Ship's log 2011

Monday 18 July 2011

At Heathrow, the flight was late arriving from Amsterdam and its arrival got pushed back a little bit more each time CJ looked. Clearly a devious ploy to extract more money for the car park.

Terminal 5 quite posh but the woman at immigration quite suspicious of SJ and her lack of a British accent and passport.

CJ considering getting a head start on the lost baggage claim but SJ had once again included clean knickers in her hand luggage and so her checked bag was delivered without issue.

Off to Catslide by car with a stop at ASDA to acquire groceries. CJ opting for a huge turkey thigh (off the bone) for dinner and SJ sneaking the usual collection of chocolate, biscuits and sausage rolls into the cart each time his back was turned.

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A stop at the allotment for potatoes and runner beans and then home to make dinner.


Lots of Icelandic goodies for CJ such as volcanic ash and dehydrated fish bits - perhaps in future he will reconsider the wisdom of sending SJ through Iceland.

Tuesday 19 July 2011

SJ had cleverly done some laundry on her arrival the night before, but despite time in the tumble dryer, still not dry.

Stopped at the allotment to dig some potatoes for the boy then off to Birmingham to collect him. As he was scheduled to attend a talk (about the Fukushima nuclear power plant) in Warrington that evening, we had planned to spend the afternoon visiting old haunts.

Picked TW up at the Gun Barrels and heeded north. All hungry so stopped for lunch in Middlewich, opting for "Cynthia's Tea Shop" which was the only restaurant in town. As Cynthia is CJ's imaginary girlfriend, this was most appropriate.

In addition to Cornish pasties and miniature blackcurrant pies, Cynthia apparently also sold hand decorated cakes, examples of which were on display.

Decided the funeral cake for dear old dad which featured a set of cricket stumps and the legend "How's that Dad?" ("how's that" being the standard call to the umpires telling them to award an out) was the perfect confection to bid a fond farewell to a sporty gentleman. Personally SJ of the opinion that the whole thing was inadvertently rude.

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The funeral cake


Speaking of being inadvertently rude, TW keen to point out the official logo for the 2012 Olympic Games in London which clearly resembles Lisa Simpson on her knees.

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The completely innocent 2012 Olympic logo


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Apparently there are giant ones in London that are quite worth photographing.


Headed to Northwich to visit Auntie Iris (who looks very like the queen). Cousin David showed up shortly after we arrived and the five of us chatted amicably for an hour of two.

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Auntie Iris


Off to Whitegate next, first stop Pat and Tom's house where we admired their tuna sized goldfish and felt bad for any heron who would attempt to take one away. Quite a handy net over the pond served the dual purpose of keeping the fish from escaping awhile simultaneously protecting the heron from being eaten.

Tour of the the aviary and a lot to eat then said our goodbyes and wandered down the street to gawk at Threeways and all the changes that had been wrought since Nanna and Poppa lived there. hardly recognizable as the same place and they'd even changed the name.

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Public footpath still skirted the edge of the garden but apparently the new residents valued their privacy as they'd gone to great lengths to wall the footpath off from the garden. Some climbing required in order to view the house.

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CJ dead pleased to see a mole hill in the center of the footpath as these had been the bane of Poppa's existence for most of his life. CJ recalling one cold winter when the mole hills had frozen into solid lumps and could easily be lifted from the grass which was duly accomplished and the mole hill in question strategically placed in the center of the wooden bridge.

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Mole hill


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A drive through the village.


Then right by rookery cottage which in comparison hadn't changed at all.

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Dropped TW off at his lecture and went in search of something to eat. Both a bit leery of the pub advertising that it was "now open under old management", and eventually ended up at a new age pub that was serving an odd variety of tapas and whose only redeeming feature was free wifi.

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"now open under old management"


Wednesday 20 july 2011

Had stayed at TW's place the night before. Quite a nice space however SJ not sure what was more disturbing, the mold collecting on the ceiling in the shower or the porn hanging over her bedroom door. Apparently it had once hung in the downstairs hall and LE had assured a neighbor that it was a Georgia O'Keefe.

Bicycled into Selly Oak with the intention of visiting a used bookstore ("alas no longer with us"). So ended up at the university attending the exhibition of tennis in art at the Barber Institute.

Exhibition quite good, though as we had walked in expecting it to be rubbish, it's possible that it simply so far exceeded our expectations that we merely think it was good.

Both SJ and CJ quite taken by "The seven ages of man", depicted by seven tennis balls each of which was covered by the artist's hair in each of the seven decades of his life. The first ball covered in black hair and a nice progression to the last ball which was stark white.

CJ quite keen to start his own set of tennis balls as convinced that curly hair would bounce better, alas a bit too late for him to start.

Off to the Gun Barrels to meet TW for lunch. Might as well have been in America from the look of the menu, only a single traditional British dish - no question, steak and ale pie for SJ. TW opting for the scary "big breakfast". One notes that he forgot to eat the mushrooms.

SJ hoping to find copies of "Peter Duck" and "Missie Lee" to send to her friend in the Netherlands so plan for the afternoon entailed bicycling to Harborne to visit the charity shops and the two second hand bookshops that TW swore were located on the high street.

While the liquid courage she had ingested in the form of Pear Cider helped, it turns out that bicycling on the wrong side of the road is actually quite terrifying and SJ kept managing to end up on the American side by accident. Indeed, SJ nearly met with an untimely demise on two occasions first with a poorly executed right turn and again at a busy round about. Quite disconcerting to continually encounter cars where you don't expect them.

