Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Smart prices or dumb punters

Out of the Middle Level - that sounds like the title of a missing volume in Lord of the Rings - and an immediate stop at Peterborough for provisions. (Why else would you stop there?) which meant a trip to the giant Asda.
Every time I find myself in one of these enormous food factories I begin to feel slightly queasy just looking at the industrial quantities of food - especially meat, all processed, sliced and packaged in identical weight vacuum packs. Now tell me, how can you get endless packs of bacon all with a juicy looking slice on the top and hidden at the bottom a fatty, grisly slice? How can twenty bacon joints all weigh exactly 1kg? Why are all the apples the same size and perfect shape?
The global food industry just doesn't bear thinking about for too long.
It doesn't worry you? Well think about Asda Smart Price (or Tesco Value for that matter). Temptingly cheap meat, eggs, veg etc. And what's wrong with that? Well I bought some Smart Price bin liners which turned out to be the smallest, thinnest bin liners I've ever seen. An eggshell would probably fall straight through. And SP paper napkins so flimsy a drop of bolognese sauce would probably dissolve one.
And if that's the corners they have to cut to smarten up the prices of not terribly important stuff then just what are they doing to produce the Smart Price stuff you actually eat?
I'll find out soon - we've got a Smart Price bacon joint in the fridge.
Moored tonight in the weir stream by Alwalton Lock, lost in the depths of the countryside but jut a couple of miles from Peterborough. Two River Nene locks done and 35 to go in the next six days.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Day One - Ramsey to Whittlesey via the weed hatch

It's a familiar and uninspiring plod through the high banks and straight line waterways of the Fens to get from home base at Ramsey to the River Nene at Peterborough.
A journey made even more tiresesome by the bloody weed that clogs everything and everywhere. First trip into the weedhatch to strip blanket weed off the propeller was made within 20ft of our mooring pontoon. And followed by at least a stop every hour plus regular bursts of forward and reverse to try and shake the damned stuff loose.
Blanket weed is just that - a giant quilt of tightly woven green stuff. Like an iceberg only about a tenth of it shows on the surface, the rest is underwater waiting to advance on your prop like a great green shroud as soon as the first strands have wound round. No sooner have you got it off than more is ready to take its place.
Anyway, we made it to Whittlesey; half an hour's trip by car from Ramsey - seven hours by boat.

Tomorrow the Nene. Next week the Grand Union Canal and next month Birmingham. After that, who knows.

The story so far...

Arriving home after last summer's cruise we took one look at our newly restored cottage with its lovely garden and far reaching views...and decided we preferred the idea of living in a 6ft 10in wide steel tube with 10 inch diameter windows.
So. We sold the house (surprisingly easy considering the state of the world) and last month moved onto our boat ready to become full-time boat gypsies.
Envious? I bet. What could be more relaxing and care free than wandering the waterways.
Except we decided to make things a little tougher for ourselves. Since Star is probably a tad small for permanent living we bought ourselves another boat. Not a beautiful, smart new boat paid for out of the house sale but this...

Meet Harry, a beautiful but fire ravaged tug that's just like Star but bigger. All it needs is a complete refit inside, some new steelwork, a check on the engine, a repaint etc etc. A nice little winter project after we've brought it back to Bill Fen where it will sit alongside Star. Which brings us to the start of this year's trip.