Friday, September 30, 2011

Being here

Yesterday evening was standing on Silver Street Bridge, Cambridge looking at the Cam and with it came a flood of memories and conflicting emotions.

It was nice to visit but it was all too brief and I had to be indoors working rather than wandering those timeless backs. It was a shame I didn't have time to see old friends who live there and go punting but nice to remember back to those student days. However that nostalgia brings with it a sense of time passing, that you can never return to when you were young.

I consoled myself with a Fitzbillies Chelsea Bun and it was every bit as sweet and sticky as they were all those years ago, then with a sigh returned to my emails.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shark tows kayak

I like kayaking, don't get me wrong. It's just you have to keep paddling, like, all the time. So big thumbs up to Devon vet Rupert Kirkwood who has found an alternative - get a tow from a shark!

Ok, it was unplanned and he's yet to work out how to direct it, but the idea is definitely worth further study. As reported at the BBC here, he went out in his sea kayak to go fishing, caught himself a tope shark and then it towed him half a mile or so.

So what's it like being dragged out to sea by a shark in a little plastic kayak? "Fun" of course, though he did admit its nose "came to within inches of my sensitive parts."

Hmmm..... further research definitely required into the safety implications of this form of propulsion.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

World Rivers Day: the lost Fleet

For World Rivers Day here's a picture of one of London's lost river, the River Fleet, which gave its name to Fleet Street and hence Britain's press that used to be based there.

According to The Lost Rivers of London by Nicholas Barton Lord Nelson used to stay with his uncle in Kentish Town that was on the banks of the river "in order to keep an eye on the Fleet".

In earlier days it was even grander: Wren and Hooke created an elegant canal, as seen in the picture above.

Indeed the further back you go back the wider the river seems to have been. In Roman times it was big enough for major ships and possibly had a tidal mill.

Now it is just a drain, part of London's sewage system. Eric Newby described how "at the lowest level the Fleet itself raced riverwards at a good ten knots, too strong to stand up on a dry day, down a tunnel more than fourteen feet high". When it rains its like a torrent of water and sewage that overflows into the Thames at Blackfriars.

Eric Newby also describes a conversation with one of those that work down there that say the strangest thing they found in those underground tunnels was an iron bedstead!

An inglorious end for a river with a rich history.

Friday, September 23, 2011

World Rivers Day and time passing

Today is the autumn equinox when days and nights are the same length. For the next six months those of us in the northern hemisphere will have longer nights than days.

Time rushes on, 24 hours every day - unless you're waiting for World River's Day (which of course you are so you can blog about it).

As you can see from the screen capture below they are using a special extra long day:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Justice and injustice

Over at Rowing for Pleasure Chris has pointed out an injustice in the Great River Race that hurt the chances of boat 14, Kingfisher (above).

They rowed so fast they got to the Richmond half-tide lock early - or at least before the PLA was prepared to open the gates and let them continue up river. That delay of 4.5 minutes was likely critical in them losing several places and was unjust.

Justice is not an abstract concept. For example for those doing jury service it is absolutely real and concrete, a life changed by the choice between guilty or not guilty.

And justice is almost always topical, and one particular injustice is in the headlines at the moment. It was for that reason that I added a number to the picture above to make 194 rather than 14.

For an explanation as why 194, follow this link.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Flemish Coil Google Piracy Shock!

Aha me-hearties, 'tis talk like a pirate day, so it be.

'pon my eyes, what dastardly deed to I see upon yon Google? Aye, 'tis the terror of the seas, Tillerman of the brig Laser, who has captured O'Docker's pride and joy.

What it be, you ask? Ah-ha heave-to and not be putting on t'gallants when there's a gale blowing.

Cast your spyglass on yonder Google images search for flemish coils. Ah, me hearties, we don't do them on a pirate ship, but I digress. 'tis the 2nd highest flemish coil of all and it be O'Docker's picture, aye, that it be. But it be a link to Captain Tillerman's web page!!

'tis piracy! Tillerman has high-jacked O'Docker's picture for his own blog!!