Cross crossing guard (lollipop man) quite convinced we were going to run him down on our bicycles.

Lots of charity shops in Harborne as well as lots of eager school children who had clearly just finished their last day of school for the term and were celebrating by singing at the tops of their lungs.

SJ, quite terrified of the assembled hoards, took to cowering behind every available rubbish bin.

They'd all signed each other's shirts and a girl by the name of Emily was obviously in high demand as she'd signed every one of the boy's shirts. Charity shops proved insufficient for our needs and only the one second hand bookshop, not the two that the boy had promised. Not a single Arthur Ransome novel in sight, not even at the new bookstore.

Acquired a chicken and some garlic for dinner then met up with TW at the White Horse pub where we sampled its fine ales. SJ content with water.

Cycled home and CJ (as Susan) rustled up our evening grub. One chicken, four heads of garlic and a lemon. SJ shelled the beans and proceeded to get royally drunk on vitamin drinks

A quick visit to TW's local offie where they were disappointed to see he wasn't wearing a funny hat as each time he does that they make a fortune on alcohol sales.

Spent the evening watching the first half of Coot Club.

Thursday 21 July 2011

SJ in pain from her bicycling adventures so into Selly Oak by car to meet up with TW. Lunch at the Selly Sausage then sent the boy back to work and headed off to Gloucester to visit the Inland Waterways Museum.

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Stuck behind a large tanker that was clearly carrying chocolate.


CJ noticing the signs for Ross-on-Wye from the motorway and distinctly remembering visiting the town with SJ's mother. This because the town was an oasis of second hand bookshops. Indeed back in the 1970's a Mr. Booth took over the town one building at a time for his bookshop. Clearly this was the place to find what we were after so planned to visit there as soon as we finished at the museum.

Museum rather badly signposted but we found in at last though very nearly at the expense of a £60 bridge violation.

Museum quite good for canal enthusiasts such as ourselves but like most things canal related, suffered from extensive water damage. SJ had never seen a wooden block floor before and CJ remembering the water damage at Solihul college which lifted the floor in the aviation lab in a great pyramid over 2 meters high at its apex. "But all rich pickings for a man with a woodburning stove."

Some interesting history and displays in the museum (including the full scale diorama of someone legging a boat through a tunnel) but CJ most impressed by the display and history of painted canalware (roses and castles). SJ enthralled by the model canal system and spent rather a lot of time working her model boat through the obstacles (narrow lock, broad lock, tunnel, boat lift). Model railways have nothing on this. Clearly she needs to get one of these at home.

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Sj legs it"


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Poked our noses into Northwich, traditional narrowboat restored to authentic condition. CJ quite pleased with the simulated pan of eggs and bacon.

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SJ appalled by the sight of a concrete narrowboat


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Poked our noses into Northwich


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CJ quite pleased with the simulated pan of eggs and bacon


Also quite pleased to tour a steam powered Dutch bucket dredger from the 1920's and SJ appalled by the sight of a concrete narrowboat.

Strangely not a single calendar to be found in the shop, good thing SJ renumbered last year's. Caught by the lift bridge as we were returning to the car (quite impressed by the way the cantilever folded as the bridge rose (as a space saving method).

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Caught by the lift bridge


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the cantilever folded as the bridge rose


Off to Ross-on-Wye with only just enough time to make it before closing. CJ dropped SJ off at the first second hand bookshop we encountered so that she could locate the children's building while he parked the car.

Shop in question featured mainly antiquarian books and shop keeper assured us he was the only second hand bookshop in town. CJ quite unbelievingly fixed him a paddington bear stare. Perhaps like the ladies at the Oxfam bookstore the day before, simply unwilling to disclose the location of the competition. Some confusion as he did point us a a new bookshop.

Walked through town, not another secondhand bookshop to be found. Stopped for coffee instead. SJ opting for "iced tea" which apparently contained no tea at all. Not even tea flavored and completely undrinkable. Managed to exchange it for a hot chocolate instead.

Back to the car by way of a sweet shop. Fisherman's friends and black currant and raspberry drops for CJ a, dolly mixture and cola bottles for SJ, and a chocolate banana for the boy.

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Back to the car by way of a sweet shop


Shopkeeper keen to inform us that he sold American sweets. "Those are gross," said SJ when she saw what he had. "Yes, rather," the reply.

Some difficulty finding the car as CJ has completely forgotten where he's parked it. Ironically SJ had been concerned about this when he originally dropped her off.

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Some elderly people find difficulty in finding the car


Quick perusal of the map to identify the best way back to Birmingham and CJ realized that the bookstores were actually located in Hay-on-Wye.

TW not impressed with his chocolate banana even though a fitting ornament for his downstairs bathroom.

Onto the bikes and into town to meet up with Honda, Vicki, Ian Titty and Nikki. First at the pub and then on for a curry. Titty quite taken by the sight of another diner with gauged ears. Thanks to rule 34, quite convinced that some sort of gauged ear porn must exist but no matter how he's searched, completely unable to find any. SJ promising to take up the challenge and call in the expertise of her friends.

A nice dinner and all amused when midway through a woman entered and in a strong Birmingham accent requested "a tie-bal for four".

Home by bicycle (SJ's ass really hurting now) and finished the second part of coot club.

Friday 22 July 2011

Into Selly Oak by car to meet TW at the "mudpie cafe," which served neither mud nor pies and indeed not even the name of the establishment.

Headed over to the University to tour TW's lab when we were done eating. First stop the cyclotron where TW lied to us about the way it worked explaining that it was an RFfield that accelerated the particles between two "D" shaped electrodes whereas CJ knows for a fact that in this particular machine the "D's" are split in half to make a quadruple space.

