tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:/posts Ashton Boatman 2019-08-10T10:56:20Z Chris Leah tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1443040 2019-08-10T10:56:19Z 2019-08-10T10:56:20Z Another bit of Ashton history goes up in smoke.

For ages we've had such a poor turnout for weekday evening recycling trips that we've had to do them by road. I was pleased on Monday 4th to find that we had plenty of volunteers.

Aaron took the tiller and we had a pleasant journey down to Fairfield.

On Monday evenings we collect on Fairfield Road and Gorsey Fields.  This time most of our crew were youngsters who were shy about knocking on doors, so they did the barrowing back. We had a reasonable haul to take to the charity shop.

On Tuesday afternoon we had a trip on "Hazel" with a really nice couple with an autistic child. The mother seemed interested in the canalside history. As we passed Oxford Mills


I told her about their history   and about Hugh Mason who had them built  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Mason

As we passed the old mills on the returned trip I noticed a strong smell of burning plastic. I checked in the engine room to make sure that nothing had fallen on to the exhaust manifold, but that was fine.

I went home for my tea. While I was there my friend Bev Ackford rang to tell me there was a fire in a laundry near the canal.

On my return to Portland Basin I found that there was an even better turn out for the Tuesday evening trip. Ominous black smoke was billowing from a big fire close to our intended route.  I was unsure if it would be safe to run the trip but Debbie Leach told me that she had just cycled up the towpath to join us and there was no problem.

After a bit of boat shunting we set off, rather later than usual. As we approached the burning area we were enveloped in smoke but I could see that the fire was well back from the canal so we would be able to pass safely.

Fire persons were busy working between the fire and the canal, pumping water out to spray on to the burning buildings. There was some banter with the fire crews about them stealing our water.

Oxford Mill was an E shaped building. One wing had been largely demolished before it was listed. As we passed I saw that the fire had spread from the relatively modern buildings where it started into the upright and middle stroke of the E. The remaining wing remained untouched, though shrouded in smoke, so I hoped that this at least could be saved. I had noted previously that it was used for storing stuff in cardboard boxes.

At Brewery bridge tape had just been put up to close the towpath. A smart young firefighter was just climbing the steps on to the bridge. Debbie, who never misses the opportunity for a bit of banter, asked him if he was touting for business. I chipped in by offering him a lift to Canal St (Canal St is the heart of Manchesters gay village). He took it in the spirit intended.

We had another good collection in the Ashton Hill Road area of Droylsden. By the time we were ready to return it was nearly dark, so I turned on the headlight. At Brewery Bridge, at the South end of Pottinger St, we got a good view of the fire. The brigade's efforts had seemingly been in vain. The whole area was now blazing well, particularly the top of the E, presumably turbocharged by whatever was in all those boxes. The gable end of this wing was close to the canal and it was clear that parts of the building had already collapsed. If the gable were to fall outward as we passed we would be toast.

We backed up into the bridgehole and I managed to get a pin into the tarmacced towpath (grrrr) to tie to.

I left the boat guarded by Aaron and walked rather a long way round to Portland Basin to collect the van. Kids had removed the tape on the towpath and were whizzing up and down on bikes despite the danger. I chose not to go that way.

The streets had a carnival atmosphere, like a huge free  bonfire party for the whole community. As I walked I heard a rumble as anothe bit of historic mill tumbled.

Returning with the van I had to take an even longer route as the main Stockport Road was closed. Luckily I know the back streets well. We unloaded the goods from the boat into the van. I parked it up for the night then, after taking a few photos,

I retired to "Forget me Not"s cabin for the night.

In the morning I woke at about 5 AM and made coffee. As i lay in bed enjoying my first brew of the day I could hear intermittent bursts of police radio. I hoped they wouldn't try to stop me returning the boat to her home, as I clearly couldn't leave her there. I felt the boat move as though someone had stepped aboard, then heard a rat tat tat on the cabinside. I stuck me head out and saw a man and a boat. He had made an early start to go to Manchester but "Forget me Not" was blocking the bridgehole. I explained that I wasn't dressed yet. He offered to move the boat. I agreed and, as I dressed, I could feel the hull grinding against the copings as he pulled her backwards.

He tied the boat to the railings of the high level footpath that leads to Guide Bridge Station, at just the right height to decapitate passing cyclists. Luckily there were none and I was soon untied and on my way, kicking up lots of froth, presumably from chemicals washed into the waterway.

I had to walk back from Portland Basin to collect the van. On my way I took some pictures of the smouldering remains being damped down.
Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1413203 2019-05-26T08:32:28Z 2019-05-26T08:32:28Z Transpennine Canal Adventure

I Advertised "Forget me Not" and "Hazel"s journey to across the Pennines on the Rochdale Canal as a Transpennine Canal Adventure, hoping that we could earn some money taking some intrepid waterway enthusiasts along with us. Sadly, there were no takers, so it turned into a Well Being trip instead. My nightmare was that we might not be able to find enough crew, but a lot of time on the 'phone brought in enough to see us through. The first day out from Manchester we had the ambitious target of the Rose of Lancaster at Mills Hill. We were following "Pensax", "Bream" and "The Earl" though the difficult climb out of Manchester. Ian Mac and Chris Kelly,working as volunteers for CRT were shepherding the boats through.

We caught up with the others at Newton Heath where "Pensax"had suffered an epic bladeful, including a mattress.

We had to wait below the lock for ages as she laboured through the next pound whilst Mac went in search of more water. Eventually we got moving and, after dragging our way through Failsworth, spent the night at Middleton lift  bridge, which wouldn't lift. We had to get CRT out in the morning to get it functioning again so only got to Clegg Hall that evening.

Once through the gritty grimness of Castleton and Rochdale we were up up and away up the final flight to the summit above Littleborough.

The railway disappears through a tunnel here, but the canal keeps on striding upwards through huge deep locks, some of whiche we had to work twice because the lock walls had moved, to breast the summit, crossing via a short pound through a narrow pass, then down ,down, down through Walsden and Gauxholme to the lovely town of Todmorden.

I'll finish this later as my computer is running out of battery.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1406410 2019-05-07T14:01:25Z 2019-05-07T14:01:25Z Mum

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1366563 2019-01-24T21:47:21Z 2019-01-28T14:04:45Z High Dose Rate Brachiotherapy, the gory details.

Some people may find this post distasteful but I think it useful to record my experience. Don't read it whilst eating your breakfast and if you wish to avoid references to peeing, pooing and bleeding, stop here.

After a pleasant early tram and bus ride I arrived at the Christie a little after 7AM for my 7.30 appointment. I was annoyed that I had forgotten my reading glasses and I had brought 2 books to while away the hours. I found the correct ward but it was still locked up. A couple a little older than me were sitting on some easy chairs nearby. I decided to go for a stroll along the hospital corridors. When I returned they had opened up and the couple were sitting waiting inside the reception area of the ward. I joined them and we exchanged nervous smiles. After a short while the wife left and me and Bob introduced ourselves. He was there for the same treatment. Apparently they do 4 a day, 2 in the morning and 2 after lunch. After a while we were led down a corridor and shown into a room with two high tech beds.

We were introduced to our dedicated nurse, Karolina. She was I would guess in her late twenties, slim and beautiful but much more important, cheerful, chatty and amusing. Her Polish accent was not strong and we discovered later in conversation that she had spent perhaps half her life in Britain as her parents had moved to Morecambe when she was much younger. Bob and I chose beds and he kindly lent me his reading glasses. He had to take out his contact lenses for the operation, which meant that he could read without glasses. We were asked to undress and put on back to front hospital gowns. We did this and got into bed.

The anaethsetist came to interview me. He was concerned that I had used St Johns Wort to control my depression and clearly disapproved of the practise, of which he doubted the efficacy. I begged to differ but assured him that, on advice, I'd had none for a week.

I was selected to go in first and a nice mixed race nurse, I didn't register her name, only that her only experience of Ashton was Ikea. came to check me over, blood pressure, temperature. She then asked me to turn on my side so that she could give me an enema.

This is where things start getting messy, so, if you want to stop reading now I'll understand.

This was a first for me. My nearest previous experience was when my mum administered laxative chocolate when I was a kid. The nurse produced a scarily huge syringe full of liquid which she proceeded to insert and empty. I had a huge feeling of fullness but was advised to hold on for as long as possible. Eventually it all got too much and I ran into the bathroom and deposited loads of unpleasant liquid into the toilet, not a moment too soon.

Soon afterwards I was led down long corridors to the operating theatre. After checking my identity and that I'd signed a consent form in an ante room  I was taken in and asked to climb on to the operating table, positioning myself precisely where they wanted me. The anaethsetist arrived and, after a scratch on my hand I was out.

I woke as they were putting me back into my bed. I was in great distress. I had a drip putting saline solution into a vein in my left hand and a catheter leading from my penis through a very red tube to a very red plastic bag on a stand on the floor. I felt like I was about to burst, perhaps how waterboarding victims feel, being full of liquid that can't get out. I expressed my concerns loudly and was assured that it would soon get better.

The procedure that I had undergone, high dose rate brachiotherapy, has similarities with the mediaeval torture method of shoving a red hot poker up the arse.

