Monday, 31 December 2012

New Year's Eve Walk

In the morning we did not do too much - Mike walked to the nearest shop for a paper and then settled down to updating this blog.

After lunch we were ready for a walk - the weather was not great: windy, chilly and somewhat damp. We wrapped up well and set off northwards along the canal towpath.

This stretch has a number of houseboats of varying quality. Soon we passed a 'rec' - playground in modern parlance but the older name still persists on some fingerposts - and then arrived at Cowley Lock.

Cowley Lock
Bridge over River Colne
River Colne
At the next bridge we left the canal and walked along the road for a short while - crossing the River Colne - before taking a bridleway that passed a farm and several houses before crossing over the M25. The cars were not having an easy time with poor daylight and lots of spray.

The path continued the other side and brought us out onto a private road along which the footpath continues. The people who live here obviously have concerns about their security - one house had two security fences - and the approach, when we arrived at it, clearly did not welcome visitors!

Shortly afterwards we reached Iver, coming out onto the road through the village opposite the church, which, alas, was locked. It is only opened in term time.

Iver Church
Continuing in the same direction the road brought us to the Slough Arm of the Grand Union Canal and we re-joined the towpath. Shortly afterwards we went underneath the M25 and then a short aqueduct crosses the River Colne.

Slough Arm
River Colne Aqueduct
At a former railway bridge we left the towpath for a woodland footpath that took us back to the main line of the canal alongside Tesco. It was sad to see just how much rubbish is abandoned alongside the footpath - an important alternative to the otherwise unremitting urban landscape. At one point, a load of old car tyres had been thrown carelessly away. Ugh!

We picked up ingredients for a stir fry for tonight at Tesco as well as some milk and ice cream. The boat was only a short walk from the supermarket but just as we emerged from the car park onto the tow path a heavy rain storm arrived and we were quite soaked by the time we made it back to the dry of the boat! Up til then it had be quite satisfactory for a well-wrapped walk!

Aerial Day

Andrew stayed overnight - one reason was that he had brought up some coax cable to help complete the installation of an external aerial for the radio - we have long had an internal one that did not work very well at all and depended on where we were sitting as to whether it generated a good enough signal!

Mike had experimented a couple of days earlier with a car aerial he had bought a few months ago (our last attempt at using it was unsuccessful but we did not have a means of mounting it upright at the time) This time, Mike tried it mounted on a biscuit tin which was strapped to the roof and seemed to give much better results.

So, today Andrew led the charge to thread a cable through the various spaces between the radio and the front of the boat where we mounted the aerial on the roof overhang in front of the cabin. After connecting it up it still seemed worth the effort!

By now it was lunch time after which Andrew made tracks for home. We had an uneventful afternoon, broken only by a trip to Tesco for a few supplies.

Museum of Childhood

Today we took Jess and Alice to the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, helped by having Andrew with us as well. The motorway was almost deserted as we popped over to Windsor to pick up the girls - Adrian and Joanna suggested that we use Hillingdon as it is a popular commuter station with plenty of car parking. We had already discovered that there is very little by the nearest station to the boat at West Drayton.

Hillingdon is on the Metropolitan Line so we did not have to change onto the Underground system at a main line station (which was the plan if leaving from West Drayton). Saturday parking is also not especially busy and we were only charged £1 for the whole day.

It is quite a long journey into London as, of course, the train stops everywhere, 18 stops to Liverpool Street. The first half of the journey is overground so there were some things for the girls to see on the way before we dived into the darkness of proper underground lines!

After changing onto the central Line it was just one stop to Bethnal Green and then only five minutes walk to the museum. originally built as a general museum for the East End of London, it gradually specialised in the 1970's. It is not over-large and comprises a single large space with galleries around the outer edge supported by cast iron columns, rather like converted mills we have seen elsewhere, including the Hockney Gallery in Saltaire which we visited with the girls when they were with us on the boat in the summer.

There are several activities during the day and shortly after we arrived there was a story telling - the Nutcracker. The girls sat on the huge mat in front of the two ladies telling the story - Jess especially joined in the different actions!