Talked throughout the usage of the various beams ("and this one's mine,'"said TW) then upstairs to learn about positron emission tomography (PET) or rather PEPT (positron emission particle tracking.)

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Sj mystified by the lift's floor selector buttons


TW keen to explain each of his recent projects, a dishwasher and a machine to mix dogfood. CJ with grand plans to steal the bag of irradiated dogwood to take home to the parrot (so that we could find her in the dark).

TW in such demand in his department that you can only find the door that displays his name by first passing through a completely anonymous locked one.

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The only door that displays his name


TW demonstrated his portable PEPT detectors and gave what he clearly believed was an intelligible explanation of how they worked.

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CJ and SJ into Birmingham proper to acquire party supplies and visit the canals. Found an out of the way parking lot and paid for 3 hours of parking, not noticing until later that the machine had never been adjusted to British Summer time, paid for 3 hours, got 4.

First stop the indoor meat market where dozens of butchers carried every sort of fish and meat imaginable. There were piles of chicken feet, rows of pig heads, pig legs, goat, tripe, livers and lights (lungs), as well as more traditional things. A vegetarian's nightmare.

Acquired a large pork shoulder and had the butcher remove the bone and roll it for us so that it would work well on the spit.

Our main task completed we headed over to the rag market. CJ with plans to dress as Friar Tuck for his annual end of summer party so in need of a length of brown sack cloth. Managed to find the perfect thing, good now CJ can stop eyeing the dresses of every plus sized woman we see.

Purchased a bag to hold our purchases then off on the adventuring part of our day. CJ not quite sure how to get to Gas Street Basin so led us a merry dance through the streets until we finally stumbled across it. (Did stop once at a game store, mostly as SJ enjoys the appalled look on CJ's face at the sight and smell of this particular shop, conversation amongst the gamers suddenly tapering off at the presence of a female.)

Walked around the basin and canal for awhile reminiscing about our last visit on Cribbit thirteen years age. SJ had taken second place in the "Junior Year Prize," a yearly competition for industrial design students in their junior year at Syracuse University. The competition that year had been to design an exhibit about an industry that had shaped an area and SJ had done hers on the revitalization of the British canal network. This year, prior to leaving the USA she has received a letter asking for a photo of her with her project. As we had passed through Birmingham the summer she worked on the competition, photos of the basin had featured in her presentation so SJ keen to take a current photo in the same location.

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Walked around the basin and canal


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Both with a craving for ginger beer when we were done and for a wonder actually managed to find some. Back to the car but as CJ's path to the canal had been somewhat circuitous, jolly good to have SJ along to lead us straight to it, suspect CJ would never have managed to find it on his own.

Arrived home before the boy and SJ pleased to learn (though unwilling to actually look for herself) that there was room in TW's fridge for the pork shoulder.

Just enough time to check e-mail then TW returned and we headed off again. Plan for the evening involved attending a show at The Hare and Hounds but as the venue was a few miles away and the plan called for drinking, some car shuffling was required.

The original plan had called for us to load the bikes into the car and drive to the venue where we would leave the car overnight and bike home however CJ a tad leery about the idea of a two and a half mile intoxicated bike ride in the dark so instead arranged that TW would drop us off, return the car and rejoin us by bike. One wonders why we didn't just take a taxi each way.

Had what turned out to be a very good dinner at the pub - spicy jalapeño burgers!

Pete, Honda, Vicki and Adham soon joined us. In addition to being named after a cheese, Adham had a somewhat off centered mohawk on his head and as he is apparently terrified of women, TW had thoughtfully sicced SJ on him.

Alas not at all the result TW had intended, rather than traumatizing the poor bloke, SJ inadvertently legitimized his hobby (attempting to visit all of the stops on a city's subway station in the shortest possible time) by admitting that she actually knew of someone else with this interest.

Honda and Pete quite displeased with this turn of events and Adham apparently quite smitten, later informing Vicki that he thought SJ was "exceptionally beautiful".

TW horrified but no worries that it will go to her head, as who would credit the word of someone named after a cheese.

Headed upstairs to see the show when we were done eating. Alternative Dubstep Orchestra were the first performers who turned out to be quite good giving us hope that we might be able to tolerate the main act. Alas as the set break went on and on and on and the time crept later and later, CJ decided he had had enough. As SJ not at all impressed by the 1.5 hour wait between sets, and nearly 1:30am at this point, said our goodies and hailed a taxi.

TW very nearly letting us go off with his bike key.

Saturday 23 July 2011

Up early(ish) and SJ and CJ off to Catslide to prepare for the party. Lots of traffic on the road and both horrified by the sight of a van carrying white doves for weddings (and not for the pie). Missed the brewery as we weren't early enough so forced to buy bottled beer in Thame. SJ headed off to the Oxfam bookshop whilst CJ visited the bakery, managing to score a used copy of Swallows and Amazons right out of the window. Alas still no sign of Peter Duck or Missee Lee for her friend.

Last year's questionable signs no longer in evidence, was it possible that the proprietors of The Spread Eagle had finally noticed the double entendre?

Met back up at the food co-op and completed our shopping then back to Catslide to take care of party prep.

Upon arrival at Ivo's place in the Netherlands, SJ had been greeted with the words, "you're dressed optimistically," and as she was now desperately in need of doing some laundry this phrase was echoing in her head as she flounced around the house in a short skirt and sleeveless shirt. Set to work in earnest on food and party prep. Sent TW and crew off to the allotment to dig potatoes as soon as they arrived.