Let me explain some of the biology, of which I was ignorant until this business started. The prostate is involved in making sperm, so if you don't want more babies (and, for goodness sake, there's enough of us on this planet already) then you don't need it. It surrounds the urethra, which is the tube connecting the bladder to the (in men) penis. As men get older it tends to expand which can cause the tube to get constricted. If it develops a tumour, one of the most common forms of cancer, then this exacerbates the situation. Many tumours are relatively benign and can be controlled with hormone therapy which depletes the body of the testosterone on which they feed. This has side effects similar to the female menopause. I believe that something like 1 in 3  eighty year old men have some form of prostate tumour. I'm pleased to say that it's a problem of living well beyond our design life.

Mine, of course, is one of the most aggressive variety. I don't do things by halves!

Back to mediaeval torture. There are differences of course. The ancient procedure resulted in a protracted and agonising death. The modern one will, I hope, prevent that. The modern procedure does not enter via the anus but is a fine hollow needle inserted nearby. The heat in the middle ages was provided by preheating the poker in a fire, nowadays it is a highly radioactive isotope which is moved about inside the needle, which is inside the prostate, with the object of searing away the cells that are misbehaving. The body however, reacts in a similar way, by going into panic mode.

The needle and the radiation don't just zap the tumour. Like the mediaeval procedure they damage surrounding tissue. The modern method causes a lot of blood to leak into the bladder. Just to complicate matters, the body's natural repair mechanisms cause swelling in the area, restricting the ability of the unwanted liquid to escape. That's how I understand it anyway. Some of the details may be wrong.

The discomfort (a mild word for it) that I was suffering was because my bladder was bloated with blood which was having difficulty finding a way out. The catheter was to drain it out in a controlled way, rather than me peeing blood all over the place, and the drip was to keep my body over supplied with water so that large amounts of urine would dilute the blood and flush it out. We were also encouraged to keep drinking water and sometimes offered hot drinks. The panic inducing feeling did gradually subside but it took a long time.

While I was still getting used to my situation, Bob was brought in. He suffered similar problems as he woke up. We soon struck up a conversation and an instant friendship, perhaps akin to what, so I'm told, soldiers thrown together under fire experience. Bob is very different from me. I think he gave his birth date as 1947, which would make him 72. Apparently pretty fit, he loves sport, a keen golfer, and cars. I didn't feel it was the time or place to point out how much damage his huge 4X4 was doing to our planet. He is a retired taxman and ended his career doing detective work to unearth those who were avoiding their rightful contributions. We eased our difficulties by swapping entertaining anecdotes. From time to time Karolina popped in to have a chat and check on our progress and our blood pressures and temperatures were regularly checked. I was constantly setting off the alarm chimes on my drip by waving my left hand about too much and stopping the flow. Each time a nurse would come to reset it.

We were given a menu for our tea. I was appalled to see that the only option for pudding was bonoffee pie. Don't they know that cancer feeds on sugar. As I'm on an anti cancer diet set by Emuna (she's researched it very carefully) I was a bit stumped by the choices. I decided to have vegetable soup followed by shepherds pie with green beans with no pudding. Bob chose the same. This was as close as I could get to staying on the diet. The food was welcome (note to readers in other countries, it was also free) but hardly cordon bleu.

We carried on chatting. Every now and then I would read a couple of pages of my book but I couldn't concentrate for too long. This all sounds very pleasant, but we were both experiencing pain and discomfort. This was alleviated occasionally by paracetamol, but there's a limit to how much of this you can have. The flow down the tube from my willy stayed very red. The beds were very adjustable, using a control panel that was in easy reach, but I struggled to find a comfortable position.

Our nurse for the night was a pleasant Scot called David. I think it was him who suggested at some point that it was time for lights out. I was certainly tired but was dreading trying to sleep with my prick tethered like that. I was also concerned about what was happening to the food I had eaten. My stomach was undergoing uncomfortable gyrations. After a while I summoned a nurse and she helped me into the bathroom, complete with catheter and drip. I sat on the toilet and she left. I deposited another load of diarrheah into the pan, along with a drip of blood. I made my own way back and carefully climbed into bed.


After a little while the nurse returned, worried that I hadn't yet summoned her to help me back into bed. I'm obnoxiously independent sometimes. Bob, who was also still awake, warned me that i could cause myself some damage if I tripped over, which was very true. When David came to check on us I told him about the blood. He seemed worried about this and told me that if I went again he wanted a sample. He issued me with a papier mache pot to do it in.

My stomach gyrations got worse and turned into repetitive very painful cramps. I felt like I needed the bathroom again so  I carefully climbed out of bed. The drip machine had been plugged into the mains  to charge the battery and I struggled to reach the plug, knocking something over in the process. I dragged my anchors into the bathroom and squatted over the pot,  letting  forth the most enormous explosive fart of my life which sprayed diarreah all over the floor and my gown, very little landing in the pot. Embarrassed I pulled the red cord and soon David appeared. He said matter of factly that it must be the remains from the enema and it was OK as there was no blood (I now think that the drop of blood in the toilet had leaked out from my penis). He cleaned up and issued me with a clean gown then left.

 I felt like I still needed to go so I sat on the loo and strained. I was shocked to see a jet of blood squirt out past the catheter all over the floor. I pulled the red cord again and David reappeared. He said the catheter must be blocked and he would have to flush it out. He cleaned up and helped me back to bed then fetched a syringe of saline, took off the catheter tube and pumped the syringe full through the catheter, then drew it out again. This wasn't as horrible as it sounds, though I wouldn't do it for fun. He said that it was probably a blood clot that blocked it and this was a good sign.

With the catheter re-assembled I lay down and tried to sleep. Bob asked if I was OK. I said I was. The cramps continued but I decided that I wasn't moving again and if I messed the bed so be it. In fact they turned into a series of dry farts. After a while I heard Bob begin to snore. I envied him his sleep. I normally would toss and turn until I found a comfortable position but, restrained as I was, this was impossible.

One of my Facebook friends told me her husband had to spend a whole week with a catheter. It must have been torture.

Time passed, Bob snored. Every now and then I seemed to be drifting off until the discomfort, or somebody checking my blood pressure, brought me back to full wakefulness. I would look at the time and be dismayed about how little of it had passed since I last looked. I adjusted the bed to try to get more comfort and began the cycle once more.

I gave up at about 4AM and got out my book .Its called "Why Life Speeds Up As You Get Older", or, as I sometimes put it, when you reach 35 why does some bugger go round speeding up all the clocks?  In fact it goes into all kinds of aspects of memory, something that fascinates me. I'm very aware that I'm struggling to accurately recount the events of the last few days. I may well have made some mistakes and have already had to go back and correct some errors (or was I perverting a true account!?)

I became very aware that my lower back was not happy about my posture (it continued to ache for the rest of the day). David checked my catheter and said he was pleased as it was running clear, though it still looked fairly bloody to me. He said he would remove it soon. I said I really wasn't looking forward to that. I would, of course, be pleased to be rid of it but the actual process of taking it out sounded like it would be unpleasant. He told me it was easier than putting it in, but I pointed out that I had been unconscious when that was done. It actually felt odd but not too bad when he did it.

The day shift took over and the wonderful Karolina came to check on us. We were offered breakfast. Trying to keep as close as possible to my diet I opted for porridge and dry toast. I don't recall what Bob had. With our impedimenta removed we were told that we should shower and dress. Before we left we both had to produce 300ml of urine and bottles were handed out to catch it in. I tried but could only muster a dribble. As I was in the bathroom trying to produce a flow there was a sudden jet of blood from my hand. I had accidentally knocked off the dressing where the drip had been attached. I pressed the blood soaked cotton wool back into place and summoned Karolina, who re-dressed it and cleaned up.

Bob marched confidently into the bathroom for his turn and I heard a sound like a tap turned on. He emerged beaming and handed his bottle to Karolina for measuring. He looked crestfallen when she returned to announce that it was only 70ml.

Bob went in for a shower and I changed into my nightgown as I wanted to cover my backside but didn't want to dress until I too had showered. When he emerged I went in with my bottle but, again, only managed a few drops.

Karolina arrived to announce that there had been a change of plan and we would have to move to another part of the hospital as our beds were needed for more patients. We would need to dress. I had a bright idea and asked for more paracetamol, which was quickly provided.

Some time ago I had begun to get concerned about the possibility of prostate trouble, partly because I was peeing a lot, but particularly because of an unpleasant night time phenomenon which was happening with increasing frequency. I would wake up in the night absolutely bursting, but when I got to the toilet I could hardly pass a drop and the feeling would get worse. The first time this happened I got quite panicky but I soon devised a strategy. I would go downstairs and find a suitable container such as an empty bottle or jar. I would then march in circles until the movement started a flow. Sometimes Emuna would awake and call "are you alright" to which I would reply "I'm fine, leave me alone". Sometimes this would happen more than once in the night but my morning coffee would stimulate a poo. After that I had the opposite problem as I started work of having to suddenly and frequently  rush to any place where I could discreetly have a pee. If this sounds familiar, dear reader, please go and see your doctor.

Now I know a bit about the male plumbing my theory is that the enlarged prostate was combining with extra pressure from a developing stool to completely close up the urethra. There simply wasn't enough room for everything in my pelvic area. The movement of walking about would briefly open it again allowing the urine to escape in dribs and drabs.

