Another watercolour - but not of Albert

We are partial to watercolours, particularly those that represent boating subjects. When I reached 65, Maggie bought me a lovely watercolour of Albert crossing the Iron Trunk by Peter Bowtell as a present.

Last week, when I reached the three score years and ten milestone, she surprised me with another watercolour, this time a scene of the Grand Union near Marsworth by Brian Robinson, an artist who lives near Berkhamsted. We visited his gallery a few years ago and admired his series of paintings "Boats and Water".

Winter Afternoon near Marsworth by Brian Robinson 

I particularly like Brian's treatment of the reflection of the trees and the smoke rising from boat chimneys. It makes an evocative scene.

Waterway's Royal Mail Stamps 1993

Decoration has long been part of the boating scene and that has helped keep canal boating in particular in the public's eye. The other day whilst tidying up some long since overlooked stuff I found some packs of first-day covers. As I moved the pile into another container one fell on the floor and it just happened to be a commemorative set from 1993 celebrating 200 years of canals.


The design of the stamps was down to the well-known author, artist and designer Tony Lewery whose books Flowers Afloat and Narrow Boat Painting are probably the best texts ever written on canal art.

On the back of the pack are details of their production and size etc. and some historic and "modern" images that include Cosgrove which is local to us. The pack even includes a post card invitation from British Waterways to enter a competition (very easy) to win a boating holiday; that helped firmly date the pack because the closing date was the  end of August 1993.


I will keep the twenty-three year-old pack in a safe place. Mind you that can be dangerous because I often forget where my safe places are.

Albert's Coal Box

Solid fuel heating on board means lots of ancillary equipment. Most of the coal for our stove (Brunel 1A) is stored in bags under the seats in the well deck but we keep a daily supply in a copper coal scuttle beside the fire, The lighting materials (fire lighters and kindling etc.) are stored under the step in the cabin. We also have an ash tin and various brushes for cleaning out the stove and an Eco Fan to help distribute heat. Along with a pan to roast chestnuts, a stove temperature gauge, a pair of tongs, a set of bellows (decorative) and a trivet, you would have thought that we have everything we need so far as fire accessories is concerned. In a sense you would be right, but when we recently spotted a remarkable Victorian coal box in a market in Christmas Market in Berkhamsted we fell in love with it and just had to but it. The market seller was keen to explain all its other uses but we were determined it should be used as it was intended and just had to install it on Albert.

Coal box

Coal box and our stove

The box has a pair of magnificent large brass hinges and a fine brass carrying handle. It also has an integral scuttle with its own carrying handle so it can be easily refilled. The box has some wear but great patina. Maggie wonders what grand fireplaces it has served in the past. It will brighten up our evenings by the fire.

The copper coal scuttle that has served us well over the years will probably be recycled through our favorite local charity shop.

Another watercolour of Albert

A few years ago I received a wonderful watercolour of Albert crossing the Iron Trunk, by Peter Bowtell. I recently received another watercolour (well water-based felt tip pen actually), this time from a far younger artist, my 4-year old granddaughter Florence. She and her sister Amelia recently had a sleepover on Albert and in the summer had taken a trip on Albert along the London Waterways. She was obviously taken by the trips.

NB Albert by Florence Fink

It is a very good effort at capturing Albert's main features - the right cabin colour (green), the correct window style (rectangular), an engine exhaust in the right place, flowers on the roof and a swans-neck tiller at the stern. It's all very closely observed and I will treasure it.

A Published Photographer!

A few days ago, quite out of the blue, I was contacted by Waterways World wanting to use some of my photographs that appear on this site. Of course, I gave my permission.

They had seen my 2013 photographs of horse-boating on the Grand Western Canal. The Tiverton Canal Company, who operate of the few horse-drawn canal boats on the canal system, had recently lost their star horse, Taffy, and WW wanted to mark his passing with a news item - not quite an obituary. 


Taffy in action in 2013

Taffy featured on the front cover of the 2012 Country File Calendar that raised £1,234,577 for Children in Need. The news item appears in the December WW issue along with my photographs.

There is more on Taffy in the local Devon press and Horse & Hound.