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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ovaltine at Kings Langley

 Cruising through Kings Langley past the modern residential homes overlooking the canal it`s hard to imagine the activity many years ago.
Scenes like the one to the right of working boats un-loading coal onto what was once a very busy wharf. The biggest clue has thankfully been retained but from the canal is completely hidden.
It is the Art Deco facade of the Ovaltine building  I have pictured below.

Ovaltine, a drink made up of Barley Malt, egg, cocoa and milk, has been in the UK since 1909. Now sold in over 50 countries worldwide it came here to Kings Langley in 1913. In 2002 production was transferred to Switzerland and the site was cleared making way for 300 houses and flats. I say the site was cleared but in fact the art deco front of the building was listed and had to remain.

Two local farms, totaling about 460 acres, were purchased in the 1920`s.
It became Ovaltine Farm producing barley, eggs and milk from it`s award winning herd of Jersey cows. Around 50,000 pullets laid the eggs.

Ovaltine had it`s own fleet of boats that brought coal from the Warwickshire coalfields to power the factory. Eventually oil replaced coal and the only boats left are like this one I pictured on the Thames.

In 1935 the club called `the Ovaltineys` started. It was a childrens club and had in 1939 five million members. All members had 7 rules.
 Number one;
 I promise to do the things my parents tell me to-because they know what`s best for me and i want them to be proud of me.
There were secret signs and signals as well as a very secret password......ok but just for you and do not divulge it "Ovaltiney-Ovaltiney". Now I`m bound to get kicked out of the club.

In 1915 production of Ovaltine started in Villa Park Illinois USA. Production ceased in 1988 and at present Nestle have the Ovaltine US rights.
The building was used by homeless people until in 1997 it was sold and converted to apartments that were completed in 2003. 

The picture with the factory in the background on the right is dated about 1955.

Over on the right is the present day view at Villa Park. As in the case of the UK site the building has been converted into apartments.
 A 2 bed can be rented for around $1600 about £987 per month.

If you decide to rent here you might have some haunting experiences included in the rent.

The Ovaltine building at Kings Langley during demolition.

The present day view (below left) and the site now contains 300 flats and houses.Now one of the top floor " bed flats pictured above is for sale at £340,000 - $550,000.

On the sales page is a mortgage calculator and if you tap in £340k minus 10% deposit = 306k at 5% interest over 25 years the payment comes up as £1788-$2,914 per month.

The same purchase figures in the U.S. I find confusing as they quote fees I have no knowledge of. UK readers take note the rate remains fixed for the length of the mortgage unlike here when just a half % rise in the bank rate can push payments up by almost £100-$162 per month. When you look back at past rates here in the UK it is frightening to imagine what could happen.
A 2 bed rental here is £1250-$2,025

The egg farm with the railway line bottom right
Egg farm lower right. Factory next to tall chimney. Canal can be seen coming in to left of chimney.
View to the rear of factory backing on to canal. Two pairs of boats can be seen.
Link to some old pictures of the Ovaltine (A. Wander) factory

Link to a ladies memories of working on the farm in the war years

Saturday, May 24, 2014

British and American Nostalgia

I just love the old/new past/present pictures. The two below are © Hugh Mcknight.

 Iron bridge lock (77) in Cassiobury Park. The cottage was demolished in the late 1920`s

Same view in 2014. Above and below this lock have been very peaceful moorings during the many hospital visits.

Not sure of the date above but the Metropolitan railway arrived in 1927 so at  least pre that date. Interesting thing about the railway is that it is about to be diverted into Watford town centre. When built the Met was intended to go into the town but objections halted it in it`s tracks and it has taken 80+ years to get there by a different route. The original building that the train company purchased still stands in the high street and is a pub. London Transport sold the site in 1936.
Same view in 2014, the Met railway bridge has recently been renovated.
We moored here for a few days when I had my last surgery. It was nice to be near fuel and water at the marina and the bridge I am taking the picture from has a bus service into town. As things turned out our stay was short and we moved up into the park with just trees for company.