My pain was now not too bad, but I was aware that as well as relieving pain, paracetamol would reduce inflammation. I guessed that the radioactive assault on my prostate, though it would reduce its size in the long run, would have caused inflammation that could be  impeding my ability to pass water. I took my painkillers with coffee and dressed. I went into the bathroom with my bottle and produced 50ml. It felt like a competition. Bob was in the lead but I was now catching him up. We agreed that it was like peeing razor blades.

 We were then escorted down long corridors to a room where several people were sitting, bored, watching morning TV. I had missed my chance of a shower but, after the long walk I was able to produce a further 150ml, only 100 to go. Bob had another try and he was told he only had 80 to go. He was still in the lead but not by much. He went off to meet his wife in the coffee bar. I alternately watched rubbish on TV and marched up and down the corridor.

A man came round with a trolley offering sandwiches, snacks, parsnip soup and, amazingly, fruit. I asked for a banana and a big cup of soup. This appeared to be home made. It was lovely, but incredibly salty. I don't worry too much about salt as my blood pressure tends to be a bit on the low side, but many people are the opposite, especially in a stressful place like a hospital. Again, don't they know?

The nurse in charge of this department was a pleasant solid lady in her 50s or 60s called Sue. I went into the toilet to try some more and then handed her the bottle containing the result. After measuring it she sought me out in the television room and gave me a double thumbs up. I'd won and I was free to go. Shortly afterwards Bob returned and was also able to hit his target. We shook hands and wished each other well, then he left to join his wife for the drive home to Bury. I hope he didn't have the problems that cropped up later on my journey home.

Plan A had been that Emuna would come to collect me in a taxi. When I mentioned this to Karolina she said she could arrange transport home for me. I thought this would be better as Emuna suffers from M E (or CFS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and it seemed a bad idea for her to be making unnecessary journeys. I asked about this and eventually found that it had been booked for 2PM. It was now about half eleven. Sue did her best to get it speeded up but pointed out that as it was snowing outside there may be delays.

I had drunk far more than 300ml in my efforts to win the peeing race. It was now building up inside me but the paracetamol had worn off and I was unable to get more than the occasional dribble out. I continued marching up and down, then sitting watching TV for a while.

In the corner sat a tall, thin, grey, lugubrious man in his sixties. He started a conversation about the quality of television programmes. It turned out that we were both keen radio 4 listeners. He asked me what kind of cancer I had. I told him. He ventured that his was pancreatic, "incurable". "Oh dear" I said. He continued that he was on so called palliative care, but really it was just torture. I felt sorry for him. I don't know how I'd cope with that situation but I did have a feeling that his eeyore like mindset was doing him no favours. He then explained that he was in for some experimental treatment but first he had to have a blood transfusion to prepare him. Shortly afterwards Sue came in to start setting up his transfusion.

About 2.30PM a small young woman ambulance driver appeared. She had short hair and a brisk no nonsense manner. I think she had been searching the hospital for me. She picked up my bag and told me to follow her. We marched smartly down the corridors. She told me that there was another patient in the ambulance who had to go to Stockport, which is pretty much on the way.

As soon as we started going over speed bumps and potholes I realised that I was going to have a problem. By the time we reached the other man's house down a little cul de sac I was absolutely bursting. I told the driver of my predicament. She said that she normally carried bottles for just such a problem but was sorry that she had none today. She gave me a pad to stuff down my pants. I really didn't want to pee myself, pad or no pad. I suggested stopping at a supermarket. We drove along the main A6 and she pulled into a petrol station so that I could ask if they had a toilet. They firmly told me that they had no public toilet and I couldn't use their staff toilet. Bastards! We have no public toilet in our charity shop but occasionally people who are in desperate  need are given access, sometimes with a sentry posted lest it be a ploy to get into our stockroom.

Back at the ambulance the driver had found a small bowl. I nearly filled it then she stuffed another incontinence pad in it and put it in a yellow biohazard bag. We set off again and were soon bowling along the M60. The same problem began to recur. By the time we reached the junction for Ashton I was desperate again. I suggested she pull over just after leaving the motorway as there is a fairly secluded footpath there between the motorway and the retail park. She didn't go for that but pulled off by Ashton Moss tram stop. By then I'd soaked my pad but had a bit left for the bowl once I'd got it out of the bag. Talk about undignified!

On the move again and the same problem again. Luckily we were nearly home and I started giving directions lest the satnav take us a stupid way. When we stopped outside our house I quickly unloaded myself, thanked the driver, unlocked the front door and rushed past Emuna and upstairs into the bathroom.

It was nearly teatime and Emuna brought me a wonderful, tasty cancer busting meal in bed. In discussing the situation she told me that anaesthetics tend to promote constipation. I was unaware of this but was already concerned about what was happening to the food that I had been eating. My first poo, in the early hours of the morning, was quite small but very painful. Later on Wednesday I had to go again. I will leave to your imagination the pain of passing a turd with the volume and viscosity of a house brick through a radiation singed rectum. It briefly blocked the toilet.

I'm writing this on Thursday evening, 3 and a bit days after the operation . My plumbing is gradually settling down but still quite painful. I don't usually write such earthy posts but I thought that being honest and straightforward about my experience would be instructive.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1331663 2018-10-12T19:59:06Z 2018-10-12T19:59:07Z Beside the Mersey.

Em and I had a little holiday beside the Mersey, staying in a Home Away room in Wallasey. We visited New Brighton where her parents used to go on holiday many decades ago, Em was struggling with her chronic fatigue so we didn't get out and about as much as we'd have liked. I had hoped to find some old friends from the area. Took a few nice photos though and enjoyed watching ships coming and going on the tide.

The Black Pearl. A pirate Ship made from driftwood.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1331650 2018-10-12T19:28:50Z 2018-10-12T19:28:51Z Recycling Trip 7th October 2018

It was a nice sunny Autumn day and we had a good turnout of people, a lot of them coming recycling for the first time. Enjoyed it. Come and join us next month 4th, 5th and 6th November.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1327392 2018-09-30T16:47:22Z 2018-09-30T16:47:22Z Hooray and Up She Rises

"Southam" took a dip whilst tied at the Heritage Boatyard. That was Friday morning. Now, Sunday, she's up again thanks to Kim, Stephan and a few pumps. She's not taking on a huge amount of water but one of her pumps has stopped working. I think that's what caused the problem. I got there just a bit too late on Friday to prevent her going down.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1327135 2018-09-29T21:05:41Z 2019-01-25T05:29:17Z All in a Days Work

Sorry there are no pictures with this. I was too busy all day to take any. We were booked for a "giving back" trip for which we have some funding. The idea is to take local young people for a trip and give them each a go at steering, working locks etc (under close supervision). The trip is from Portland Basin, up 3 locks to Staley Wharf, wind and return. This should take about 4 hours.

The level on the Ashton pound was well down so we stemmed alongside Cavendish Mill (possibly on microwaves thrown from the flat windows). I had a phone call from Christine, our shop manager to say that someone had 'phoned to complain that they were bringing a boat down and it would be difficult to get past sunken "Southam" at Knowl st. The words bus, through and get spring to mind!

Working up the 3 locks was straightforward and our guests were enjoying getting involved. Above lock 3 is a long pound (well, long for the HNC) and I was dismayed to find this the best part of a foot down. It's tricky to get through even when full.

We removed a log and a huge plastic pallet from the paddle recess.

I asked Tony to go ahead and "find some water". A difficult task as the only source is the short, though relatively deep, pounds through Stalybridge. I warned him that there was a boat coming down, so he would need to make sure he left enough water for them to get through.

Right outside the lock "Forget me Not" stopped in mid channel. She would go neither forwards nor backwards (nor sideways for that matter. Tony rang to say that he'd let as much water as he dare out of 4-5 pound. Of course, its effect on the long pound was minimal. A lot of thrashing about and pulling on lines achieved a few yards progress, then we stuck fast again. Tony rang again to say that he couldn't get any water from the next pound up as it was already completely empty. I noticed it was like that earlier in the week, though it was getting a feed from above. He would have to top it up from the Armentierres Square pound.

I started emptying the ballast tanks and our guests decided to consume the buffet lunch that we had provided. Tony rang again very angry to say that the downhill boat had arrived and the people were very rude to him and accused him of stealing their water, oblivious of the fact that he was filling a pound that they needed to fill anyway. I think perhaps they imagined that he had emptied the pound, which he had not.

With lunch eaten and the ballast tanks completely empty I decided to have another go. I attached a long line to the back end rail and got all the young lads out of "Hazel" to join Aaron and Kim in pulling on it. When we finally got a co-ordinated pull the boat moved, initially for a short distance, but another effort got her moving properly. (just here the bottom is strewn with boulders from a section of washwall that collapsed and was rebuilt, leaving the original material in the cut).

Aaron carried on pulling on the line, which was fine as I didn't know when I might need more assistance. As we approached the Tame aqueduct Aaron was having trouble with his line catching in vegetation. I became pre-occupied with a couple of our young (and generally well behaved) guests who had climbed on to "Hazel"s roof. This is not allowed anyway, but I was particularly keen to coax them down before the aqueduct as a fall into the river would be very serious (and my fault). What I didn't notice, until the engine stopped, was that Aaron had let go of his line and it was trailing in the water. It had got itself wound round the propeller. Aaron has often badgered me to let him jump in to get rubbish off the blade. This time I let him, as the only alternative was me getting in.

