Van Dykeing the flue and bunging on the new salt-caked short smoke-stack

The weather here this rather august August has been roasting hot, monsoon rains, blasting winds, very occasionally, very briefly quite civilised, and now it’s getting on the cool side of ‘More whisky in my cocoa, Sodbucket, and have my thick socks brought down from the attic.’ We are in that phase of the year where tis too warm by far to have Mr Stove lit during the day, and so cool in the evenings that we miss his company.

I swept the chimney yesterday. Before:




The flue is a nice, simple, straight up and down affair. To sweep it I use Duct Tape to lash a large wire-brush to an old barge-pole, then I stand on the gunwale and behave like someone using a stick to persuade a family of badgers out into the light. Up, down, around, scrape, brush – wait for the dust to clear – repeat ad necessarium.

The great trick is to make damnably certain that the stove is closed up below, and all of the vents shut.

This process deposits a good half-bucketful of semi-burnt dinosaur-remains into the stove, ready to shovel out. Take the flame-trap outside and wire-brush that off, clean the glass in the door, and the job’s a good’un. I hope it’s a good’un, anyway. We shall see. Haven’t lit him yet. Will get to try out the new-fangled “fire basket” when I do.


Such domesticity. Mayhap need a new coolie hat too, sometime soon. The one on the old chimney refuses to move. Mind you, coolie hat and old chimney have been together now for two or three years, I wouldn’t like to break up the relationship.


A rather exciting view down the throat of the new chimney, the swept flue and right to the top of the flame-trap:


A visual canal-based treat you’ve not seen before, I’ll warrant.

I’ve turned us around since the photograph below was taken, to get the stove flue to the towpath side, the better (and easier, and safer) to Van Dyke it.


It’s been a mixed weekend. Far fewer boats at times than I would have thought, at others many, many more. Etiquette and manners seem to have gone almost completely out of the window porthole, with speed speed speed being of the essence of (other people’s) enjoyment.

I have generally been surrounded, the photograph was taken while neighbours were off on manoeuvres. We’ve had engines run at 01:30hrs of the night, wee GRP cruiser-ettes speeding past at 04:00hrs. A family on a hire-boat for the weekend arranged themselves half on the towpath, the other half aboard and stranded by the wind on the offside armco. It was all hands to the ropes for that one. The boat currently to our stern – on the face of it a highly standard-looking retired couple out from their marina – started their engine at 0700hrs this morning, and it’s been running ever since. Now that it’s gone 0900 they’re – I think – field-testing the quality of the “bang” on all hatches and doors. Boaty people R happy peepul. A “Floating Holidays” boat has just come past on the way to some emergency, sans water-skier. They probably lost their water-skier when they shot out of the lock, like some sixteen-tonne turd flushed down a sewer pipe and anxious to swim in the ponds of the treatment works. The woman at the tiller (and throttle control) seemed to be gaining some sexual frisson from their velocity. This may be a rare thing, so I refrain from judging too harshly.

Being disinterested in such arrangements, I had forgotten that today is a Bank Holiday.

Reliable witnesses tell me that there have been excitable disagreements up at the lock nearby, barge-poles at dawn, some nasty cranial injuries delivered by flying mooring pin,  the occasional attempted lynching from the branches of the apple tree using mooring ropes, that sort of thing. All good-humoured stuff, and usually no-one of any import gets injured or killed. The Government did order everyone to get out and play with one another in the fresh air, when all is said and done.

I must of necessiscessity move in the next couple of days, otherwise Her Majesty’s “Canal Rozzers” will be upon me like pack rats upon a discarded Chinese take-away carton, but I’ll choose my time in hopes of less fraught company.

I have needs.

Rubbish disposal.
El San.
A fresh roll of Duct Tape.

Not today though. Not on a Bank Hodilay Monday.

Chin-chin, chaps.

Ian H., & Cardinal W.


  1. I keep intending to sweep my chimney. The last time I lit the stove a severe north-easterly blew four tons of soot across my roof. It’s like ink; impossible to clean off afterwards. All I could do was wait until it was properly caked on and then tip a bucket of metal-paint over the top.

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    1. My Mr Stove leaves a large oily patch around the chimney, streaks down the side of the boat and a trail back to the gutter outlets at the stern and on down the side again – no matter what or how I feed him. I have long-since given up trying to clean it, and regard it now as a badge of office, something that says “insane live-aboard aboard, don’t even think about it”.

      The new fire-basket seemed to work very well last evening, but it’s an unfair test since it was also the first run out and about for the new, shorter chimney stack. I have no idea what this winter has in store for us, but if it is as much fun as the earlier part of twenty-twenty then the Cardinal and I will be cruising to the southern hemisphere.

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  2. Wondered how you were doing this dank holiday. I was sure that it wouldn’t deter those people who needs must holiday to show the world that nothing deters them from anything. Stories from abroad (and I don’t mean the Norfolk one) make me despair at the human species! Nice to know Cardinal Wolsey is flue free and fine fettled. It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it. Bravo.

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    1. I am holding my breath and wishing upon wishing – the boat traffic appears to have all but halted since the 1st of the month, mayhap when the little spawn-of-their-loins were dragged screaming to be infected in their schools, and to re-start the process of killing the rest of us with this man-made, manually-distributed pantodemic…

      The quiet is really rather nice (although not good for canal businesses).


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