The Show Must Go On

Mid April to early May

Hardly had we returned from Scotland than we were off a scant few days later, down to Fareham to see the family! We are not ones to let the grass grow under our feet.

OUR TRIP HOME – We had a lovely week and each time we visit, we marvel at the changes in Chester, who is now 9 months old. He is walking round the furniture and obviously preparing to take his first steps. He’s also saying Dada and has discovered that he can make a growling noise at the back of his throat – which he enjoys doing and which always make us all laugh. It is a real joy watching him develop and grow. This visit was tinged with a tiny bit of sadness, as we will not see him or his Mum and Dad in person again, until his birthday in July. Thank heavens for video calling!

We took Chester for his first trip on the Gosport Ferry, had lunch at a cafe on the Hard and then made the return journey. Such a lovely day – and a real tonic to see the sea. Having lived within sight of the sea for pretty much all our lives, it’s one of the things we really miss.

CLEANING OLD NICK – The weekend we arrived back saw a frenzy of cleaning, polishing, buffing and blacking on the outside of the boat. We first washed the boat, dried (with a squeegee and cloth) and then applied Bullet 357 Colour Restorer. which takes off the “dead” paint and removes minor scratches and imperfections, followed by buffing off. We then applied Bullet Carnauba Wax, which is silicon free, and buffed to a high shine. It was lovely to see Old Nick restored to almost showroom perfection again.

We also cleaned out all the external lockers. It’s amazing how dirty they get. I managed to not rehome a rather large spider that had taken up residence in one of the lockers. I am not at all partial to spiders (they terrify me!) but i would never kill one. We all have our place in the Universe after all. I’d really prefer not to live cheek by jowl with large spiders, but it’s part of boating life.

We were lucky that it was largely fine for the 3 days we spent on the outside of the boat – quite flukey when you consider the very changeable, largely rainy weather we are currently experiencing! There was a biting, chilly wind though. We were absolutely exhaustipated at the end of it though! It was the kind of exhausted that makes you want to have a soak in a hot bath. Arms and shoulders mostly, but generally aching all over. We had to make do with a hot shower and an early night. Unusual for us as we are proper nightbirds.

CHANGES FOR OLD NICK – Paul had a day off on Monday and we had an appointment at nearby Armada Boatyard for 10 am. The bad news? It was raining. Not heavily – but our lovely shiny boat! Oh no! Well that didn’t last long. I very selflessly volunteered to make the breakfast while Paul got soaked taking the boat on the short hop down to the boatyard.

We arrived in good time and I took the boys into the dry and warm office to wait, while Paul met Rob and Ian from Ortomarine – lovely to see them. It rained while Old Nick was being craned out and, indeed. for most of the morning. The purpose of the trip was twofold. First we were changing the prop shaft and prop, second the Ortomarine boys were going to drill the hole through which the Starlink cable would be permanently fitted. Until now, the cable has entered through the window, which has meant a cold draft on the back of my neck. Not ideal.

I won’t say too much more or go into the whys and wherefores regarding those two jobs for now, because Paul will be writing a couple of tech posts about them as soon as he can – bearing in mind that things are really ramping up for Electrika.

A WEEKEND IN LONDON – Another weekend away beckoned next! This time up to London to visit my brother and family. And also to take in a show. I’d booked tickets as soon as I’d heard it was coming. The show is called “Opening Night ” and is based on a 70’s film of the same name, directed by John Cassavetes. The plot surrounds the story of a renowned and troubled actress, teetering on the edge of a breakdown as she counts down the days towards a big Broadway opening.

The film had mixed reviews at the time, but what drew me to it was that the music for the musical was written by Rufus Wainwright (I’m a big fan) and the star was Sheridan Smith, whom we’d seen and liked in Funny Girl and also Little Shop of Horrors, both at the Menier Chocolate Factory, some years ago. The show has not had the greatest reviews, sadly, and is actually closing two months early. but we had tickets and were going to go and see it and make our own minds up.

It was a tedious drive to London (Beckenham) on Thursday evening, after Paul finished work. We did not arrive much before 9pm so had a quick catch-up and then bed. Lovely to see my little bruv and our nephew Lenny – who will soon be taller than me! And the boys particularly love him, too!

On Friday, we had lunch with our niece and my brother’s new lady (who is lovely) and then set off to the West End, leaving the boys with my bruv. We parked in our usual spot at the National Theatre underground car park (a tenner for the afternoon and evening) and grabbed a cab to Piccadilly Circus.

Our pre-theatre supper was at one our favourites – Hawksmoor. This one was in Air Street – just off Piccadilly Circus. They do a great 2 or 3 course “Express Menu” before 18:30 for around £30. The pre-dinner cocktails we had also came to £30 too! But they were delish and we deserved them!

Dinner over, we took our seats for the show, which is at the Gielgud Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. I don’t really know what to say about the show. The cast were all brilliant and worked so hard, but I can entirely see why the show is closing. The show itself is such a weird article. In the interval, we both looked at each with bemused faces. It was a bit of a mess, to be honest. And the music – beautifully sung – did not really grab us either. All in all, it was a bit of a stinker! Shame, but we’d had a nice night out anyway.