With the rope successfully untangled and Aaron in the engine 'ole drying out we carried on, only to stick fast in the narrows, a favourite place for dumping as it's close to a secluded dead end road. Our tug o war team was deployed again and we were soon moving well, though bouncing over submerged bikes and trolleys.

We winded at Staley Wharf with some difficulty and immediately headed back. We stuck again at the narrows and just above lock 3 but, with the routine now established, were soon moving again.

Our guests had to leave as their time had run out. Despite (or perhaps because of) the difficulties it seemed they had enjoyed the trip

When the two arrogant men with windlasses appeared, strangely from the nearby road, "Forget me Not" was down lock 2, which was refilling for "Hazel", just being bowhauled out of No3. They complained that we had held them up for 2 hours, though I'm not sure how. I think they had some exchange with Tony, who was fuming. He has a short fuse. They asked me to stop and let them past, even though their boat wasn't even in sight yet. They headed off up the cut to join their boat.

It's not unusual to be asked to pass by speedy pleasure boaters. Most people have no idea how difficult it is to pass a deep draughted boat, especially one towing a butty. I usually  try to help, sometimes at the cost of a stemming up, because I don't like being tailed by a floating sulk,  but this request was ridiculous even if I had been well disposed towards these particular gentlemen.

We were soon through Whitelands Tunnel and working through lock 1. One of the aggrieved men arrived as we were hauling the butty into the lock. He sat down and started using his 'phone. When the lock was nearly empty he came over to me and asked me to talk to CRT. He had clearly given his distorted tale of woe about us terrible boaters to the duty manager, who was now telling me, via the 'phone, to let them past. So, presumably, we were being expected to wait below the lock for this boat to work through after us then go speeding ahead. Grrrr.

As we were closing the gates after the butty the fabled boat appeared at the far end of the tunnel. Despite getting stemmed on a shopping trolley behind Asda and making a pigs ear of breasting up, it was another 5 minutes after we were tied up and the engine stopped before the other boat arrived. On board was a well known local sourpuss.

We all know that the Huddersfield Narrow is a difficult and shallow canal. We also know that it is maintained on a shoestring. Wouldn't it be nice if boaters co-operated to help each other through such difficulties, listened to each other even, rather than jumping to conclusions and telling tales to CRT. I once got the cane in school because of that sort of behaviour. I still haven't forgiven Mandy Hough for telling those lies.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1314839 2018-08-24T20:38:21Z 2018-08-24T20:38:32Z The Old ports of West Lancashire.

Em had a plan. She wanted to go and see Lancaster Castle and go on one of the witch tours. So, off we trolled to Lancaster on an overcrowded Northern train. Isn't privatisation wonderful? We stayed at the Sun Inn in Lancaster. Nice room, ridiculously expensive drinks. In the evening as Em rested I went for a walk. I was looking for the old railway track to Glasson Dock, but it seems to have disappeared under Barratt homes. Nice walk down the river though.

The square concrete things are Heysham Nuclear Power Station I think.

There was some sort of rescue going on from the other side of the river.

Another walk in the early morning took me to the Millenium Bridge.

The buildings in the distance are old warehouses from when ships from Ireland used to dock here.

Lancaster has some picturesque bits.

I'd like to show you a lovely picture of Em having a cup of coffee in a cafe but she won't let me.

Next day another crowded Northern train took us to Preston. Em went shopping while I went in search of the Ribble Steam railway, which runs trains at weekends on the former dock railway. The docks are now a pleasure boat marina, but I was surprised to learn how important they once were, handling ro ro ferries to Ireland as well as coal exports and imports of fruit, timber grain etc. Surprisingly large ships used to navigate the narrow Ribble. It all finished in 1981. The cost of constantly dredging the river had got too much for the dwindling traffic.

In steam for my visit was a lovely Hawthorn Leslie saddletank of 1930s vintage.

There's an excellent collection of mostly industrial locos on display. Many of them have come from the former Steamport museum that used to be housed in the old Southport loco shed. One engine I'd hoped to see was "Cecil Raikes", an 0-6-4 tank of the subterranean (and sub aqua) Mersey Railway. This used to be at Steamport but since its closure has been in store with its owners, Liverpool Museums.


I was just about to leave when I noticed a sign inviting me to look at inside the workshops, a rare treat in this age of elfin safety overkill. This was the best bit. There was no-one else about but in the gloomy interior I was surrounded by frames, boilers, cabs etc and locomotives part dismantled and part re-assembled.

There was the old Furness Railway 0-4-0 tender engine

And an old friend that used to be on the Keighley & Worth Valley, USA tank No 72.

As I trudged back towards the main line station and another Northern sardine tin I took some photos of the Hawthorn Leslie hauling its train up the line, then setting off for the return trip from the exchange loops.

Despite the docks having closed over 30 years ago the railway is still busy with freight traffic on weekdays. Trains of bitumen tankers arrive down the wobbly track from the main line and are handed over to a pair of Rolls Royce Sentinel diesels to be shunted into the discharge siding for the black stuff to be pumped out and refined.


The track on the Nework Rail operated part of the line looks a bit unloved.
Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1310679 2018-08-10T07:27:33Z 2018-08-10T07:34:09Z Almost to Heaven

Someone said the Rochdale Canal was heaven one side and hell the other. I chose to charter "Hazel" for my boating holiday and invite some long unseen friends along. The original plan was to go up the Caldon but with various stoppages this became impossible, so I decided on the Rochdale instead. We had to go through the Hell bit to reach heaven. Unfortunately, the water shortages meant that we could only get to the edge of the celestial bit, just above Littleborough. We nearly got stranded there as CRT declared a stoppage at 07.30 (Having assured us that it would be fine to stay where we were for a few days) and immediately started locking up the locks. It took much whingeing on the 'phone from me to get them unlocked. It was great to see old friends Neesa, Dan, Eric, Stuart, Adeline and Eloise as well as some of our regular crew who came along to help work the many locks. Hard work but I enjoyed it. Thanks to Lesley and Mary for many of the pictures as I didn't take a lot.

Green scum on the Ashton Canal.

"Hazel" having her batteries charged.

At New Islington Marina.

A small amount of what we removed from the blade.

As far as we got. Lovely place to spend the weekend.


Early morning at Durn (Lock 47)
Waiting for CRT to let us out.

Rochdale in the morning.
Early morning at the Boat & Horses, Chadderton.
Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1299998 2018-07-05T05:11:20Z 2018-07-05T05:11:21Z Catching up

There's been so much happening I've not had time to take many pictures or post anything. Here's a few anyway, starting with theLymm Historic Transport Festival, which, as usual, was wonderful.

The view from "Hazel" with my old boat "Parbella" over on the left.

A good turnout of traction engines etc again.

Early morning, the engines wait for their fires to be lit.

I particularly liked this little steam lorry.

Joseph Garside engine, used for hauling sand at Leighton Buzzard. I used to work on the Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge railway, originally constructed for the same purpose.

Our display panel with "Parbella" in the background.

I didn't take any pictures on the very hot trip back to Ashton or the Sunday recycling trip when we were joined by our great great nephew Marcus Kirby. However, Marcus drew a picture of "Hazel" with me in the hat perched on top celebrating the participation of the England football team in the World Cup.

The next time I got my camera out was on the Tuesday night recycling trip. I left the boating to Aaron Booth. We were also joined by Fliss Johnson, Lorrainne Howlett, Norman Lee and Geraldine Buckley. It was a lovely sunny evening for a trip in good friendly company.

Fliss, Lorrainne (with Missy) and Geraldine (with Snitch).

Norman perched at the bow, looking for wildlife to photograph. Note the parched grass in the background.

There was an anxious moment whenn I thought Aaron was going to put the stem through the window of the moored boat whilst winding at Fairfield. All was well though, missed by inches!

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1295661 2018-06-20T06:07:22Z 2018-06-20T06:07:22Z From Middlewich up the Weaver

Me and Tony are having to take turns on "Forget me Not" and "Hazel" because we both have commitments back in Ashton this week. I joined the boats at Anderton Marina where "Hazel" was having her reserve batteries charged up.

She's providing a holiday afloat for retired boatwoman Hannah Hinde with her son and carer Duggie Shaw. Hannah grew up on Claytons oil boats and later worked wooden headers like "Hazel", carrying coal to Runcorn gasworks.

After working down the lift we headed upstream. I enjoyed steering the butty for a change while Aaron Booth took the motor.

The plan was to spend the night at Winsford, but, unfortunately, Vale Royal locks were out of action, so we  had to return to Anderton . Tony will be in charge going downriver for the next couple of days, then its back up the lift and on to Runcorn on Friday.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1295657 2018-06-20T05:49:24Z 2018-09-29T18:38:48Z The Breach

The breach at Middlewich has thrown a lot of peoples plans out. Caused by vandalism (rumour has it by a disgruntled former employee) it's going to cost millions to repair. I went to have a look but couldn't get near for security fencing but, someone who has been into the site gave me these photos. That boat was lucky not to go down the hole!

Funny CRT seem to have changed their story. If in doubt blame a boater!  https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/09/07/canal-boat-owner-accidentally-left-locks-open-water-surge-caused/

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1293574 2018-06-13T08:13:06Z 2018-06-13T08:13:07Z Down the Locks to Manchester

We were seriously mob handed working down from lock 16 on the Ashton Canal to Lock 92 of the Rochdale, near Deansgate Manchester. Some were experienced, some were new to working a pair through a flight of locks, but it all went pretty well and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. I'm back home now but the boats travel on to Middlewich for the Folk and Boat Festival.

When we reached Dale St lock, the first on the Rochdale, we were held up by a steel wide beam boat working down ahead of us. They were having trouble undoing the anti vandal lock on one of the bottom paddles and couldn't get the lock fully empty on one paddle. Our volunteers sorted it out and continued to help and advise as we followed them down the flight. We referred to them as the clown boat as all they lacked were red noses.
The clown boat, demonstrating where not to stand whilst steering.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1293098 2018-06-11T21:11:58Z 2018-06-11T21:12:11Z Bin Too Busy to Post, Catching up.

I took a lot of photos of a short trip we did a fortnight ago. I'd decided to let our crew run it themselves and just hover about taking photographs. I did put the photos on here, then my internet went down (Windows 10) and I couldn't save it. So, here they are again.

"Southam" and "Lilith" tied out of the way for the day.

"Forget me Not" and "Hazel" on the wharf to load our guests.

The pair winding.

The butty steerer struggled a bit to get through the gap.

"Still Waters" backed out to begin a trip through the Asda tunnel as our pair did their best to get round the bend into Walk Bridge. Meanwhile the hireboat crew attempt to drag their boat into the bank at the visitor moorings. These moorings used to be deep but after the contractors repaired the bank boats can no longer get in close. Presumably they dropped their surplus stone etc in the water.

After a shaky start the boats were on their way.

That was when my camera batteries ran out.

Our guests on "Hazel" that weekend were a couple who were visiting Ashton so that one of them could do a yoga teaching assessment. They said they'd like to be somewhere nice and peaceful so I took the boat up to Dukinfield drawbridge, away from the sometimes raucus atmosphere on hot days at the basin. Here's some pictures.

The following weekend was the recycling trip. I didn't take any pictures on the Sunday or Monday trips, but on Tuesday evening I let Aaron take charge. He did very well.
Winding at Ashton.
The flats are on the site of the old Junction Mill. Now only the chimney survives.
Fliss and Steve chatting on "Forget me Not"s deck.
Aaron in charge.
Winding at Fairfield Junction.

2008 flats clearly modelled on 1970s Soviet architecture. These also are on the site of a mill.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1283182 2018-05-13T18:30:02Z 2018-05-13T18:30:03Z May 2018 Recycling Trip.

A good turn out today on the recycling trip, and a chance for trainees to practice boat steering. The actual collection was disappointing. I think a lot of people had gone out to enjoy the sunshine.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1280306 2018-05-05T06:09:58Z 2018-05-05T06:10:02Z The Kittens.

No, I'm not just harvesting likes. About a month ago we found that a feral cat had given birth aboard "Lilith". We couldn't take them with us on the recycling trip so I moved the kittens on to "Elton". Mother cat then moved them into "Queen", well hidden. Several people have been feeding the mother, who was rather skinny. She's now looking a lot better.

Today I saw the kittens out gamboling in "Queen"s fore end. They're lovely. We already have homes offered for some of them but I think some help is needed in catching them. We need to catch the mother too and get her speyed, otherwise a boatload of kittens will become a regular thing.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1277799 2018-04-28T10:33:40Z 2018-04-28T10:33:50Z Swanning about on the Bridgewater

"Hazel" had 2 airbnb bookings in Manchester on consecutive weekends, both with groups of Germans. We took her down the locks on Thursday with a guest on board, then got her tidied up for our guests on Friday. I stayed to look after things and we had a problem with the macerator toilet. It turned out a turnbutton off one of the cupboards had gone down it and caused a very unpleasant internal blockage. We also had engine problems, largely my fault as I made a cock up of a minor repair which necessitated a more major repair ( Volunteer chief engineer needed, any offers?)

On Tuesday, loaded with well being guests, we moved again, down the Rochdale 9 and onward to Sale Cruising Club moorings in proper Perter Kay rain.  The helpful people at Sale filled us up with water and electricity. We planned to move on Wednesday morning but another engine problem blew up (as it were). This necessitated two return cycle trips to Stockport to get parts repaired. Our guests seemed to enjoy their sojourn in Sale. On Thursday morning we went on as far as the next winding hole, winded, then headed back into Manchester, getting pumped out at the very friendly Stretford Marina.

We tied below the locks at Castlefield, then Aaron, Shaun and Phil helped with the ascent of the 9. We tied among the steampunk building sites at Picadilly basin.

Aaron cleaning brass.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1272768 2018-04-14T21:13:13Z 2018-04-14T21:13:14Z Churnet Valley Railway and Historic Narrow Boat Club AGM

I went to Whittington near Lichfield today for the Historic Narrow Boat Club AGM. On the way I called in at Froghall Station, just in time to see "Hotspur", a little Polish tank engine, set out with its train. A class 33 diesel was assisting in the rear.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1271932 2018-04-12T20:08:23Z 2018-04-12T20:08:24Z Staley Wharf trip 12th April 2018

Today we took some Airbnb guests for a trip up the 3 locks to Staley Wharf. We all patronised the excellent chip shop there, then worked back down to Portland Basin. A nice day and a chance for our trainee crew to get used to working the pair through locks.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1270534 2018-04-09T09:22:48Z 2018-04-09T11:28:58Z Recycling Trip Sunday April 8th 2018

The trip started a bit late because we found some Kittens aboard "Lilith" and had to move them. Good turnout and a lot to collect. Tameside Radio came along and did some interviews. Here's some pictures.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1265165 2018-03-25T20:36:24Z 2018-03-26T06:38:24Z Swans, Trees, Firewood and Trolleys.

I ordered a couple of fruit trees from the Henry Doubleday Research Association ages ago but they've only just turned up. don't know what took them so long. Anyway, I thought I'd better get them in quick before they start bearing fruit. At short notice I set up a tree planting trip to add them to the guerrilla orchard in Droylsden.

In the morning I pottered about on "Forget me Not" and found some important pieces of paper that I thought I'd lost (never give me important pieces of paper). The swan pair from Fairfield have been hanging around the basin a lot lately, probably because it's a good source of scrumptious but unhealthy white bread. I thought their last years cygnets had left home but one was in the basin today. Dad was not happy to see his prodigal and kept raising his wings to see the young whippersnapper off.


Cob and Pen swans.

Luke arrived and we set off. As we went through brewery bridge the rudder was lifted out of its socket by an underwater obstruction. We got to Droylsden and planted the trees, then on to Fairfield to wind.

The swans nest from last year is still there amongst the detritus. I expect they'll be using it again soon.

We headed back towards Ashton but stopped at Guide Bridge to load up some sycamore that me and Tony cut down last year to protect the oaks. They're now bone dry and will make good firewood. The level was about 6" down and the boat would go nowhere near the towpath. I had to use a plank. to get off. when we wanted to leave the boat was well stemmed and I had to unload a substantial sycamore to lever her back into the channel.

on the move again, we got back to brewery bridge and stopped to clear it. A bit of work with the keb brought out 3 shopping trolleys and a bike.

At Oxford Mill we passed a piece of floating furniture.

Back at the basin another cygnet had arrived and daddy swan was looking seriously displeased. These youngsters are supposed to clear off and start their own families and leave their parents alone. Swans are not alone in this problem, I know humans with the same predicament.

As the boat approached the cygnets didn't know what to do. One decided, shortly after the photo was taken, to try dodging round the bow, only to crash into the coping stones.

We winded ready for the next move on Tuesday and tied up, then moved "Hazel" over from the towpath, winding her too before breasting her up to "Forget me Not". A good enjoyable day.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1264198 2018-03-22T21:44:53Z 2018-03-22T21:44:54Z Now it can be told, The True Story of Filming Barging Round Britain. 2015

One Sunday we were passing the Ashton Packet Boat moorings on a recycling trip when someone called over, “Do you want to do some filming with John Sergeant”. “Possibly” I replied. “Ring Brian McGuigan” they said. Brian and Anne Marie McGuigan are the excellent couple who run our local fuel boat, delivering coal and diesel to boats around the Cheshire ring on the big motor Alton. Apparently the TV company had been in touch with them but they weren't interested.

A couple of days later I had a call from Oliver the producer and a long chat about what we could do with “Hazel”. He was a bit nonpluseed when I explained that the boat had to be towed. Knowledge of waterway traditions seemed to be a bit sketchy.

The timing was perfect. They wanted to film at the end of June and it was looking like Hazel would just about be ready to go by then. We were gathering a crew who needed some boating training and the project would need some publicity. A plan was hatched. We were to tow "Hazel" with "Forget me Not" to Bugsworth Basin where Mr Sergeant and the film crew were to join us for a 4 day trip back to Ashton.