Pete and Honda quite amused by SJ's declaration that she was "out of clean pants". I don't think that means what you think it means! But SJ quite pleased when her laundry was done and she was able to put on warmer clothes.

Set the pork to turning on the spit and gathered around it, chatting happily and taking turns winding the spit each time the bell rang.

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Honda and Vicki quite keen to know why SJ considers England to be such a 3rd world country, but quickly apparent that when one has only ever viewed CJ and TW's lifestyles, that it may very well be.

Vicki full of assurances that the rest of the country didn't live that way but with years worth of experience forming her impressions, SJ not convinced.

David, Anne and their son Phillip from the village had come to join us for the evening. Phillip quite upset to learn that Josie was actually a parrot. Not even convinced when he heard her say "pieces of eight". Honda, Pete and Vicki were off to play crochet at the Edgebaston crochet club the following weekend so a practice match in the garden.

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Philip and Tw


Unfortunately for them, official Catslide rules a tad different from the ones they would be playing under at Edgebaston. Not only was alcohol permitted (encouraged!) but all balls must be played from where they landed regardless of whether you hit it there yourself of if it got repositioned by a friendly parrot. TW's first ever crochet victory quite literally snatched away from him at the last moment.

Rosemary dropped the green salad but the roast pork and potato salad still fabulous on their own.

Had to keep an eye on both Josie and Phillip as hard to tell which of them were more likely to run off with the meat the moment our backs were turned.

A chocolate torte and fruit salad for afters. David quite keen to take a nap beside the fire but warned off due to the likelihood of TW and his friends playing a round of Buckaroo on anyone foolish enough to fall asleep. (Apparently Pete frequently falls asleep and awakens to find all sorts of random objects stacked high above him - we're told they once made it all the way to the ceiling.)

Spent the evening around the fire pit, CJ bemoaning the shortening of his life with every plank we burned. Ann, David and Phillip said their goodbyes and CJ and RA to bed soon after. Not the rest of us, stayed up talking until after dawn.

Pete keen to know if American used the expression "Goddamn" quite as frequently as movies seem to imply. Pete quite pleased each time SJ said it in casual conversation.

Sunday 24 July 2011

TW off to spend the day at a function with his mother's family so despite going to bed at dawn, up and on the road around 9am. SJ not emerging until significantly later.

The sun was shining for the first time since SJ arrived and CJ and RA were in the garden reading and napping respectively. Seemed like a good time to get caught up on life in the "real world" so SJ borrowed the laptop and spent some time surfing the web and checking e-mail.

Afternoon sunshine with a bit of a lulling effect so SJ opting for a midafternoon nap that lasted until nearly dinner.

Fish risotto for dinner and then early to bed.

Monday 25 July 2011

CJ and SJ off to the allotment first thing, SJ set the task of stripping all the broad beans, felt a bit guilty as this involved uprooting each plant but it was at the little old man's insistence.

Garden fully looted we head off towards Oxford, stopping first in Headington to visit the shark and then a slew of charity shops.

The shark, a giant fiberglass fin sticking out of somebody's roof, exactly the sort of attraction SJ most approves of, so duly photographed.

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While quite a good number of charity shops in Headington, but not an Arthur Ransome book to be found, clearly they're so good nobody ever parts with them.

Parked the car on the other side of town and headed into Oxford proper by bus. Deposited on the high street and found ourselves completely surrounded by tourists.

Wandered around for a awhile, visited a few bookstores, including a discount one where SJ acquired another dragon children's book (SJ had arranged to exchange euros for pounds with CJ at a very competitive rate. 1:1.)

Quickly tired of the crowds so headed off towards the other end of town. The second hand bookstore had closed early so still no luck and as CJ flat out refused to go punting, opted instead to visit CJ's favorite Oxford pub (Scibar - where they give science lectures once a month).

Found a shady spot in the garden and proceeded to start work on the log much to the amusement of the guy at the next table who seemed to find our reminiscing highly entertaining. SJ randomly stung by a wasp - completely unprovoked!

Headed over to the Kazbar (a tapas restaurant) to meet up with Liz, Courtney, Murry and RA (Courtney later performed introductions in which she introduced SJ as her cousin and Liz as SJ's cousin.)

A very tasty dinner and fabulous company.

Headed back to Courtney's place when we were done eating and proceeded to drink our way through another bottle of wine.

Quite late by this time so said our goodbyes and headed out to catch the night bus. Didn't walk quite quick enough, and had to stop to let SJ pee in a bush so despite racing the last 30 feet, the bus didn't even pause. 20 minute wait for the next one. SJ jolly pleased she no longer had to pee.

A double decker so upstairs to appreciate it properly.

Left RA's car where it was (in preparation for the next day's trip to London) and headed home.

Straight to bed.

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Dragged out of bed at an ungodly hour, both SJ and RA loathe to get moving but CJ adamant.

SJ and RA dropped off at Hillingdon underground station for their "sight seeing" day in London, a female pleasure apparently denied them by CJ on all occasions, while CJ headed on to Willowtree to get the boat ready for our holiday of "hard boating".

Two journeys with the trolley got everything on board, allotment vegetables distributed to the neighbors Alan and Derek as well as us.

Opened Cribbit's door to be met with an annoying electronic whistling noise which seemed to stop whenever CJ kept still and which defied location. Asked Derek how his hearing was and as he was very proud of his hearing (despite being a lot older than CJ) invited him aboard and he finally traced it to the "red thing" which was complaining it hadn't been charged, or used, in a long time.

