. Many thanks, kind sir, tis much appreciated. There are patches in the cloud cover now, the day is a little brighter than it was. Having just done the laundry mentioned in the post I need a couple of hours of decent solar input to replace the electrickery used!

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  4. Oddly we deal with Saharan dust cloud issues, too. Some years so dense it’s like fog in the Spring. But the particles are supposed to damper hurricane development, so what can I say
    The clouds are weird this year. At least here we can see a broad big sky and watch weather. Once you’ve had a boat that’s something you never stop doing even if landed.
    Cheers and onward!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t have a television set (I refuse to pay the licence fee to the propaganda machine that is the BBC these days), so the sky is my screen of choice! I love watching the clouds form and march off. Some days they seem to follow patterns (although I am certain that it is my brain and pattern-matching that varies, not the clouds) – yesterday was a day of faces in the sky. I was waiting for a large finger to form and point down at me… 😉

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  5. I think you should trick out your cart with all terrain wheels and suspension. As soon as you said you met the grocery delivery I was worrying about groceries jumping off the cart and onto the path or worse, into the canal. Although I suppose adding so much to the cart’s utility would make it less tractable when it needs to be tucked into a corner out of the way.

    The problems of living on a boat are unknown to those of us living the high life in urban areas, but dying slowly from our convenience and lack of soul touching scenery. Somehow I feel like you got the better life trajectory, despite towpath maintenance issues.

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    1. It’s funny that you should mention a fancy trolley – because on my “to buy, one day” list is just that, an “OAP” style shopping trolley but with large pneumatic wheels and the chassis of a small tank! Unfortunately, such opulence costs, hence the fiscal postponement! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The sad part is the people most likely to need such a trolley are less likely to spend huge wads of money on it. A bunch of folks near me walk to the grocery and back and use more ridiculous rickety carts. I was trying to convince my neighbor to invest in a better one, but when you walk to save money on the bus, you don’t have a couple hundred bucks for a cart.


  6. Excellent as usual and I have to say (although neither criticism or moan meant) I missed the Sunday show which together with my roasted potatoes, new Jersey Royals and enough veg variety to make your average school pupil ask “what’s that green stuff?” which has become a tradition of late. Better late than never, as they say on good postal routes. Why so I hear you ask? I find your blogg soothing; it makes me want to sway with the Cardinal and lull me off to a post Sunday lunch nap. But having just taken delivery of my Morrison’s shopping, I settle down to a cup of coffee and a Wonk pear and I agree, it’s amazing what you can do with a wine bottle and a squeegee…..

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    1. Sunday is my preferred day, but the calendar has been a little mixed-up of late! Today is the first day with both opportunity AND inclination… 😉 My moods are as confused of late as is the weather. More coffee is needed.

      Liked by 1 person

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