 Ed`s easy diner in Watford was a draw for Jaq as they sold genuine A&W Root beer.
I decided on the coffee with it`s free endless refills.
With 1950`s and sixties rock n roll playing Jaq drifted back to her childhood in Alaska and the Bun Drive-In.

The Bun Drive In, Anchorage, Alaska
 When I was a very little girl my sisters, who were ten and fourteen years older, used to babysit me while our mom worked nights cleaning planes at the airport. When it was my sister Susan's turn to watch me, she would take me out with her to some of the hot teenage night spots. The Bun Drive in on Northern Lights Blvd. was a classic 1950's American Drive in Restaurant. One could pull up and park and a car hop (waitress) would come out and take your order and then deliver it to the car when it was ready. The tray hung on the window.

Susan and I always went inside and I sat at the circular bar to eat a hamburger, fries, and a milk shake. While I was busy eating my dinner and chatting with the waitress, Susan was up on the roof of the building where DJ Ron Moore was spinning 45 records of the latest rock 'n' roll. In the summer he would let a few girls dance on the roof and my sister was one of them. She was slim, five foot five inches tall, with long blond hair worn in a flip, and she had great legs.

I remember watching my sister do the Mashed Potatoes, the Twist, the Frug, The Shimmy, the Pony, the Cross Fire--all the latest dance moves. Jimmy Gilmer's Sugar Shack was one of Susan's favorite songs, along with Manfred Mann's, Doo Wah Diddy but her personal themes song was "Wake up Little Suzie" by the Everley Brothers. My favorite song at the tender age of five or six was Navy Blue sung by Diane Renay. I was fortunate to listen to some of the best music ever, broadcast live above my head on the Coke Show. The Bun Drive in was THE happening place to hang out if you were a teenager in Anchorage in the 1960's. If you were a lucky little sister sometimes you got to tag along.

It was a real treat to sit on the pink leather stools that spun around, surrounded by the circular Formica counter. The fry chefs wore little paper hats and long white aprons and your meal arrived in a red plastic basket. The car hops wore red pants and white shirts with red lipstick with their hair in a pony tail.

The burgers were all beef patties on large sesame seed buns. Crisp lettuce, slices of raw onion, and slivers of dill pickle nestled to the side of your burger. The bright yellow cheese square melted over the the top of the beef patty and the fries were freshly cut and deep fried to a golden crispness. The soda came in glasses with ice and two straws. The milk shake was made with local hard packed ice cream and real chocolate.

Ed's Easy Diner brought all this back quite poignantly. It is a true to life rendition of the classic American Burger Joint--from the decor, to the fry cooks with their paper hats; from the endless cups of coffee to the Juke boxes with classic rock 'n' roll playing. Then of course there's the food!

Everything on the menu at Ed's is authentic American--no "near guesses" or strange British approximations. The hot dogs are REAL hot dogs--100% meat, no rusk, wheat stabilizers, or bread of any kind except the buns themselves. And they have authentic A&W Root Beer!!!

Which takes me back to the few times a year our mom would take us across town to the A&W Drive In. We would park out front and the car hop took our order and brought it out to the car. Consequently I have no memory at all of the interior of the building. We sat in our car because the original Anchorage A&W had of all things a live Lion in a cage!
Looking back now I feel terrible for its incarceration as a thing of curiosity in a northern climate totally unsuited to its species. Back then though, it was an amazing site to see while drinking a frothy A&W Root Beer float.

The food at Ed's Easy Diner is not cheap but it is well worth visiting as an occasional treat. And I promise--you haven't lived until you have had an A&W Root Beer float!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A bit of medical, shopping, smoking and followers.

A few things to blog about but first the most important one that has given us a little more freedom to roam.

Just this week I attended the Urology clinic for my post surgery check. For the last 28 days I have had a catheter draining into a leg bag that together with the stoma bag gave me the nickname `Bag Man`.

This clinic appointment was to remove the catheter, yippee, and teach me the art of intermittent self-catheterisation. I won`t provide a link but must point out my need to do this is not to drain the bladder but to dilate the urethra that was enlarged in the surgery. All H2O systems are functioning 100% and likewise I feel 100% fit.