Soon off with the boat to Greenford in time to hop on the tube and meet up with the tourists at the Cheshire Cheese. Actually met Tom as arranged at 1730 but the girls not rolling in until 2 hours later. SJ had announced that they were not worried about being late to meet CJ as he had "lots to occupy him at the Cheshire Cheese".

The girls in the meantime had been hard at work playing tourist. They'd emerged from the underground at Baker Street Station and while they'd toyed with the idea of riding one of the London tour busses, opted instead to use their Oyster cards to hop on a regular city bus. As they'd remarkably managed to get on an appropriate bus, ended up on a route nearly identical to the far more expensive tour busses. Not an open top double decker but that the only difference we could see to justify tickets £25 more expensive per person.

Drove by lots of London landmarks like Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, the 3 hour queue in front of Madam Tussauds, a famous toy store, and a famous theater before winding up by West Minster and the Houses of Parliament. SJ very, very excited to see Big Ben!

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Disembarked and wandered along the southern bank of the Thames. Anther giant queue, this time for the London Eye. Good thing we're not the kind of tourists who like to go and tour things. London Eye looked particularly dodgy thanks to an empty cage on one of the spokes. What in the world had happened there? and did the people inside it at the time survive?

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London Eye looked particularly dodgy


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an empty cage on one of the spokes


Continued on, passing the (new) globe theater, the millennium bridge, the shard, the Tower of London, the Gherkin and Tower Bridge.

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Had crepes for lunch and SJ ruined the Olympics for RA by pointing out the flaw in the logo.

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SJ ruined the Olympics for RA by pointing out the flaw in the logo


Eventually arrived at the Design museum which featured two excellent exhibitions, the first a retrospective of the career of British industrial designer Kenneth Grange and the second the nominees for this year's British Design of the Year Award.

Quite pleased with a number of the nominations. In particular pleased to see that the public bicycle share scheme whose kiosks were all over the city had received a nomination. So too had an excellent folding electric scooter, an outdoor flooring tile that harvested electricity from people walking on it and a system for combining papercraft and legos. Quite pleased to see that Angry Birds had also been nominated for an award.

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SJ fell afoul of the museum shop on her way out of the building, but fortunately the objects she most wanted to acquire were not available in the shop. Contented herself with the book detailing each of the nominations for the design prize and a handful of postcards and fled for her life.

Already late to meet CJ by this time so what was a little bit later? Stopped for tea and scones at what turned out to be a very nice little restaurant. Both enamored by the very well designed teapots in which our tea was served. Both quite keen to buy one but a little pricey. Hemmed and hawed for awhile before eventually giving in to the inevitable. SJ forced to use the last of her cash and borrow £5 from RA in order to complete the transaction (as the shop was closing and they'd already rung through the credit card transactions.)

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Both enamored by the very well designed teapots


Walked across Tower Bridge, pausing for a few more photographs then onto the underground (going out of our way to be sure we stood still on the escalator, in addition to playing tourist, tea and scones, and shopping, one more thing CJ detests) and off to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese to meet CJ. Better late than never.

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off to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese to meet CJ


Chatted with CJ's former coworker Tom and then back to the underground by way of the statue of Samuel Johnson's cat.

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Samuel Johnson's cat


Disembarked at Greenford station, SJ quite excited to get to ride the wooden escalator again.

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Fish, chips, mushy peas and Ginger beer for dinner, served in Cribbit's bows


Off to bed, CJ assuring SJ that the sheets on her bed were "mostly clean" but sticks, stones and all sorts of debris gave the lie to his words.

Wednesday 27 July 2011
11 lock miles (10 miles, 1 lock).

CJ roused the crew early, much to SJ's dismay. Toast with blackcurrant jam for breakfast, then we were underway.

Quite a long pound, indeed nearly a whole day's cruising before we reached the first lock. The usual canal sites to see, half sunk boats with carnivorous plans on the roof that housed bachelors and tidy painted boats with elaborate flower displays that clearly housed couples.

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Stopped at what turned out to be a gigantic canal side Tesco. "Are you sure we're still in England?"

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canal side Tesco


Acquired provisions and headed off again, SJ spending most of the journey working on the log.

Through Cowley lock, stopped for free wifi at a pub for a little while then continued on, moored by a legit pirate ship.

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moored by a legit pirate ship


SJ quite amused by the British waterways sign that forbade fishing between the arrows particularly as the obvious arrows were only a few inches apart, perhaps someone should have thought it through a bit more.

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Thin fisherpersons only


CJ spent the evening splicing the rope that Jason had cut when he got it wrapped around the prop a few weeks ago.

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CJ spent the evening splicing the rope


A hot stir fry for dinner with island oasis of green broad beans and the rest of the evening spent calling the relatives, finishing the log (we're caught up!) and measuring the mattresses for a new built in couch/berth. Clearly Cribbit is well back into cruising mode and no longer a houseboat!

Poor CJ forced into the cold dark night just as he wanted to go to bed. This because SJ in want of checking her e-mail and his kindle flat out refusing to play along.

SJ of the opinion that, hands down, the kindle has the worst web interface she's ever seen (and she includes text only browsers on the list).

Easily a mile to the pub (The General Elliot) and back but alas their router was clearly in need of another reboot. Neither with any interest in actually going into the pub so back to the boat, defeated.

Thursday 28 July 2011

Clean sheets on the bed made all the difference and SJ managed a good night's sleep, so nice not to have to share one's bed with sticks and stones.