Ah-ha, 'tis enough of yon talk of blogs and Google. Where be the wenches and the grog? Me knows not but must go now or will be forced to walk the plank!

Beware the blogger pirates!!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A very wet Great River Race

Today was the Great River Race, and it was definitely a day for umbrellas, and as can be seen from the photo above.

The GRR involves around 300 rowing boats of all types and sizes racing up the Thames from Docklands to Richmond, a total of 21 miles. Even with the tide with them, that is one long row, and if it rains a very wet row:

A big Huzzah! Hurrah! to Chris and all the Langstone Cutters on Gladys seen here pulling well through Putney:

Looking forward to hearing how well they did.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Evening on the river

Its is one of my favourite times of year to go for an evening paddle.

You get that transition from day to sunset, dusk, twilight and finally night, and the waters go from brown to mirrored sky blue to black. While you need lights the water and air is warm enough for shorts and a t-shirt.

But the nights are drawing in and how many more evenings like this will we have?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Picture quiz

We haven't had a picture puzzle for a bit so here's one for you while Tillerman is away.

This lovely classic yacht should be known to at least some of you, so:
1) Who owned her?
2) What is her name?
3) For what voyage is she famous?

Bonus point for naming the kitten.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cartwheeling in Plymouth

This week the America's Cup World Series has returned to blighty with lots of boats pranging themselves. Sometimes nose first, other occasions sideways and once apparently a full cartwheel, but always wet and probably painful.

But you probably knew that, so on to the blog bit.

Firstly a public service announcement: I'm not going. Partially its a long way to go to see one race - even if it would be in the "natural amphitheatre" of Plymouth Sound (ha! - take that San Fran) - but mostly because I've arranged to visit my godson for his birthday instead. But thanks to the interweb I can watch the races on YouTube, which brings me to:

I know there was a certain amount of.... hmmm.... how shall I put it....oh yes -  pure Buff Staysail about this blog's reaction to the AC TV show. However if you look at the America's Cup YouTube channel the video from the last week with the most views is called The Plymouth Capsize Club and yup I couldn't stop myself watching it too.

Seems like a lot of people like a sailing sugar-rush

Monday, September 12, 2011

Swimmer survives the Thames

Yup, comedian David Williams successfully made it 140 miles down the Thames despite the yucky water and in the process raised one million pounds for charity.

And a side benefit has been to highlight why London really really needs that super-sewer - for example Mayor Boris in today's Telegraph.

Until its built I'd be reluctant to swim in a week in which the Bubbler has been out.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

On the Thames barge Lady Daphne

Today as part of the Thames Festival I went on a trip down to Greenwich on the Thames barge Lady Daphne.

Ok it was just a potter as guest while motoring but how could it not be fun to be on a real Thames Barge on a sunny day going through Tower Bridge (above) as they raised the bridge for us.

Lady Daphne was sprightly for her 88 years, turning nimbly in the busy Pool of London even with the river in full flood. There was the odd shower on the way down to Greenwich (below) as can be guessed from the grey sky:
But the sun was back out in time for our return to The Tower:

You can charter the Lady Daphne for a party but the Thames Festival is the only chance to go on her as an individual.

I would have liked to have seen her under sail but then you can't have everything. If we had even a short sail I'd have wanted to race her and then win and then next thing you know you're building 70 foot carbon fibre wing-sail boats and hiring lawyers with experience in the America's Cup.

Apparently she does race (I asked) and last year did "not bad" (see post on classics for translation) but this year was less successful.

A lovely boat it was a pleasure to sail on her and its great to see her back where she belongs: on the Thames in the Pool of London.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Thames Water advises against Thames water

The water company for London, Thames Water, is advising comedian David Williams to cut short his swim along the length of the river.

He is approaching the tidal Thames which has recently received 500,000 cubic metres of raw sewage thanks to heavy rain overflowing a system designed for Victorian England.

Hmmm.... not sure I'm really selling the capital as a great eco-friendly city. Honestly, London is one of the - if not the - greenest city around and the Thames is thriving.