Men, if this makes your eyes water, believe me it`s easy and painless. I need to do this daily at first then less and less until it becomes fortnightly. Beats more surgery or back to the bag.

So now we can cruise away from Watford as the next medical appointment is June 9th to see the surgeon about a reversal of the stoma; a bus trip is preferable to staying in the same area. Mind you we are not holding our breath as this has been cancelled twice already.

I do love shopping with Jaq. She makes her list on-line, selects her delivery slot, place and time. We don`t need a bus and I do not need to traipse up and down the aisles of the Supermarket.

We got down to the water point at the start of our one hour delivery slot and just 40 minutes later just as the water tank finished filling, along came Mr. Tesco`s van. Its so convenient that the access to the lock cottage was here. Jaq opened the side hatch and many bags entered directly into the galley.

Next on the list is the third anniversary of me giving up smoking. I always said I smoked because I enjoyed it and gave it up without any aids other than a twiddler that occupied my hands when the urge arose.
It was when Jaq came over for three weeks before we both returned to the U.S. to get married. The night before I put my tobacco on the shelf next my chair and it eventually got thrown out months later. If you need to test your resolve just leave temptation close by.

We currently have 108 registered blog followers. Thank you all. Many often pass and shout out "we read your blog" when we are not prepared to write down the  names of their boats.

Today was different, as I was waiting for the Tesco man to call. I had the camera in hand,and the crew aboard Voyager have the honor of representing all the followers who have passed by over the years.

Two other followers passed by in the last week shouting `we read your blog.` One was Etoile du Nord and another slipped by too quickly but Jaq believes it had a Welsh name. So if you recently passed through the Cassiobury Park area then a big hi! to you both. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The power of electricity

Electric cars are getting more popular but the thing holding them back seems to be price and range the latter then leads to access of charging points. Imagine if every car entering London had to be electric and it was the same number that enter today. Like in the picture (left) not just every on street space would need a charge point but every car park be it office or public sites.
At present electric cars don`t pay the congestion charge so if all the cars became electric I wonder what the new charge would be called, perhaps `entry charge`. For sure the money would still be generated some way or another.
Source London has 1400 charge points in London and the outer suburbs with more planned. The site states £10 fee per year with no extra charge for charging vehicles.
This is a G Wiz electric car I photographed in central London. They date back to about 2005 when the cost new was about £7000 ($11400).  A car of similar age (2006) would cost £3000 ($4890) complete with new set of batteries. The above site `cost new link` states free parking in London for electrics, that was 2005 so not sure about 2014.

A bit more comfort in the electric Nissan Leaf. £16,490 ($26,870) plus you have a battery rental to pay which varies according to contract length. £21,490 ($35k) gives you ownership of car and batteries. These prices include taxes and a UK government grant of £5k-$8k. So without the grant an expensive car. Interesting article here but remember when reading the bit about double cost of an equivalent car he is testing a top of the range Leaf. A Ford focus studio is priced at £14k ($22.8k) so about £12k price difference. Remember that £21.490 price above is after the £5k grant.

I know some might say I have to much time on my hands and it`s true. Us old folk call it retirement. So with all this time I have worked out a plan.
Lease a mid range Nissan Leaf Acenta.
Cost £200 per month includes battery hire based on 6,000 miles per annum.

Say you drive in to London from 60 miles out. The 120 daily mileage is allowing for holidays within the 6,000 miles per annum.

The train ticket is £5132 (I used Northampton to Euston). Now perhaps you travel across the capital so there are extra costs, perhaps £4 per day, £960 per annum.

The car parking and battery recharge is free in London.
The 4year car contract involves a deposit so I have factored in this cost in the yearly cost.

The car is £3462.($5643)   The trains total £6092($9929)

Of course if you bought the used G-Wiz at the top of page for £3000 you would need only run it 6 months to get your money back.
I know car insurance and some maintenance(for non diy folk) needs adding but the train fares do increase by a fair bit each year and train delays and cancellations are beyond the control of commuters.

