Friday, 28 March 2008

Grandma's legendary fruit cake

According to the crew of Opposite Lock (sister ship), my Grandma makes the best fruit cake in the world. Every time I see her, I am presented with one of these little beauties, wrapped lovingly in traditional brown greaseproof paper and kitchen foil. Myself, I'm not really a fruitcake lover even, but this stuff is magical.

I'm posting the recipe before I lose / misplace it. I am informed that Grandma's teacups measure about 7.5 fluid ounces....probably best to find one the same size of the results may not be as desired! Yes, I know the measurements are all old-school metric, but they're staying that way. Because that's how Grandma makes it.

1 lb mixed dried fruit
8 oz chopped cherries
2 teacups sugar
8 oz butter
2 teacups water

Mix all of the above together in a big pan, bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Leave to cool (best overnight, if you can wait that long).

Add 4 teacups of Self Raising flour and 2 eggs.
Line two 2 lb loaf tins with greaseproof paper. Bake for two and a half hours. Gas mark 2 (150 degrees C).


Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Would you believe that British Summer Time begins this weekend?

Gutted - was looking forward to spending the weekend cruising. Still will, but it might not be as much fun as I had hoped now.

Monday, 24 March 2008

City vs Canal

Having spent the last few days working in Central London, I am absolutely, 100% convinced that the canals are the best place on Earth to live. OK, so London might have a Starbucks on every corner supplying luscious white mocha for the extortionate sum of £3.30 a go, but the air is dirty and most people in the street completely blank you as you pass by. On the towpath, passers by are usually greeted with a friendly "hello" or "good morning", or at the very least a welcoming smile. Here, I feel horoured if they so much as look up from their newspaper to avoid walking straight into me in the train station.

The trains and tubes are a very odd place, with their own strange culture. This morning, my train was cancelled and so I was lucky enough to experience the replacement bus service instead. The 7:30 bus turned up 20 minutes late - a blessing, I thought, as I got straight on that one instead of waiting for the 8am one. With hindsight, I may have been better off waiting for the next bus, as mine got lost about 6 times en route, with the driver stopping to check a map and turn around every few minutes. Of course, we missed the connecting train by about a minute and were forced to stand out in the cold waiting for another. I did feel sorry for the driver, as he was only given the job yesterday evening and the hand-written directions which he had been given were no use to anyone who didn't already know the local area. Surely, in this day and age, the companies involved could afford to splash out on a few Sat Nav systems for these types of situations?

Anyway, end of rant, I will be back home very soon now. If anyone who knows me ever hears me so much as contemplate working in London at any time in the future, please remind me of these comments. Working here is a novelty for a day or two, but any longer and it turns into a dirty, expensive version of hell. As nice as the white mochas are, I would much rather be on my boat and out in the fresh air.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Living the dream

Life is GOOD!

On Tuesday, I got home from work, went for a walk in the woods, then collected and chopped firewood until dark. After dark, Jonno and Helen came over for a couple of drinks and we sat by the fire chatting about boats, dogs, and how fantastic life on the water is. We never seem to tire of this!

Yesterday, I ran my engine for a couple of hours after work, as I'd forgotten to turn my inverter off in the morning and so my batteries were a little on the flat side. Whilst it ran, I sat cutting rope and teaching myself how to make fenders from some instructions I found online. After some initial confusion (think big tangle of rope, and staring at the instructions as if I were trying to assemble some complicated piece of flat-pack furniture) everything began to make sense and I now have something which resembles a half-made fender. Most surprising was how long they take to make, but it's satisfying to feel that I'm learning worthwhile, traditional skills. Also, I will save a fortune if I make my own fenders rather than buying them. (More beer-tokens for the fast-approaching summer).

New mission: Complete 10 fenders by the time the boat is repainted, to protect the new paintwork.

The simple life is great. OK, so we do have mod-cons on the boats, reasonable incomes and a much easier life than the boatmen of days gone by, but there's something intrinsically pleasing about at least trying to be self-sufficient as past generations did, collecting wood and making things rather than going out and buying them. If I ddn't have to work for a living and had more free time, I would do these things even more.

One of my workmates forwarded on an email this morning. Normally, I don't pay too much attention to chain mails, but this one really captured by attention - I still do half of this stuff!

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THE KIDS WHO WERE BORN IN THE 1920's, 30's 40's, 50's, 60's and 70’s!

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us and lived in houses full of asbestos.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese & tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes or cervical cancer.

Then after that trauma, our baby cots were covered with bright coloured lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets or shoes, not to mention, the risks we took cadging lifts.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.

A trip to the coast on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the stream and NOT from a bottle.

Take away food was limited to fish and chips, no pizza shops, McDonalds, KFC, Subway or Kebabs.

Even though all the shops closed at 6.00pm and only opened for a few hours at weekends, somehow we didn't starve to death!

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.

We could collect old drink bottles and cash them in at the corner shop and buy fruit Spangles and some bangers to blow up frogs with.

We ate buns, white bread and real butter and drank soft drinks with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because......


We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.

No mobile phones – no one was able to reach us all day. And we were always O.K.

We would spend hours building our trolleys out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. We built tree houses and dens and played in streams with matchbox cars.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on Sky, no video tape or DVD movies, no surround sound, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms..........WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no Lawsuits from these accidents.

Only girls had pierced ears!

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

You could only buy Easter Eggs and Hot Cross buns at Easter really!

We had air guns and catapults for our birthdays.

We drank milk laced with Strontium 90 from cows that had eaten grass covered in nuclear fallout from the atomic testing.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them from the street!

Mum didn't have to go to work to help dad make ends meet!

Mum & dad didn’t need Brandy, Whisky whatever when they came in from work!

Footy had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

Our teachers used to belt us with big sticks and leather straps and bully's always ruled the playground at school.

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

Our parents got married before they had children and didn't invent stupid names for their kids like 'Kylie' and 'Blade'

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever!

The past 70 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

Saturday, 1 March 2008


As Faithless would say, "I can't get no sleep!"

Right now, I am actually tired. A couple of days ago, the entire UK experienced an earthquake measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale, the biggest in 25 years. At 1am, asleep on the boat, I was completely oblivious. Tonight's wind, however, is in a whole different league. According to the wind is currently 36mph from the West and I believe it 100%. People reported cupboards rattling and shutters banging in the earthquake - they know nothing. I've only been back on the boat about an hour this evening, and the shaking and rocking is incredible. The curtains got a gust of wind in them through the open window, and managed to open themselves, which was a little scary! The cratch cover is rattling around even though it's fastened down properly, the wind is howling round the boat, and the light pull cords are swinging around illustrating precisely how much the boat is moving. I even double checked that it's tied up reasonably well as it was moving SO much.

Unless there's a serious change in the weather overnight, I think I will remain in my duvet until the wrong side of lunchtime tomorrow. After last weekend's fun and games in the wind, I have a feeling that my only ventures outdoors tomorow will be to fetch more coal in.