However I must admit that at times of overflow the Thames only is kept oxygenated due to repeated injections by a fleet of Bubblers (above). Come on - just build that super-sewer already!

See more here on a highly scientific experiment to discover how clean Thames water really is.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Comedian finds Thames water no joke

Comedian David Williams is attempting to swim 140 miles down the River Thames from Lechlade in Gloucestershire to Big Ben in London to raise money for charity.

It is not going well, with the actor from Little Britain (to be honest not one of my favourite shows) suffering from "severe vomiting and diarrhoea". Apparently he swallowed something while swimming that disagreed within him.

Oh dear, not exactly the five star water quality we hope for, and this is before he gets to the tidal Thames (as above, at Putney) which receives millions of tons of sewage a year.

Someone should warn him that a pair of Thames Bubblers have been patrolling the waters today doing their fzzzzzzz!!!! routine as they squirt oxygen into the water.

But its for a good cause: David Williams has raised £ 350,000 for sports aid so far and has just reached Berkshire.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Oh do keep up

I'm being squeezed time-wise at the moment between work, family chores and the second re-write of that novel so struggling a bit on the blogging front.

However I liked Tillerman's idea to post the best of September and coming up this month we have the Thames Festival then the Great River Race on the 17th,  Talk Like a Pirate Day on the 19th followed on the 25th by World Rivers Day.

That's saying nothing about a writing challenge or a directing challenge which will probably drop off the to do list (sorry).

But not tonight.... its been a very wet and blustery day and the nights are getting noticeably longer.

Monday, September 05, 2011

The Bonnie Boat

No, not Bonnie's boat, and actually in Gaelic it should be Bàta Brèagha.

This eye catching yacht has been covered with 60,000 mirrors as part of an art project called the Bonnie Boat which will be held on the island of Skye on the 10th September. The boat is called the Celeste and is inspired by the 1960s pirate station Radio Caroline.

The event program can be found here and the artist's web site here. Its one of those that uses the word "space" a lot.

The program ends with a call to "book your ticket for the ceilidh" - very tempting but alas not possible as I have family chores that day.

So I will not be following in the wake of Prince Charlie:

Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing,
Onward! the sailors cry;
Carry the lad that's born to be King
Over the sea to Skye.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

London Skyride 2011

This morning I joined 55,000 of other Londoners on the 2011 Skyride.

For those of you that haven't done one of these the Skyride involves closing the centre of London to traffic and creating a bike friendly route that passes some of the capital's top sights.

I started on Westminster Bridge (above) and after passing Big Ben it was onto the loop up to Buckingham Palace and down the Mall to Admiralty Arch. Then we went via Whitehall onto the Embankment and the main route, following the Thames to Tower Hill, before returning back to complete the circuit back on Westminster Bridge.

It was such great fun I did the loop twice!

Many brought their own bikes in but I used one of the Boris bikes. Technically known as the TfL Barclays Cycle Hire everyone calls them after London's Mayor, here with Kelly Brook in a picture from the Standard's article on the Skyride.
Apparently super model Kelly Brook was there signing the free high visibility bibs they were handing out, but alas I didn't see her.

Boris bikes are a great idea: dotted all over central London are docking stations where you can hire bikes for short periods of time and then return them to any other docking station. If you have registered you just slot in a special key and are off and away in seconds, and having just signed up this seemed like an excellent way to try them out.

There was another benefit in using a Boris bike which was that the forecast was for heavy rain and hail which would have put a damper on the ride home, though in the end there was just the slightest drizzle for the shortest time.

And everyone clearly was having an absolutely great time. I don't think I've seen as many smiling people clearly enjoying themselves.

It was just brilliant.

Updated: might have been lucky with the weather as the heavens have just opened up, which is a shame for those who started the Skyride mid-day

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Off to the Proms

Earlier this week I went to one of the BBC's Promenade Concerts, known locally as the Proms. It is one of London's summer institutions and this year almost ever concert was sold out which is a good sign of health for this music festival.

Though I don't actually promenade as per student days .... those alas were many years ago