If you really want to cut your commuting costs the Renault Twizy -where do they get these names- can be yours for about £7,000 ($11400). I think folding doors came to £500 plus the battery hire was £55. You do your own research but not bad just as a 50mph commute car.

The Bauhaus Barge is all electric and in 2011 was for sale at £120.000 ($195k). It has a 1.2 ton battery bank. It is currently moored on the Paddington arm at Kensal Green.

This narrowboat, Brecon Castle, appears to be your average hire boat but the big difference is it`s all electric. One of a pair owned and run by Castle Narrowboats they are the only all electric boats for hire on the canal system. They are on the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal in Wales a 33 mile section isolated from the main canal system. There are six charge points which for two boats seems reasonable although if both boats head down to Pontypool (map)  together the one charge point could be a problem.
In August, pretty much high season, a four berth boat will cost £1239 that`s about $2019 per week depending on exchange rates. The diesel powered boats in the fleet have the same hire price.

The Electric Barge/Floating classroom came into Paddington while we were there.

 Costing $10,500 (£6,400) the Solar powered personal boat can ferry up to four adults. The boat is powered by a 700W electric motor that enables the boat to move silently at 5mph. The motor is powered by four deep cycle batteries that are constantly recharged by the sun during daylight hours. The batteries hold a reserve charge that can power the boat for 6 hours after dark.

Impulse a narrowboat powered solely by the suns rays. Picture from the site. Canal River Trust give a 25% discount on the canal boat licence for electrically powered boats.
Can you imagine all boats being electric and the hole in CRT finances as 35,000 boats claim a 25% discount. Like the congestion charge  this drop in income would need to be raised in other ways.
Another consideration would be the number of charge points  needed. Ok that 35,000 figure is not the boats cruising the waterways as most will be sitting in marinas. Not sure of the number of boats along the towpaths, and lets not get into the continuous cruiser debate, but whether or not they move they still need power. Remember all electric, no diesel engines. If the number was 4,000 we would need a charging point every half mile along our 2,000 miles of  CaRT waterways. What happens in the main season when all those extra boats exit marinas to cruise the system? With a lot of boats using solar panels the summer would mean a lot of vacant charging points but still a lot of boats seeking a charge point in the honeypot areas.

 All the above came from that top of page picture of the G Wiz I snapped in London for no other reason than it was something not seen on every street.
Perhaps electric power has a long way to go but it was fun to sit researching this on a quiet canal side mooring with solar powering my laptop and all the boats electrical needs.
I do so love our life afloat.

Another solar boat here.
U.S. readers might find this one interesting.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A LumberJack in the family

 The tree has been cleared from the towpath but Canal and River Trust don`t seem to know who has done the work. Their reply to my e mail states "the local supervisor and contracts manager have not instructed the works to be carried out as they had no knowledge of the tree being down". It goes on to say perhaps Dacorum council have completed the works, trouble is the site is in Watford councils area. All very weird as I phoned the number on  the CRT website. Anyway as I have said the area is now clear.

A play on words in the title but grandson Jack seems ready to split those rounds but where
 did he get them from?  LumberJack watched by Jaq.
Oh I see. I only dozed for ten minutes so be warned watch those grandchildren.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tree down across the towpath

Trees come down all the time along our canals which for us log burning liveaboards is a good source of fuel. High winds and trees leaning in a dangerous manner are reasons for trees to end up horizontal but this one was just a victim of rot and an overbearing weight from the Ivy using it as a climbing pole.

Now the only number I had to hand was the emergency one 0800 4799947, it rang and rang and rang. Jaq found a number online that was answered quickly and within 2 hours contractors appeared and began removing the tree.

Fifty minutes later they departed and you can see in the second picture below a huge part is just about on the towpath.

Milton Keynes office are responsible for this section so they now have before and after pictures. It will be interesting to hear what they say. Health and Safety will probably be the answer.
The wash from a fast passing boat will probably drag the remaining foliage into the canal.