On Saturday, we called in to see my sis-in-law and saw the kids again too, We had a lovely catch-up before leaving to drive back to Brinklow. More work to do on the boat and also some prep for the show – now less than a week away!

ELECTRIKA 2024 – Paul was only working three days in the run-up to the show, leaving Thursday and Friday to dedicate to Electrika. He had a busy three days, tying to get everything done before his time off. I had a busy week dealing with tickets, scheduling Exhibitor arrivals, printing passes and placing them in plastic wallets and so on and so forth! And then our show boats started arriving which was pretty exciting.

Those that came from the North had had to go ” the long way round” because of the landslip just up the cut to the west of us, which I mentioned in the post Spring Fever, back in February. Taking just one of our show boats (Hunky Dory) as an example, the most direct route from their home marina would have been a trip of 108 miles and 58 locks. Instead they had to make a trip of very slightly shorter length (106 miles) but with an extra 72 locks on top of the 58 for the direct route – a total of 130 locks. We kept in close liaison with Canal and River Trust but it became evident that the situation was not going to change in time for Electrika.

Suddenly it was Thursday. We spent the morning helping with the erection of the two marquees and the afternoon welcoming Exhibitors coming to set up their stands/gazebos. It was a hectic day and we had a quick get together early evening with our Ortomarine friends and others who’d arrived on site, ready for the show, before returning to Old NIck to make final preparations for the opening day.

Drone footage of the night before

Naturally, we had been keeping a close eye on the weather. It started off by looking quite reasonable for opening day (Friday May 3rd) but deteriorated as the week wore on. However, nothing could have prepared us for the absolutely awful day of constant rain and chilly,gusty winds we experienced. I can’t remember the last time I was that cold, and certainly not in May. The old adage about “ne’er cast a clout til May is out ” had the right of it, to be sure! It was freezing and the conditions definitely had a deleterious effect on footfall for the show, that day. It was very disappointing.

The highlight of the day was the opening ceremony for the new fast-charging point, installed at Brinklow by Rolec – one of the world’s leading specialists in outdoor electrical equipment – especially for the show. We had asked well-known vloggers, lovely Paul and Anthony from the “Narrowboat Life Unlocked ” channel to carry out the opening ceremony. Which they did with aplomb! Born to it!

Footage by kind permission of Nigel Fenwick of NB Tethys/Narrowboat Expats

They were attending the show anyway as they too have an Electric Serial Hybrid boat, but only got here after a massive effort, following a breakdown on their motorhome. They had to hire a car and quickly find alternative accommodation and arrange a dog sitter for their old boy Dexter, but they made it and we are very grateful to them. It later transpired that the motorhome fault was, luckily, a quick and inexpensive fix, which must have been a relief!

The evening event – a barbecue with live music – was very well attended. It was a great night and we all thoroughly enjoyed the delicious food and the music from the very talented Lee Chambers Music. His setlist was spot on for those assembled to party – most of whom (including us!) were no longer in the first flush of youth! Luckily it finished at a reasonable hour, because it had been a long old day.

Day 2 dawned brightly – sunshine! A 100% different day than the day before. Everyone’s spirits were high and we had a great day with loads of visitors. We had good feedback from our Exhibitors and from those who attended and the show ended on a high note, thank goodness.

We had a fair few narrowboating vloggers attend, including David from Cruising the Cut, Paul and Anthony from Narrowboat Life Unlocked, Caroline & Pete from One Day More Aboard, Anita (and Charlie!) from Narrowboat Travels with Charlie. Apologies if we have missed anyone, but it was such a hectic weekend and these are the folk I actually remember speaking to!

We had an Ortomarine gathering on Saturday evening, with additional guests from the show boats (Speedy Whippet, Ampere and Rowan). It wrapped up fairly early, partly because it had got a bit chilly, but mainly because I think we were all pretty shattered after a full-on weekend.

Sunday morning was also sunny. We helped Rob and Caroline take down their gazebo and bid them adieu. They had been very good boat guests for the past couple of nights and very understanding of how untidy Old Nick was. I’d just had no time to tidy up, but it was clean, and that’s the main thing! It’s always a bit haphazard when there are more than two of us on board anyway – as other guests will attest.

The weekend was a great success and now holds the the record for the largest ever gathering of Electric Narrowboats in the world EVER! and we have the following to thank for their part in it:

  • the amazing team at Brinklow Waterside and Marina – just awesome!
  • Aquavista management for trusting in us and believing in the event concept
  • our showboaters – for getting here!
  • our Speakers – for sharing their expert knowledge so eloquently
  • our Exhibitors for supporting and taking part in a new event
  • Ortomarine Owners Club (known as Ortomariners!) for all their help
  • absolutely everyone who visited the show – especially those who rocked up on Day 1!
  • and lastly Ortomarine themselves (Rob and Caroline) – for having the idea and for trusting Paul and I to bring their vision to fruition.

We spent the remainder of the Bank Holiday weekend, chilling, sleeping, preparing for our imminent departure (woo hoo!) and doing “domestics”, taking advantage of the continuing good weather.

The next time you hear from us, we’ll finally be out on our travels, leaving our lovely Marina of Dreams for the summer. Really can’t wait to get going.

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