CJ started the morning single handing while SJ took a shower. The downside of showering on Cribbit is the small space allotted for the purpose. Only just room to turn around and the ceiling only 6 inches taller than SJ. The upside, thanks to the small space, the water bounces off the walls and you end up with quite a good amount of water pressure. Alas the water tank contains London water, now there's a good reason to head further north!

SJ emerged to discover we were working our way up the cut with another boat. The Carinya quite a lovely narrow boat albeit one with significantly more draft and tonnage (25 tons vs. Cribbit's 7 tons, 2.5 ft draft vs our 1.5 ft) and at 65ft, a good deal longer than Cribbit as well (also far posher).

Mike and Kathy, the couple who own her turned out to be good company and we went as far as to make plans to moor up beside them so that we could continue our partnership the next day. Very nice not to have to work broad locks alone and SJ and Kathy making a good team, each working one side of the lock.

Quite good time, thanks no doubt to the fact that we were having excellent luck, hitting each lock just as down traffic was exiting it, and often not even needing to close it behind us thanks to more down traffic. Just the way a lazy crew likes it!

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Made it to the canal centre at Rickmansworth several hours earlier than we expected to. As SJ had been extolling the wonders of this particular canal centre (and their calendars), she was forced to race ahead to be sure she wasn't beaten out of the last 2011 calendar.

Tragedy, not a calendar to be found! a good thing SJ had taken the time to renumber her 2010 calendar to reflect 2011 dates.

Dashed across the lock to visit the little union canal, but disappointed yet again as whilst it is a lovely canal model, lovingly built into the slope of the hill, with 2 locks and a tunnel, it was empty!

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What kind of canal enthusiast keeps their model canal empty?!?!?!

CJ quite convinced that SJ should build her own model canal and SJ actually drawn into the conversation about design and construction before coming to her senses and refusing to contemplate it further.

After all, while one could easily build a simple children's play model, one fears that it would quickly lose its luster and one would then find oneself compelled to build a very elaborate and detailed working model. The type of model that quickly becomes one's life's work and leads to some great elaborate interconnected waterways with lift bridges, swing bridges and a fully operational Falkirk Wheel by the time one is 80. Down that path lies madness.

Moored up for the night just above Cassio Bridge Lock. Mike and Kathy set out a table and BBQ and CJ made mojitos (breaking a glass quite spectacularly all over the galley in the process. (Do not walk around barefoot.)

Sausage and chicken on the BBQ for Mike and Kathy and lamb chops for SJ and CJ. Salad, potatoes, broad beans, wine and strawberries shared round.

Quite a nice way to spend the evening. All quite sloshed by the time it was time to head to bed.

Friday 29 July 2011

Crew roused at dawn (though the clock claimed it was nearly 9am). Continued working our way up the cut with our friends from yesterday. First couple of locks set for us, so well pleased. Alas Kathy chose that moment to exclaim over our good fortune and it was over. Every lock set against us from there on.

Lots of wildlife on the canal including a sea monster, perhaps a bit far from its natural habitat.

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Lots of wildlife on the canal


Moored for lunch (SJ does not approve of this) and CJ and SJ given a tour of Carinya - very posh, practically a floating palace!

Encountered a group of kayakers by one of the locks. Easily 30 children with only a heedful of adults. SJ asked if she (and her boat) were in a hurry or was she content to sit there and laugh. This apparently amused Mike and Kathy inordinately as it was the first thing they told TW on his arrival.

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kayakers by one of the locks


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Stopped for water, Carinya's owners had apparently stopped for water the day before so only needed a top up. Cribbit on the other hand clearly hadn't had the water tank filled in weeks. Mike and Kathy quite disbelieving by just how much water she took on. Both quite convinced that she was leaking it out into the canal as fast as we filled it.

Two narrowboats on their way up the lock so decided we had enough water and headed off so that we could beat them to the next lock. Mike and Kathy had lent us their hose when they were done filling Carinya and SJ inadvertently dropped into into the canal as she was closing up Cribbit's water tank. Mike and Kathy well and truly horrified, just as SJ would have been had she actually noticed what she'd done.

Up a few more locks with Carinya then said our goodbyes and carried on alone when Mike and Kathy found a likely looking spot to spend a few days.

SJ quite excited to come to a swing bridge - her favorite! This one was electronically operated (it required a BW key) and quite a busy little road. Very satisfying to put down the traffic barriers and stop several cars in their tracks as Cribbit glided slowly by.

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Moored for the night just above the bridge and CJ made lasagna for dinner. Unfortunately when he stopped at Sainsbury's several miles back he'd forgotten to buy the pasta so the boy sent off on the bike to acquire some.

Feeling clever TW found a small store halfway to Sainsbury's but as their idea of pasta was to offer him a noodle cup (ramen), TW forced to admit that there was nothing for it but to head all the way to Sainsbury's.

Lasagna very tasty then off to the pub in hopes of acquiring wifi but no dice.

Saturday 30 July 2011

SJ taking advantage of TW's arrival to lay in her bunk reading. Quite a nice way to spend the morning, even if CJ and TW did keep running us aground. Apparently we were having a bit of a water shortage on the canal. Indeed the Aylesbury Arm was closed due to the water shortage so a bit of a rethink about our plans for the next few days, thought still hopeful we would be able to blag our way through.

Midafternoon CJ sent out a round robin of texts saying "life on the boat - perfect" only Jason replying. "Where are you, can I come and meet you?" Answer, "tring summit soon we turn left for Aylesbury" then, "is there a station at trig summit? what time are you getting to Aylesbury?"

Anyway the next thing we know Jason is on the way and so we turn back into the top of the top pound. A wait at tring summit station (amused by signpost on a section of canal without a junction in sight) and then off we go again. Mooring Bulbourne junction and meeting up with Rob and Jon at the Grand Union Arms pub.

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Excellent food at the pub (stonehenge chips particularly tasty) and fine ale.

SJ growing cold so back to the boat a bit early only to discover all the lights on so back to the pub for reinforcements in the form of CJ. Jason and TW staying out drinking until the wee hours.

Sunday 31 July 2011

Aylesbury arm confirmed closed so down the wendover arm so that we could see some narrow canals.

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TW eager to tell us about his dream from the night before. Apparently in his dream we took the boat into a lock and when we finished draining it we realized that there was no water on the other side. Did nobody check first? We then proceeded to explore the empty lock and as is to be suspected we found a number of useful objects like spanners, windlasses and then increasingly less useful items like crap paintings which were framed with curved glass that could only be hung along the curved side of the boat. fortunately at that point TW was awoken by Jason standing on his head.

Dream appropriate however as we quickly made it to the end of the Wendover arm and took of on foot to explore the not yet restored section of the canal. So TW was able to live out his dream.

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SJ of course upset by the casual manner in which the rest of the crew ignored the "Do not enter" signs and climbed the fence to explore. A little strange to see bridges already spanning the empty canal and very confused by the oddly places sluice gate until we determined that it was part of an old 1920's era pumping station.

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Blackberries all along the derelict section of the cannel and lots of plums on the navigable bits, picked lots by the simple expedient of standing on the roof.

Backtracked to where we'd spent the night the day before. As there was a nice BBQ area right next to the canal. Set up the parasol at one of the tables and proceeded to BBQ pork chops. Salad, potatoes, parsnips, beans, and mojitos to go with them. But perhaps a tad too much run in the mojitos as crew quickly sloshed.

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SJ quite unable to stand up, collapsed into her bunk and ended up taking an inadvertent afternoon nap.

TW however with a 5pm deadline to submit a paper for a conference so in need of wifi to do just that.

While the pub we'd had dinner at the night before professed to have wifi, it wasn't functional wifi so TW forced to search further afield, so he and Jason set off on the bikes to do just that.

They returned an hour or so later, on their second attempt they had located a pub for their purposes but no sooner had TW attempted to upload the paper than the laptop battery had died. As he'd somehow neglected to bring the charger with him this was somewhat problematic so back to the boat to acquire it (after first stopping at another pub to play billiards before getting kicked out because they were so drunk they kept hitting the ball off the table).

Jason swore they'd cycled about 14 miles when they returned, TW of the opinion it was closer to a mile and a half. Apparently they had set off an electronic sign informing them they were exceeding the speed limit (30mph). Both dead pleased by this.

TW back to the pub (this time alone) with the charger to finish submitting the paper.

Jason had decided he wasn't ready to return to the real world so call to his boss to tell him the boat had broken down. He was stranded and as such wouldn't be in on Monday.

Ate cheese soufflé and baked beans for dinner in the park than off to the pub (Grand Junction Arms) mostly so we could use the bathroom as the one on the boat was starting to get a bit full.

SJ keen to point out a painting of a narrowboat with flowers on the roof that looked like fireworks that she had seen the other night and TW responded by pointing out a painting that had caught his eye. As we ended up sitting right by it, ended up discussing it at great length. It was a painting of the pub we were currently in with the canal outside. As we are art critics we didn't have an awful lot of nice things to say about it. TW disturbed by the fact that the building seemed to be floating, CJ concerned that there perspective was off and SJ freaked out that someone had apparently set a canal boat adrift and it was about to crash into the bridge.

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Big sign announcing that the artwork in the place was for sale, that one wasn't however, one of the barmaids who had overheard our conversation informed us. She herself had painted it for the pub. Whoops. Beat a hasty retreat, clearly we can never go to that pub again.

SJ took a bad fall getting onto the boat, opting to fall hard into the bows rather than topple overboard much to everyone else's disappointment.

Monday 1 August 2011

Possible that the eggs and beans not the smartest dinner for four people living in cramped confines on a boat. His valet, though asleep, was by no means at rest. His innards commenced to growl and snarl like beagles a the grounded fox; the hominy and cider in him foamed and effervesced; anon there came slates to the rising moon, and the bedchamber filled with the perfume of ferment. The author of these snored roundly, but his master was not so fortunate; indeed he had at length to flee the room, ears ringing, head a-spiin, and the smart of bumbles in his eyes.

Jason, the one doing the fleeing in the middle of the night thought this on account of needing a cigarette and some plums. CJ quick to assure us at one point all of the other three crew members snoring loudly.

CJ approached another boat (Faith) to see if they wanted to lock down with us. Woman a bit leery of the look (or possibly the smell) of our crew, declined in favor of eating breakfast so we set off on our own.

Of course thanks to our detour down the Wendover arm the previous day, we were facing in the wrong direction. TW expertly executing a very impressive reverse and turn in crowded waters.

CJ very confused by the existence of gate paddles on the bottom gate of the first lock. But that it was the top gate of the top lock. That's right, we were starting back down.

Quickly acquired a locking partner and worked our way down. Paused to use the trash and elsan services right at the juncture for the Aylesbury arm. As the first lock was a staircase, SJ quite keen to have a look at it as staircases (where one lock opens directly into another) are quite rare and easy to get wrong.

Aylesbury arm indeed closed, lock gates padlocked shut and a sign informing us that this was due to a leak that British Waterways feared might cause a breech at any moment.