 It came down this morning on a windless day. No warning. Two days ago there were three boats moored along here.

Mentioning the so called free phone (toll free) 0800 number has reminded me of something. As you know here in the UK if we use a mobile(cell) to call these type of number it costs dearly but is free from a landline.
We all have inclusive minutes in our plans that allow calls to any landline or mobile phone but not the dreaded 0800 plus a couple of others. 0800 Buster is the way to call these numbers by just using your inclusive minutes, so basically no out of plan charges.
 Save the number on your mobile and dial it when you need to call a 0800, 0808 or 0500 number. When you dial the number you’ll be prompted to tap in the freephone number you want to call followed by the hash (#) sign. Do this and you’ll only be charged for a UK landline number which will be free if you have inclusive minutes.

 Similar to our account we use to call the U.S. at a penny per minute.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

The London Coal Duty

I have mentioned Stockers Lock in the past but have looked more at the history recently so here it gets a second mention.
This is Stockers lock and the house, built for the collector of coal duties entering London by canal. The Great Fire of London in 1666 brought about a duty imposed by the Corporation of London on coal entering the capital. The duties were to finance the re-building of  St. Paul's Cathedral, other London churches and public buildings plus Newgate prison. Of course the canal wasn`t around then and coal--known as `seacoal` came into London by ship.

The duty in 1667 was a shilling per chaldron. A chaldron was not a weight but a measurement used for coal (try a Google search). Its size varied from district to district because this helped merchants save duties; but from what I`ve read was about 25cwt or one and a quarter tons.

 So for our U.S. readers and those born post decimal, the duty was 5 pence (8  cents) per ton and a quarter (1524kilos). Looking up that kilo conversion I found long, short, and metric tons. I used the former.

I am well confused here as my childhood school days taught me 112 lbs. = 1cwt. and 20cwt.= 1 ton or 2240lbs. I think my confusion is to do with long and short tons, and just like the blog post I did from the states on the cost of petrol and I got it wrong, this could all end up the same way.

Now if I had married an English girl the last few lines wouldn't have been needed but as love wins over everything you can just work it out for yourselves.

Anyway back to the story of the coal duties. The 1667 act also allowed for the building of the `The London Monument`  commemorating the Great Fire of London. In 1670 the duty tripled. The area affected by the duty stretched out to a radius of about 25 miles and included coal entering the London limits by any means.

In 1793 the act of Parliament for the Grand Junction canal included the restriction, following protests by sea companies, that coal would not be brought closer to London than Langlebury just north of Watford.

Langlebury was to be the route of the canal to avoid the Grove and Cassiobury parks owned by the Earls of Clarendon and Essex who were none too keen on allowing the canal through their property.  Money changed hands and the canal route also changed--back to the canal company's' preferred route through the parks. Lady Capel's Wharf within Grove Park became a busy depot as coal was unloaded onto carts for delivery in the area. In years to come the railway company were refused the same access across the parks and Cashio tunnel led the rails into Watford. I guess the name Cassio as in lock and bridge came from Cashio.

Parliamentry acts from 1805 and later allowed for 50,000 tons of coal to enter London subject to the duties being paid. The railway companies were allowed 500 tons duty free for use in their locomotives in the London area.

In 1861 the boundry for the coal duty changed to the Metropolitan Police district and Stockers house was built just a few hundred yards inside the boundary for the collector of the coal duties coming in by canal.
The boundary was marked by stone or cast iron posts as in the one at Stockers lock, pictured at right.

In 1869 so little coal was actually entering London due to railway competition, the canal companies made their own payments and Stockers house was sold. Duties were paid weekly by the rail companies and monthly by canal carriers.  The coal duty collector for the Corporation of London finished his time at Bushey, a busy rail link to London, and in 1889 coal duties stopped.