A couple of weeks intensive work on Hazel had her just about ready to go and a merry band of volunteers, most of whom had not worked a lock before, bowhauled her through the centre of Stalybridge to join Forget me not, which I'd brought up from Ashton the previous evening, at Staley Wharf.

Working the pair down the next 3 locks with a team of green boaters was interesting. I had to be everywhere at once to make sure that everyone was following my instructions, and the occassional long distance bellow was required when someone was about to draw the wrong paddle. As we worked locks 2 and 3 a walker came over to me and said I should watch out for the following boat as it was in a dreadful hurry and had been ramming gates in their haste. Sure enough the boat appeared and its skipper asked to pass us as we were very slow. When I refused he claimed that it was the law of the cut that we should give way to him. I pointed out that in 45 years on the cut I had never heard of any such statute.

The Huddersfield Canal was unusually busy on this particular day. Usually, even in high summer, you can navigate these locks without meeting a single boat. At Whitelands Tunnel (opened out over 100 years ago but still very narrow) we had to hold back as an Eastbound boat emerged. They said there was another following, so we breasted up to wait. Inevitably our eager follower caught up and tried to pass, but was persuaded to tie up behind us and form an orderly queue. The skipper came along to chat and insist that they were very experienced boaters and the walker must have seen something that happened on the other side of the Pennines where they had to force the gates open with the boat because the leaks were so great that they couldn't get a level. I didn't want them breathing down my neck as I shepherded our trainees through the rather slow and awkward lock 1W, so, when the uphill boat appeared I let them go ahead.

When we were finally clear of this lock, hours later on our trip than anticipated, I sent someone ahead to get ready to strap us round the turn into the Peak Forest Canal. We went through the Asda tunnel and the awkward bit by Cavendish Mill where the retaining wall collapsed in 2002 and they're still arguing about who should pay for it, then into Portland Basin where Martin Gately was busy working on Lilith.

As we approached, someone on the bow threw a line to the person who had gone ahead. He took a turn on the strapping post that thankfully is still there (though the area is often occupied by anglers) and on my instructions tightened it at just the right moment to snatch Forget me Not's bow round into the narrow entrance to the Peak Forest Canal, releasing it again when instructed and passing it back onto the boat. It didn't go quite to plan as Hazel gave the copings a nasty bash, but that was my fault as i'd given her too long a line.

The 8 lock free miles from Aston to Marple allowed people to settle into the simple business of steering the boats. At Well Bridge we encountered a fallen tree, trimmed back but still almost impossible to miss with a full length boat. Forget me Not's engine was labouring as there was something on the blade that would simply not come off. In both Woodley and Hyde Bank tunnels we were accompanied by a following wind blowing at just the same speed as the boats. For some reason somebody always makes up the ranges when approaching tunnels, so we emerged red eyed in a dramatic cloud of smoke.

Its always tricky arriving at the bottom of Marple with a pair but not intending to work up the locks. There's a long low bridgehole with no towpath followed by a right hand turn into a basin that is usually lined with moored boats. Until you emerge from the bridgehole you cannot see if there is a 70 foot gap to slot into. On this occassion there was a suitable gap and our crew did well in breasting  and tying up reasonably neatly.

It was pleasant to wake up early in Forget me Not's cabin and revive the fire which I'd kept in overnight with sawdust. To lie in bed drinking coffee with the doors open to the early morning sunlight, listening to the dawn chorus. Soon people were up and about and bacon and eggs were cooking in Hazel's kitchen. Eventually we were ready to go. Maxine Bailey had her painting work interrupted by this trip so she had come along. She went with Andy  and a chap from one of the moored boats whose name I forget to work the motor boat on ahead while I showed the rest of the crew the techniques of bowhauling up Marple.

All went well except for a slight problem when the motor boat caught on a bottom gate, demonstrating that you have to be constantly alert whilst working through locks. Most lock accidents happen because no-one is watching the boat.

At the top of the 16 locks is the junction with the Macclesfield Canal. We were heading for Bugsworth* so the motor tied against a grassy bank just beyond the junction, having the first experience of the shallow rocky edges of the upper Peak Forest canal.

Working the butty up the locks I had enforced a strict rotation of duties, so everyone had their fair share of turns at drawing paddles, opening gates, steering and, of course, performing horse duty. By the time we reached the top and shafted across to breast up to Forget me Not they were all in need of rest and refreshment. I haven't yet explained to them that on future trips there may only be a couple of them to work the boat through the flight! It gets easier with practice.

The upper Peak Forest is narrow and shallow with rocky edges as already noted. It's also a lot busier than any of the canals around Ashton. When we were at last ready to set off we had to wait for ages for a suitable gap in passing traffic, then we had a struggle to get Forget me Not free from the shallow water.

The upper peak tested everyone's steering skills, especially on the deeper draughted motor boat. The slightest deviation from the channel would result in the motor stemming up and inevitably being caught up with by the butty. There are also numerous drawbridges, so a couple of our crew had some good exercise walking ahead to prepare these.

The previous night one of Hazel's two sets of gas bottles had run out, so I had hoped to replace them at New Mills marina. Unfortunately we could find nowhere to tie up reasonably near the marina, so we carried on. Eventually we reached the turn into the Bugsworth arm and plodded carefully up the narrow shallow waterway to tie, breasted, in the first of the extensive basins.

The next day was a Saturday and we spent the morning and a good part of the afternoon cleaning, tidying and waiting while filming took place elsewhere. We had been sworn to secrecy about the filming. A series of steel boats were taking water. I wanted to fill Hazel's tank but every time I prepared to move her, another boat nipped in. I went over to the water point to arrange a slot with the other boats. “Are you here to film with John Sergeant “ asked the man. “It's supposed to be a secret” I replied. “Oh, everybody knows, that's why we're all leaving”!

With the tank full it was time to wind. We started to do this at the entrance basin but were advised that most pairs couldn't get round there and we should go up to the wide a little further up. There was plenty of room to wind with Forget me Not powering the boats round nicely, then chugging back and backing into the lower basin to wait some more. I dropped Forget me Not astern of Hazel to facilitate our celebrity guest getting aboard, and carried on waiting.

At last they arrived, and instantly looked worried. "Who are all these people?" Asked Clive the director. I explained that they were our volunteers and not only were they interesting people but we were combining this fiming trip with crew training and they would be essential for working the boats down the locks and anyway we needed someone to steer the butty. They weren't happy but conceded that someone would have to steer Hazel, everyone else would have to stay inside with the curtains shut. Personally I think they'd have ended up with a much more interesting programme by including our volunteers, but what do I know.

We began filming with me introducing John to the boats and explaining why there were 2 of them. We got the cameraman and sound man on board then set off with Andy steering Hazel. Almost immediately we picked up something on the blade which made the engine smoke, much to my embarrassment. Regular applications of sterngear failed to throw it off.

John didn't seem too happy about perching on the gunwale and soon he was wanting to steer. We exchanged positions and carried on with our conversation, interspersed with constant reminders from me to stay in the middle. Inevitably, before long, we experienced the first of many stemmings up.

Secret crew members were surrepticiously unloaded every now and then to run ahead to drawbridges which magically opened ahead of us. We travelled on, with John acting a character that lay somewhere between the Queen and Paddington Bear. Behind us Andy was working hard to keep Hazel in a straight line while the motor boat zig zagged along the cut. “You know” said John “we've bumped into a few boats along here but I don't think they mind do they”?

The target for the evening was the Swizzels Matlow sweet factory at New Mills where they were planning to film on the next day. We dropped John off for the camera opposite the marina, then immediately filmed him getting back on again before continuing past the sweet factory to tie up in an elfin glade just beyond. We said goodbye to the TV crew and enjoyed the rest of the day making a meal and chatting.

Next morning Pauline cooked us all bacon and eggs as we waited for the film crew to arrive. They were a little late and there was some concern about keeping to the schedule. We soon resumed our leisurely progress, impeded by frequent encounters with the rocky bottom of the canal as John struggled to get used to steering a deep draughted boat. He seemed to be enjoying being treated like royalty by passers by on land and water.

At Disley some modern bungalows back on to the canal. John struck up a conversation with a man in the back garden of one of these. He turned out to be a chef who had just got home from his shift in an hotel. “Would you like some capuchinos?” he asked, so we waited and waved past a series of pleasure craft as he prepared the coffees. All grist to the mill for a lighthearted documentary.

The Peak Forest is not a canal that you can hurry. The director, hiding in Forget me Not's cabin, glanced at his watch with increased frequency and anxiety, for they had a busy schedule for the rest of the day.

John spotted some girls on horses and asked to stop. Being unable to get near the towpath, the only possible stopping point was in the bridgehole that the horses and their mounts were crossing. I held the motor in the narrows and hoped that no boats would wish to pass as the interview with the girls continued. When they were finished with, there developed a conference between director, producer and star. Sure enough, the top lock training boat came along and had to wait. Eventually I persuaded the film people that other people wanted to use the canal and we'd better get moving.

It had been agreed that we would tie up for the night at Brick Bridge, the last one before Marple top lock. Because the canal is fairly narrow there my plan was to tie up singly rather than breasting to make it easier for boats to pass. When we got there I struggled to find anywhere that I could get Forget me Not anywhere near the towpath because of all the rocks lying in the bottom of the canal. Eventually I found a spot, but Hazel, drawing about 2 feet along her length, would not come near. We had to pull her alongside the motor and hope that boats could get by.