Following the story we divided into two groups to begin to look at the various displays of old toys and childhood amusements. Actually, Jess thought that going outside to the adjacent playground was a good idea but as soon as she, Andrew and Christine went outside it turned wet so they came back inside and found a sand pit on the top floor.

Alice and Mike looked at several displays, mainly of construction toys - Lego was by no means the only one! Mike pointed out to Alice a set of stacking plastic cups that were popular when her Mum was very little! Sadly, Mike recognised many of the items as current in his own childhood . . .

By one o'clock we all met up in the cafe, which occupies most of the central area of the museum. It was very busy but we eventually collected a range of snacks and drinks and found a table.

By the time we had finished the Arts and Crafts activity was about to start. Alice and Jess were given a card with the figure of the Nutcracker Soldier printed on it with aq couple of other pieces to cut out and glue together to make the mouth change shape. Alice carefully selected matching colours for her soldier and added some tiny pieces of shiny paper and tissue to add to the effect. Jess found that decorating her figure with glitter was a quicker way of covering a lot of space in one go! She too added some pieces of paper.

We again divided up to explore the main exhibits. Alice particularly noted a paddle doll, the oldest item in the museum, dating back to 1300BC and came from Egypt. The zeotropes - forerunners to moving picture - were also interesting. She also made pictures with iron filings and a magnet.

Jess enjoyed riding on two huge rocking horses as well as seeing the displays about how photos and then films followed by videos gradually evolved.

Time then to set off back to the Underground and the trip back to Hillingdon. It was already dark as we left the museum.

Hillingdon proved to be an excellent choice of station and it was not long before we were back at the boat where Christine quickly lit the fire and Mike set about making the meal which had been decided during the train ride back. Eventually it was time to return Alice and
Jess to Windsor.


Although we are on the boat at the moment for a few days, we are marina-bound. We came here on the 27th after spending Christmas Day and Boxing Day with Andrew in Devizes. We drove up in the morning, taking with us most of the components for a Christmas Dinner. After a shortish walk  down to Caen Hill Locks in the afternoon we assembled everything, cooked the veg and settled down to the meal in the evening.

The next day Christine was still recovering from the cold which we both had just before Christmas and she opted to stay in and sleep (doze) it off whilst Andrew and Mike went for a walk up one of the few hills around Devizes - the last before Bristol! On the top are two former war time radio masts now well adapted to the mobile phone business with three of the four major companies having equipment on site. Close by was a much smaller mast with little identification other than the name of its technology (RTK) which neither of us knew about before. A quick Google by phone gave us a short answer but we found out more about it when we returned home.

It was rather windy but the rain largely held off whilst we were out. However, a very dark cloud threatened to change all that so we made our way back from the top of the hill to the car park in order to beat it. However. a last minute change of direction took the weather away from us and a little blue sky even emerged for a few minutes as we arrived back in Devizes! It was soon replaced by steady rain!

The next day, Thursday, we set off to Packet Boat to stay there until the end of the next week. We had the usual set of tasks to de-winterise the services but before long we were rather snug with a good fire burning in the stove and the central heating going!

On Friday afternoon, Joanna was visiting her Gran in Sussex so we popped over to Windsor to give Adrian a chance to do some emails and other work whilst we looked after Alice and Jess. We also made plans for the next day - a visit to the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green which the two girls had heard about. We also finalised arrangements with Andrew to come up to the boat for a couple of nights.

Mike had by now decided that the priority for IT equipment upgrade was him to have his own tablet - Christine keeps moaning that he is always using hers when she wants it! So we called Andrew, by now en route, and arranged to meet at PC World just a short distance from the marina. Alas, when we arrived there it seems that the news reports of tablets being the must-have item over Christmas were actually correct and anything Mike might consider was out of stock and the few that came in were reserved on-line within ten minutes of them being released! Later online research indicated that this was true everywhere and for all the major suppliers! Ah well - the iPad will just have to be shared for now!