Links; HERE
An approximate map showing the Coal duty boundary.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014


Rickmansworth brings us back into the Shires this one being Hertfordshire. There are three lakes here, Batchworth used for water skiing, Bury Lake for sailing and windsurfing
and Stockers lake owned by Veoila water. Veoila Water is a French company supplying fresh water to households throughout the UK. How the bloody useless government could allow other countries to control our utilities including gas and electric supplies is beyond me. OK deep breathing Les, you live on the peaceful canal system, that world is far enough away.....breath the fresh air in-out in-out....ok i`m fine just nearly slipped back eight or so years into the stresses of living in a house and having all those big utility bills. No all is fine I can see Jaq and it`s all becoming clearer......the blog.
Here we go, phew! that was close, the lakes were originally gravel quarries and some of the gravel was used in 1923 to build the original Wembley Stadium.
Rickmansworth Water Ski club use batchworth lake that is just under a mile around it`s edge. Jaq laughed when the skier came past as it seemed he might come to grief on such a small area of water. Jaq says Big Lake in Alaska, a childhood camping site had water skiing and it was 12.9 miles across and 67 miles around the edge. That she says is a lake, Batchworth is a pond.
Jaq dug out this picture of a six Husky dog team taking the place of the speedboat.

A walk around the lakes  is a fairly safe past time but beware of the dragons lurking in the grass.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Past or Present?

Time to get this blog out of London. As a lot of our readers and friends know our blog is almost always written in past tense and our actual present location is not generally given. So we, Jaq and I, and Nb Valerie are currently way out of London but the blog story is still there.
I will try to move the blog along our journey from London and Jaq will carry on working on several London posts including All Hallows by the Tower with it`s connections to America and London`s oldest hospital operating theatre.
Talking of hospitals, wasn`t it good that just one blog post covered my recent surgery. My present medical situation is excellent, I feel good with plenty of energy and  no issues medically at all. Jaq now calls me her `Bag Man`. Until I attend the Urolgy clinic I have a catheter and leg bag fitted. This together with the Stoma bag, yes still trying to see the surgeon about a reversal, gives me the cheeky nickname `Bag Man`.

We left Paddington Basin early on a warm bright day and made the water/rubbish point
our first stop as after a week the water was getting low and rubbish bags getting high.
Just across the canal on the long term moorings a houseboat built in the 1980`s was having serious surgery. Whether a dramatic re-fit or complete removal is not known. I love the little push tug made up it appears from two narrowboat sterns.
As we left the higher roof was being stripped.

 Out past Kensal Green this boat has a garden covering the whole roof including artificial grass. The lady walking by is having a close look.
Mum`s everywhere just be glad your brood at least totals less than fourteen. Moorhen chicks and Goslings are to be seen along the canals but Cygnets are always last.

Quickly snapping this Mandarin duck I was surprised the boats patchy paintwork reflected in the water as was the ducks face.

Coming to Bulls Bridge and the Grand Union main line we stopped at the waterside Tesco and Jaq dashed in for some bits and pieces, women can always think of something they need. Anyway I tidied the roof and done some manly stuff (brought logs in for those chilly evenings) and just behaved till the captains return.

 Caste off bow and stern lines and away we.......don`t go. Throwing a line to a passer by we got back to the mooring and I quickly discovered a wire adrift from the electric fuel pump. Push it back in a bit of tape and all will be well till a better repair can be done. We`ve all done it.
The pump was working now and just to be sure I revved the engine and let it run at fast tickover for 10 mins and stopped again.
So I cut the joint open and found the whole connecter had disintegrated inside.
Well I did say till a better repair can be done. I decided now was that time.

Just left our night mooring just out of picture near to the Troy Arm. Not in use now but I guess boats can get down there as the very end has some boats lived on and under restoration. Somewhere I have photos of the end but it was a few years back. Will look through my photo discs.

A bit overgrown but was originally built for the Troy Mill now demolished. It was used then to transport sand and gravel from the pits along both sides of it`s 1000yard length. The flooded pits are now used for sailing and fishing.

I do hope Canal and River Trust had this lot cleared quickly following my e mail.
The  access road from the bridge has a very large crack some 10 feet long near the waters edge so perhaps the large rubbish truck can`t get safe access.

So that brings us further out of London and almost at our Rickmansworth mooring where we stayed for a few days.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs