Sunday, 29 January 2012


This morning the body of a man was pulled out of the river within sight of our mooring. It was a cold, frosty night, and this morning the mist hung in the air like a shroud. 

Very sad, and not a little unnerving that it was so close to home. 

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Thursday, 26 January 2012

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Off-Grid Baking: Brandy Butter Brownies

January can be a depressing month so what better way to fight the blues than with a delicious, boozy brownie? Not the way to keep up with the January dieting but everything in moderation! I gave a lot of it away to friends.
This recipe was adapted from a  recipe found on Sofia's Journal. I had bought some brandy butter from Waitrose, reduced to 19p and wasn't sure what to do with it, when I had a brainwave - to add it to a brownie recipe for a tasty twist. It worked really quite well, giving a subtle extra, 'grown-up' taste to the brownies, and they were perfectly dense but gooey with a crusty top.

P.S Brandy butter is just sugar and butter in equal measures with a dash of brandy, so since it's not the season for it any more, then just adding a shot of brandy (cognac or rum would work nicely too) to the recipe has the same effect.

100g / 4oz butter (200g / 8oz if you've not got brandy butter)
40g / 1.5oz caster sugar (140g / 5oz caster sugar if you've not got brandy butter)
200g / 8oz brandy butter if you have it OR 25ml brandy/rum/cognac
200g / 8oz dark chocolate
175g / 6oz dark muscovado sugar
4 eggs
50g / 2oz ground almonds
50g / 2oz plain flour

1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4 then grease and line a 20cm square brownie tin. Heat butter (and brandy butter if using it) and chocolate in a pan until melted. Stir through both sugars, and shot of spirit if using it. 

2. Leave to cool for 5 minutes then stir in the (beaten) eggs until smooth. Mix in the almonds and flour then pour into the tin. Bake for 30-35 minutes. It should be just cooked through in the middle with a slight crust to the outside.

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Sunday, 22 January 2012

Getting our canal fix

Yesterday we fancied a trip to the canal, so headed into London. We spent the afternoon walking around Camden and Bloomsbury.

First, we walked from Kings Cross to Camden Lock and had a look around the market.

 Then we walked back down to UCL, past the wonderful Art Deco Carreras Building, and North Gower Street, where the 'Baker Street' shots of Sherlock were filmed.

We spent a few hours getting some work done in my department at UCL

Then we walked over to ICCo, on Goodge Street, where the best, cheapest, pizza in London can be found.

We finished up with a walk through Russell Square to get an Oreo milkshake at GBK, before getting the train home.

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Thursday, 19 January 2012

A question for boaters

After April this year, visits to Cambridge will become quite expensive. Either 10% of the relevant EA licence for your boat length if you add it to your EA licence, or 15% of the same if you buy it separately to the EA licence (e.g if you bought an EA licence not planning to go to the Cam then subsequently changed your mind). So something like an additional £50-100.

This letter was published in the Cambridge News yesterday

"I'm taking my cash elsewhere"
Thanks to the price increase for boaters to visit Cambridge by the Conservators of the River Cam, I will not be going to your town and will take my pound to somewhere that would like visitors. 
Donald Gilchrist

What I want to know is: do you agree? Will you come anyway? Or will you cross Cambridge off your cruising list? Comments below. It would really help us to have a cross section of boaters' responses as we challenge this! I think I might put a poll up on Canal World too. If you could also say where you normally moor or if you are a continuous cruiser that would help.

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Saturday, 14 January 2012

All Bar one

I'm writing this from a cafe, conveniently open until 9pm, near Gas Street in Birmingham- and, of course, Worcester Bar, which led to the very tenuous link in the title.

The photo above was taken last year when we were at Gas Street for the BCN challenge; we went back there about 20 minutes ago, and tried to replicate the shot, but it was too dark to do it justice with mobile phone cameras.

Why are we here? Well, we spent the day at Alvecote in Staffordshire, having travelled up by train. We met several other members of the Young Working Boaters society, and it was good to catch up with them. It wasn't just a social call, although it was fun to see everyone again; no, there's a Secret Mystery Project that's just got underway today. We can't reveal any details yet, and we can't give too much away until things are officially launched, but there is something really exciting happening, which we'll blog about soon.

It's not that we've bought ourselves a working boat, though; not quite yet....

On the way home, we broke our journey in Birmingham to visit Gas Street and do some academic work whilst we waited for a connecting train back to Cambridge, hence why we're here.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

River Cam - License fee upheaval

Currently, boaters can use the Cam Con water if they buy an Environment Agency (EA) licence, under an 'Interchange Agreement'. Most boats choose to do this, except for the 25% who buy a Cam only licence from the Cam Conservancy.