Our TV friends went off to film at some nearby locations before John returned with the cameraman to stay aboard Hazel. Clive explained to us that for all kinds of complicated reasons the only people to stay on board were to be John and the cameraman. I had hoped that One of us could sleep in Hazel's back cabin, but the director said no. For “all kinds of reasons”, the only one that he specified was insurance, none of us could stay on the same boat as our celebrity guest. That left room for 2 in Forget me Not (none of us fancied sharing the cross bed or sleeping on the floor) but there were 3 of us. Luckily Tom and Pauline had brought a tent. The problem was, where to pitch it.

They said they would be back at about 6 pm, so we busied ourselves cleaning and tidying inside Hazel and making up beds for our guests. After much discussion we decided to try pitching the tent on Forget me Not's temporary deck. This worked very well, so we had our tea and waited, and waited, and waited. At one point our TV people showed up on the nearby road in a vintage car, then they went again. It got dark, and we carried on waiting. Eventually I decided that they weren't coming, so I went to bed on the motor boat's sidebed. As morpheus began to creep up on me I was suddenly brought back into the land of wakefulness by voices and lights outside. They had arrived. I got up and showed them into Hazel. John then acted out a rather Paddington Bear like scene of confusion and difficulty of dragging his suitcase through the boat.

The three of us crawled into our sleeping bags and spent the night aboard Forget me Not . I discovered that Forget meNot's gunwale still leaks. Andy discovered that I snore and John slept like baby in his tent. Aboard Hazel, celebrity and cameraman found their berths very comfortable..

In the morning I was expecting that we would enjoy breakfast with our guests, but instead they filmed Mr Sergeant making a big show of finding the cupboards bare (not true) and going off for breakfast in a greasy spoon. I was beginning to get concerned about the way that the film might portray Hazel and our society. Every time I had tried to talk about the boats on camera John had changed the subject. I pointed out to the director that we agreed to this trip on the understanding that the film would give good publicity to our project, reminding him of my lifelong hatred for Griff Rhys-Jones since he totally failed to mention the Wooden Canal Boat Society when he filmed a trip on Forget me Not. He told me not to worry, we would get a good plug in a voice over.

They said that they'd be back to film our descent of Marple locks in the early afternoon, so I decided to pop back to Ashton check on the other boats. Before I left a motorised River class boat, belonging to A &R Rothen, came along heading towards Whaley Bridge. The Rivers were some of the last working narrow boats built, made of welded steel they are rather like slimmed down Thames lighters. Only two motors were built, of a rather unusual and unsuccessful design. This one is a former butty that has been given a conventional motor stern and is now used for canal maintenance work. It was steered by our friend Fred who ran a recycling trip for us a few months ago when I was unable to be present. I was pleased and surprised to see that it got past our pair without difficulty. As I'd heard that the fuel boat Alton was heading our way I walked round on to the Macclesfield canal to warn them about the potential difficulty before heading for Marple station.

The railway from Marple to Guide Bridge (change at Romiley) is a very pleasant ride parallel to the canal. It's a surprising survival as most of the minor railways of the area disappeared in the days of Dr Beeching. With unstaffed stations and “nodding donkey” trains (Leyland buses mounted on wagon chassis) the line provides a good service to Woodley and Hyde and is quite well used.

Back at Ashton the boats were all floating happily and I had time to pop into the shop and call at home before getting the train back to Marple. When I got there our editor had arrived in the hope of having a trip down Marple locks.  Colin Scrivener had arrived to enjoy the trip down the locks, but it was not to be. We spent a pleasant afternoon chatting and drinking tea, but by the time that Colin had to leave there was still no sign of the celebrity and his retinue.

Their eventual arrival co-incided with a sudden deterioration in the weather as squally gusts of wind whipped up wavelets on the waterway and dark clouds threatened more than the few droplets of rain that actually fell. A plan was decided on and cameras set up accordingly. Celebrity John was now steering Hazel with me on the roof trying to direct operations. Andy was steering the motor boat. A couple of people had gone ahead to prepare the lock, my plan being for Forget me Not to go straight into the lock. John's straw hat blew off, much to his overacted distress (he had a spare in case of such an eventuality). As we a approached the lock I realised that I hadn't explained my plan clearly enough. Not only was the top gate not open ready but the paddles were not yet drawn to fill the lock. I gesticulated wildly to our lock team to prepare the lock whilst formulating a revised plan. This involved much use of the long shaft to control the boat in the vicious gusty wind and bring her reasonably gently alongside the copings above the lock. Butties have no brakes and so sudden changes of plan can be difficult.

Quite how all that will appear on TV I'm not sure. Mr Celebrity was mainly concerned that the cameraman should rush back up the towpath to get a shot of his still floating hat. The secret crew had emerged from Hazel and were now plainly visible as they started working the motor, then the butty, down the 16 lock flight. Andy got told off for smoking as he steered Forget me Not as tobacco use cannot be shown on TV nowadays lest it be seen as a cool thing to do

After a few locks the TV people met up with representatives from the Marple Locks Heritage Trust. They fitted the motor boat with Go Pro cameras, little video cameras that can be clipped on wherever you want them and will record until the battery runs out, and sent us on our way while they went off to film something else. I re-organised our crew, electing to work the motor myself whilst everyone else was to work Hazel down. I stayed one lock ahead to keep ane eye on things and ran back occassionally to give advice. All went well.

Because we had started so late on the locks it was a close thing whether or not we would be finished before dark. At lock 5 it was getting dusk when Oliver came to reclaim the Go Pros. By the time we reached lock 1 the last glimmers of light were fading. We roughly breasted up below the lock and those of us who were staying fell into bed, while others faced a drive home.

The main job for us on the final day of filming was to capture the crossing of Marple aqueduct. This was to be filmed by a drone. We crossed the aqueduct slowly with the drone whizzing about above our heads while John and I discussed the splendour of the scene. We then had to do it again, so I took a line from one of “Hazel”s stern end timberheads and dragged the two boats backwards ready to repeat the procedure.

Ashton under Lyne is an interesting town. It was a boomtown of the mid nineteenth century growing rapidly as the cotton trade expanded, the burgeoning mills being fired by local coal dug from local pits and in many cases delivered by boat. At one time it even had its own religious cult, the Christian Israelites, who believed that it would be the site of the second coming of Jesus Christ and at the height of their influence planned to build a city wall to join up their four gatehouses. It is also the Northern terminus of the Peak Forest Canal.

It was with some difficulty that I persuaded the TV people that they should actually bother with the lower Peak Forest canal rather than terminating their journey at Marple. There seems to still be a view widely held in the South that “dirty Northern towns” have nothing of interest. With the aqueduct filming over, the plan was for the TV entourage to go off to Hyde and film at boxer Ricky Hatton's gym. The boats were fitted with go pro's again and set off for a pleasant journey along the winding wooded water route, to tie up, as arranged, just before Dukinfield lift bridge.

Another long wait began as, it turned out, a conference took place in a nearby pub. Eventually the star and retinue returned to the boats, but continued their conference for some time. At this point I witnessed the downside of celebrity status as some people tried to but in to the private conversation that was going on, calling on John to pose for their cameras. He deliberately turned his back on them in a way that could be seen as rude, but if this sort of thing happens frequently it's difficult to see how one could deal with it politely without disrupting ones working day. He was, after all, at work.

With the filming soon to finish we had a group photo taken, all sitting on Hazel's roof with our feet on Forget me Not. With this done the drawbridge was lifted, the engine fired up and we carried on the last quarter mile, stemming up only once. A dogwalker on the towpath asked john if Forget me Nots decked over hold was for him to practice for Strictly Come Dancing. “Thank you” said John as he turned his head away from the towpath joker. Apparently references to his star performance on that programme don't go down too well.

Arrival at portland Basin from the Peak Forest is quite a tricky manouvre with a pair. You have to give a burst of power as you leave the narrow Tame aqueduct to give the butty some speed, then immediately go astern to avoid crashing into the moored boats and allow the butty to slip alongside. The boats have to be tied abreast quickly and neatly, again, to avoid collisions, then, if you're quick, the buttys momentum is used to help the pair to swing round more than 90 degrees to tie up alongside the wharf. All went beautifully until I pulled back the gear rod to reverse the stern ends alongside the wharf. It came right back and the boat carried on in forward gear. The linkage had come apart and I had to rush through into the engine 'ole to pull back the gear lever.

With the boats alongside the wharf a final piece to camera was fimed, there were lots of thank yous and handshaking and a promise from the director to arrange for a donation to be sent to us.

It had been an enjoyable few days and I looked forward to seeing the finished product on the television. It was eventually screened in May 2016, which would have been an excellent time to tell the nation about “Hazel” and her mission to help people with mental health issues by taking them into the waterway environment. I had, however, an uneasy feeling that, a verbal promise from a TV director might not be worth the paper it was written on.

My fears were confirmed when I saw the programme. The only mention of the Wooden Canal Boat Society was in the credits at the end. There was nothing to explain that our star was travelling on important historic wooden boats, in fact, to the uninitiated the boats must have seemed a bit of a mystery.

