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.
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.
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.
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.
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).