Disappointing not to get to work some narrow locks but still enjoying life on the Grand Union so continued down.

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The official photograph 2011


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Jason parted ways with us at Cheddington. He and TW biking to the train station then TW returning with both bikes, CJ meeting him halfway back to make his less awkward.

Had lunch on the stern. Actual fighting over the Edam cheese then continued on our way.

SJ quite pleased to discover another swing bridge on our immediate path. While not nearly as exciting as the road bridge she'd gotten to open a few days prior, as this one was only a footpath, still good fun.

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Would have been better had she actually gotten to inconvenience someone!

A very hot day and us all out of beer (or anything else to drink) SJ made quite the sight hiding from the sun under a large lawn umbrella.

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Joined in the next lock by a northwich class working boat. Proceeded to work down a few locks with them. Parted ways with them when they stopped to sell diesel to another boat and then found ourselves arriving at the next lock just as "Faith" was about to enter it.

As we were not in a hurry to lock down with them after our earlier interaction with them, quite relieved when the working boat showed up and waved them on through ahead of us.

SJ highly entertained by the signage at the next lock.

DO NOT RUN WITH FISH! We hadn't realized this was something one shouldn't do.

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DO NOT RUN WITH FISH!


As the same sign also forbid cooking fish and harpooning fish, SJ dead keen to steal it. Alas a few too many people in the immediate area to get away with it. TW informed that it would make an excellent Christmas gift.

Had made arrangements with RA to pick us up at a pub just outside Leighton Buzzard so found a nice spot to leave Cribbit for a few days (armco!) and headed over to see RA and acquire a well deserved drink (or two). Some good conversation as we tried to figure out what the pictogram was trying to tell us.

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we tried to figure out what the pictogram was trying to tell us


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Said our goodbyes to TW who headed off to Leighton Buzzard by bike and the rest of us into the car and home to Catslide.

Stopped in long Crendon to acquire fish, chips and mushy peas. CJ going as far as to run with them!

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CJ going as far as to run with them!


Disappointed to discover that the N fatalities in N years sign that SJ and TW had decided to "adopt" the previous summer was no longer there.

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The sign was no longer there


A very tasty dinner then early to bed.

Tuesday 2 August 2011

Awakened by much squealing. RA has a new granddaughter. Much excitement.

SJ had discovered the evening before that her suitcase was rather badly damaged. Indeed the entire top section had split open. So first order of business a trip to Thame to visit the bag man at the market.

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While not terrible, the available suitcases weren't the best quality. So SJ opted for an inexpensive one that would serve her immediate needs with the intention of buying a proper one once she made it home. Said transaction required that she spend the £20 note that CJ gave her five years ago. Almost sad to see it go as it had been back and forth across the Atlantic with her so many times.

Took advantage of the market to buy mackerel and samphire for dinner. Visited Waitross to SJ could do her usual food shopping. Fleurie wine, chocolate biscuits and oxtail soup for the unwary.

Lunch in the Catslide garden then a final trip to the allotment. Wouldn't SJ like to take a nice courgette home with her?

Downloaded photos, ran with fish, made dinner, sat around talking and finished up the rest of the log.

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Bed now for CJ and RA, hours of packing still ahead for SJ.

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Wednesday 3 August 2011

Despite the fact that SJ's flight not set to depart until 1pm, still woken early. At least it was light out.

On the condition that Courtney would save a cushy little hole for the bottle of Fleurie wine she had bought (this because SJ was quite leery of the soft sided temporary suitcase she had bought) SJ had agreed to bring some things back to the USA for Courtney so off to Oxford to collect her bag.

Said goodbye to RA then SJ and CJ onto the oxford tube (bus) to heathrow.

SJ quite worried that she will never remember that she has two pieces of checked luggage and somewhat leery that she won't recognize Courtney's bag either.

Not a concern for her bag at least, as she had duct taped it shut!

Checked baggage and SJ horrified when she was required to place her hand luggage on the scale. Ticket agent adamant that her hand baggage was overweight so SJ forced to shift some of the contents into her checked luggage. Was this the twilight zone?

Lunch with CJ at the airport, quite amused when he accidentally dropped a pound coin into his coffee then an uneventful flight to Reykjavik.

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amused when he accidentally dropped a pound coin into his coffee


Two hours to spare between flights and not content to wait in the gate area for incoming and outgoing non-schengen flights so headed through Icelandic immigration so that she could wander around her favorite foreign airport. Still very strange to see the terminal buzzing with people who were coming and going instead of simply settling down for the long haul.

Headed back through Icelandic anti-immigration (how is it that SJ now has more Icelandic stamps in her passport than any other country).

Stopped prior to exiting the immigration area by an airport employee who informed her that the USA's transportation security authority had reached out from across the ocean to select her for additional screening. Clearly this is what happens when one buys a series of one way tickets instead of a round trip. This somewhat ironic as when arriving in Iceland from the USA one is subjected to having to be rescreened by security as US screenings are not considered effective enough for Schengen nations.

Escorted to a small room where her hand baggage was tested for explosives and informed that she had to remain there until it was time for her flight to depart.

As we were in Iceland and not the USA, comfortable couches, free water, coffee, donuts and crackers provided.

Escorted to her flight at the start of boarding (Apparently being singled out by the TSA also gets you early boarding). Sat on the tarmac for awhile as US immigration apparently had questions about the citizenship of someone's 16 year old son. Overstepping their bounds much?

Yup, Iceland in August every bit as brown and lifeless as Iceland in April.

Final leg just as uneventful as the first. Home before she knew it.

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