Far be it from me to tell an established TV director how to make a programme, but actually these boats are very interesting to most people. Whenever we travel anywhere with them we see people aiming their cameras and 'phones as we pass and people with only a passing interest in waterways come over to as about them. When I mention their project to give time in the waterway environment for people who are mentally unwell, this often strikes a chord, for even if the person I am talking to has not themselves suffered mental illness, they will almost certainly have a friend or relative who has. By reneging on our agreement the director not only made me very angry but he actually made a much less interesting programme.

Unsurprisingly, the promised donation did not immediately turn up, however, shortly after the screening someone from the TV company rang up to ask if it was OK to pass my number on to someone who was interested in the history of the boat. I said that was fine, then went on to explain how disappointed I was at the lack of integrity that had been displayed. He was very apologetic and said that he would pursue the matter of a donation.

After a little while a generous donation of £100 appeared in the society's bank account. That's £25 for each day of filming!  Shortly afterwards Beth and Arnold Allen, who have been great "Hazel" supporters, visited. Arnold said he would contact the company. He did so, resulting in a further £400 personal donation from the boss.

*The village referred to was the transhipment point between the Peak Forrest Tramway, which brought limestone down from quarries around Dove Holes, and the Peak Forest Canal. For centuries it was called Bugsworth but, during Queen Victoria's reign, the residents decided that they wished to expunge any suggestion that they may be troubled by small bitey creatures, so they changed the name to Buxworth. I prefer to use the original spelling.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1254019 2018-02-27T23:14:20Z 2018-03-20T06:35:39Z The Beast From the East

The media dubbed it "The Beast from the East", snow and freezing winds coming at us from Siberia. By the time it reached Ashton it was more of a pussycat. Despite this, Claire, our marketing person, had to drive her disabled son to school because the bus company had cancelled its services.

I woke in "Forget me Not"s back cabin at about 5.30 AM. I revived the fire to warm the cabin up. Outside was uniformly white. I had a lot to do as the boats were a bit messy after the tree planting trip and there was lots of  stuff in the van that needed unloading before it went to do deliveries for the shop.

At about 7, after enjoying coffee and muesli for breakfast, I went out and started lighting fires. Both the squirrel stove and the back cabin range feed into the central heating on ""Hazel". Our guest for the day hailed from hot places like Sudan, so I wanted the boat to be nicely warmed up. The van was unloaded, it was mostly firewood from Knowl St, then I started  rooting about in the snow on "Forget me Not"s deck  for bits of scrap we'd pulled out of the cut.

At about 9.20 I started to panic. No crew had arrived yet and the first guests had showed up whilst I was moving "Southam" out of the way. The guests went off to Asda and Aaron and Tony arrived about 10.30 and started clearing snow from "Hazel"s roof and salting the steps to make them safe.

In fact our guests, a group called Refugee Action, didn't arrive until well past 10.  The safety talk was translated into Arabic and Sudanese then, with everyone aboard, we set off. I steered the motor, Aaron steered the butty and Tony dealt with the lines. The floating snow had coagulated into thin ice which we cut through easily.

It was a shame I couldn't take photographs as many picturesque Christmas cardy shots presented theselves as we went along. Just after Walk Bridge a couple on the towpath photographed our passing. I invited them to come on Sundays recycling trip.  

Though only thin, the ice made winding at Lumb Lane difficult. On the outward trip the low sun shone brightly, but, as we winded, the sky greyed over and snow began to fall. Tony took over steering. As we headed into the East wind I began to regret not putting on even more layers.

As we passed the railway sidings at Guide Bridge  Tony pointed out a group of orange clad workers sitting in a minibus. He told me he had a friend who worked on railway maintenance but in bad weather they weren't allowed to do anything (elfin safety) but would just sit around chatting for their entire shift. The world's gone mad!

Our guests spent most of the trip indoors, not surprising really, but they came out all smiles saying they'd enjoyed it. After a short break we welcomed another dozen refugees on board. This time Aaron and Tony took the motor and I enjoyed a lovely quiet ride on the back of "Hazel", feeling the warmth from the back cabin range. We headed off into a snowstorm, then the sun came out again.

We finished the second trip at about 2.45. Our guests departed and we sat down in "Hazel"s warm fore end to have a brew, before shafting "Southam" back into the basin then going our various ways home. A good day.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1252885 2018-02-25T21:05:19Z 2018-02-25T21:05:19Z More Trees Planted

Today Tony and me got a few more trees planted, near the motorway in Audenshaw. I also cut back some sycamores that were threatening trees planted in previous years. We pulled out some shopping trolleys and a bike. Back at Portland Basin we tried to breast up to Southam but "Forget me Not" stemmed up in mid basin. The level is about 9" down but the water should be deep here. I poked around with a keb and managed to move something big but couldn't get it out of the water. It felt like a submerged tree trunk. Here's some pictures of "Forget me Not" around Guide bridge.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1251398 2018-02-22T19:45:43Z 2018-02-22T19:45:44Z Tree Planting Day

Today was supposed to be a canal clean up but CRT hit us with a load of paperwork that I haven't got round to completing yet, so I thought I'd get a few trees planted. All unofficial guerrilla planting. I only invited a couple of people as I'm not very sociable at the moment. Niether of them showed up as both were feeling ill, the winter lurgi that keeps coming back I think.

After waiting a bit and having trouble starting "Forget me Not"s cold engine I set off up the Peak Forest on my own. The level was down and almost immediately I stemmed up in mid channel. When I eventually got away a wheelie bin rose to the surface then sank again.

I got up to the site of our Solstice fire that wouldn't burn, removed the remnants of the bonfire then planted an oak in the ashes. From there I carried on to Hyde where I winded the boat and started heading back. Joe Hodgson, tree surgeon par excellence rang. He had just arrived at Portland Basin. He walked up the towpath and met me at Well Bridge.

At Globe bridge I got off and walked on to work the lift bridge. Joe successfully got the boat through the Great Central railway bridge and the lift bridge, both sources of trouble, then stemmed up un the same wheelie bin back near Portland Basin.

When we eventually got off this we turned left towards Guide Bridge and I got off to take these pictures. We planted more trees on spare land at Guide Bridge, winded at Lumb Lane and got back to Portland basin at dusk. A nice day.

Passing Oxford Mills.

Joe hides behind the wonky chimney.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1239323 2018-01-28T20:41:45Z 2018-01-28T20:41:46Z The Laird Saves The Day

I was worried when I got up this morning. I'd had no response to my request for help on the last day of "Elton"s docking. Though I'd got all the plates on on Saturday there were still a lot of bolts to put in and my drill mounted nut screwer upper had broken. This simple tool was capable of surprising a bolt so that it screwed up without turning. Without it I would have to use spanners, a much slower process, and, without the element of surprise, I would need someone on the outside to hold the bolt head.

About 7.30 AM I got a text from Laird Denis McGee Boyle. He was coming from Nottingham to help. We had an excellent day painting the hull with black sticky stuff, drilling and bolting up plates. The picture above shows Denis painting the last bit at about 5.30. The pictures below show the work done over the last couple of days. Fingers crossed for her floating tomorrow!

The last 2 pictures show the bits that were holed by Community Spirit 2. Now nicely plated over.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1238442 2018-01-26T19:49:52Z 2018-01-26T22:30:45Z Megabright Orb in Dukinfield Sky

Reports are coming in of an incredibly bright orb like disk in the sky over Dukinfield, Greater Manchester. It was so bright that ordinary cameras were unable to photograph it. Scientists claim that this is a natural phenomenon called the Sun, a huge thermonuclear reactor round which the Earth orbits at about 92 million miles (but who would believe that).

 Leading astrologer Lynda la Veritas says that this is the result of a rare conjunction of planets and it will ensure peace, love and prosperity for all who cross her palm with bitcoin.

A spokesman for the Flat Earth Society said that it was the return of the god Helios driving his golden chariot across the sky. A temporary break in the clouds of toxic chemicals dispersed in the sky by THE GOVERNMENT has enabled it to be seen. He expressed some concern that too much exposure to the light could affect the giant turtle on whose back the Earth's disc sits.

Donald Trump tweeted that it was Obama and the Clintons who had kept us in the dark and this beautiful orb was there because he said it would be. In a further tweet he suggested that bathing in the light of the orb was a cure all and so healthcare was no longer needed.

Boris Johnson welcomed the news of the orb's sighting and declared that this was just the beginning of a bright new future which we would all enjoy when brexit was complete and he was prime minister. His cabinet colleagues suggested that he stick to his brief as Foreign Secretary.

Islamic State (Dukinfield Chapter) claimed that this was a sign of the imminent return of the prophet Jesus on his white charger to turn the military tide in their favour and lay waste to the ungodly. The unbelievers must prepare to taste death, they added.

I just thought it was a nice day.

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1238418 2018-01-26T19:11:09Z 2018-01-26T19:11:09Z "Elton" Nearly Done.

Though I wouldn't mind a hand over the next couple of days. She will float again on Monday (honest).

Chris Leah
tag:ashtonboatman.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1235187 2018-01-20T21:29:51Z 2018-01-20T21:29:51Z Progress with "Elton".

The damage is now largely plated over and the rest of the hull tidied up. We're even starting to apply some black sticky stuff.

Chris Leah