However, from April 2012, the Interchange Agreement is changing dramatically. This morning there was a meeting of the Cam Conservators which I attended on behalf of Camboaters, and despite arguing our case the following was passed:

For boats who moor on the Cam, buying an EA licence will no longer be an option. ALL boats moored on the Cam will have to buy a CamCon-EA licence which will be 110% of the relevant EA licence for their length, effectively 17% more than a current EA licence because of the EA's 6.4% (CPI+2%) fee increase this year. This means that for the 25% of boats who currently have a Cam-Con licence, their fees will effectively increase by an extraordinary 21.5%.

For those moored on the EA waters or elsewhere, they have the option of
1) an EA licence which does not allow access to the Cam,
2) an EA-CamCon licence, at 110% of the relevant EA licence for their boat length,
3) a visitor licence at 15% of the relevant EA licence,
4) if they are found to be on the Cam without a licence, they will be obliged to pay for a visitor licence at 25% of the relevant EA licence.
As it stands, Gold licence holders will have to opt for an additional visitor licence for the Cam, as the Gold licence will not cover Cam Con water. the concept of 'trade plates' is being discussed to allow visiting boats to come to the Cam for services such as slippage and repair work.

Details of new Interchange Agreement:

In terms of enforcement, they are taking on an additional warden in the summer months whose job will partly be to monitor boat movement and enforce licensing. How effective this will be remains to be seen but the Cam Con do not have a good record for enforcement.

This is going to have a huge impact on numbers of boats visiting the area as most will probably choose to go elsewhere. Camboaters is furious at this huge increase in licence fees and are taking the matter to the local MP, Julian Huppert and eventually perhaps to central Government. The Conservancy is a Parliamentary body and as such is accountable only to central Government. Camboaters will also be investigating the possibility of getting the Cam Con amalgamated in the Canals and Rivers Trust in 2015 when the EA may be also incorporated.

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Tuesday, 10 January 2012

But where has all the water gone?

The Conservators lowered the Cam to allow maintenance work over the weekend. It looks very different, with hardly any water in it! There are more pictures on the Cambridge News website:

Looking towards Clare Bridge

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Monday, 9 January 2012

Crab Apple Brandy

I made a lot of home-made gifts for Christmas presents this year. (I would have blogged about these before Christmas, but wanted them to be surprises)

Crab Apple Brandy

Basically the same technique as any other fruity booze, like sloe gin, so there's no need for precision, it will just turn out slightly different depending on the type of fruit you use and the quantities involved.

Just get a large glass jar and half fill with halved apples (no need to peel or core, they're too tiddly for that!), add 8oz sugar and top up with brandy. Leave for as long as you can bear, shaking the jar to dissolve the sugar every few days. After a few months, strain the fruit and seeds through a muslin and bottle.

Don't throw away the 'leftover' boozy apples - they are simply delicious baked into a fruit cake.

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Tuesday, 3 January 2012

2011 in review

2011 was a big year for us, with our cruise to London in the summer, and starting courses in the Autumn. I also started to focus a bit more on some of my non-boaty interests like cooking and charity shops. Although academic work has meant that I have less time for that now, I plan to keep it up if possible. Here's a quick month by month look back at the year.

January: Found out that James had a place to train to be a teacher, and the river flooded.

February: The weather continued to be dreadful and we narrowly missed being hit by a falling tree!

March: A trip down the backs, and a very successful Cam Clean-Up.

April: Bought a new fridge and spent a wonderful weekend at the HNBOC Ellesmere Port Easter Gathering.

May: Had a brilliant time competing in the BCN Marathon Challenge with the YWBS in the big Northwich Yeoford: Parts 1, 2 and 3


June: I singlehanded the Duck for the first time and we went to Braunston where James steered Ling in the Parade.

July: We competed in the Town Bumps and then set off on our big cruise to London.

August: Made it to London, and out again before the riots, then back to the Fens to leave the boat to be blacked. We also remodelled our bedroom.

September: We both started our courses, me in London and James in Cambridge. We helped organise the World Rivers Day Festival.

October: Academic work takes over, but I found time to do some baking!

November: We celebrated the 5th November by mooring four abreast across the river to watch the fireworks.

December: Not much blogging, but we did have fun at the YWBS Christmas gathering, and with our families.

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Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year!

Wishing all of our readers (if there are any left now that we don't have time to blog much anymore) a very happy new year! We have had a nice Christmas, visiting family around the country, in Devon, Cornwall and Berkshire and are now back in Cambridge, preparing for the new term.

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