You never know what’s round the corner

Its a very slow water point at Pear Tree Bridge

so I went off to explore. I wasn’t expecting to be confronted by a 30 foot triceratops.

As I turned to flee before it could eat me I stumbled across some snowdrops.

That’s when I remembered tricerotops were heribivores so I was safe. Phew.

Flippin’ hec that was a good pancake

We do love a good pancake and back home in the bricks and mortar, I’d become a dab hand at churning out pancakes almost as fast as the 4 of us could eat them, sometimes with 3 fryingpans on the go at a time.  But here on Firecrest where space is at a premium we chose to compromise on a full size hob and opted for one of the two ring domino hobs. It’s got a lot of advantages being an induction hob, the size of the pan doesn’t affect its efficiency, I can even use the two rings in tandem with my huge iron casserole. 99% of the time it’s absolutely fine, but I simply don’t have the physical space to use two frying pans at the same time. Ah well, it did mean that. I persuaded Eric to take over the hot spot while I sat down and ate mine. I don’t think you can beat sugar and lemon.

Pancake Tuesday has been celebrated traditionally since the 16th century as Christians used up their perishable foods prior to the 40 days of lent where people fasted or abstained from rich foods. I’ve never been one for giving up something for lent as I think it’s all too often used as a virtuos excuse to loose a few pounds dieting, instead of  using the time to reflect on Jesus’ fast before Easter. This year my friend Liz signed up to the 40 day generosity challenge so I have joined her and from today I will be ‘taking up’ not ‘giving up’. I hope you get to be on the receiving end.

 

Ouzel Valley Park

The River Ouzel runs close to the canal for several miles and the MK Parks trust has developed the whole area into a multi purpose open space. Historically the area is dotted with medieval settlements although most were wiped out in the great plague of 1686 or abandoned because of the flooding, leaving the fields unusable.

Now the flooding is better managed by several man made lakes

I came across this beautiful old church in one direction.

And across the road is the open university building

Theres obviously a lot of talent looking at the quality of the graffiti art work. 

Ice and a slice

We woke to a frozen canal this morning but by 8:30 the first boat had sliced it’s way through. Luckily the ice wasn’t too thick today.

Despite this mornings ice it’s not felt too bitter today and we moved on a whole 1.4 miles to Tinkers Bridge this afternoon.  Hoping that some of our neighbours intellect will rub off on us as we’re moored next door to the Open University.

At least Milton Keynes escaped the snow that landed in mum’s garden this week.

 

Continuing a theme, now the shallowest.

Having seen the colossus and the tiny in the last week or so, we’re now moored close to the shallowest lock on the Grand Union canal. Fenny Lock only rises by 12 inches. It is also unusual because the road to the lock keepers cottage opposite goes straight through the lock so there’s a swing bridge to negotiate as well. As Eric quite rightly pointed out, the swing bridge is probably also used for the lock keeper to get across to the local pub, and back, safely

Coincidentally the lock keepers cottage is for sale if you fancy canal life but a narrowboat is just a bit too narrow.

 

From one extreme to the other, It’s tiny

Knowing my love of jigsaws, and the limited space on Firecrest, Tim gave me ‘the worlds smallest jigsaw puzzle’ for Christmas.  I’m not sure how acurate it’s claim is, but at 6″x4“ with 234 pieces it was certainly small enough to tax my middle aged eyesight.

However it came with a set of tweezers and I reluctantly donned my off the shelf spectacles and after about two weeks and a lot of squinting and cussing, I finally put the last piece in place.

Of course I wasn’t helped by the picture being a microscopic cell structure full of blotches and wiggles, and picture and jigsaw being out of alignment.

I’m now working on a full size 1000 piece photo of a gorilla. Which as it came from aldi and is made out of flimsy card might not prove to be any easier, but it ought to keep me quiet for a few days if we do indeed get the snow and ice that’s forecast over the next week.

It’s Colossus

Heather took this photo but I have it on good authority that its the same moon that was the icing on the cake for an enjoyable day on Firecrest.  We’d had a pleasant morning being visited by Colin, a friend who had worked with Eric over 20 years ago.  It was nice to catch up.  And the two reminisced about valves, transistors and Strowger telephone exchanges as talk turned to Bletchley Park and their early careers with the GPO.

Earlier in the week we had returned to visit the National Museum of Computing so we could see Colossus.  Following Alan Turings success with the Bombe, work at Bletchley Park needed to keep pace with the Germans more and more complex cipher machines.

Tommy Flowers had big ideas and worked to improve the temperamental machine known as Heath Robinson (after the cartoonist who drew weird and whacky inventions).  He discarded the use of rotating wheels in favour of valves in order to speed up the process of deciphering the code.  And so Colossus was born, the first digital electronic computer.  Ironically Flowers was ordered to destroy all the design blue prints at the end of the war and most of the Colossus machines were dismantled and the parts returned to the GPO. However GCHQ kept hold of 2 machines which helped decipher the Cold War codes used by the Russians. The code breaking machines at Bletchley Park remained an unspoken secret until the mid 70’s

Flowers continued his innotive work on telephone exchanges after the war.  He even applied for a bank loan to build a ‘computer’ but was turned down because they didn’t thing it could be done… However my favourite post war machine that he worked on has to be EARNIE the premium bonds computer although it still hasn’t thrown my numbers into the winning draw yet.

 

 

Lovely day for a walk

Our Water Eaton mooring runs parallel with the River Ouzel so with spring in the air we joined the masses out for a walk.

The canal was busy as well with lots of boats going post. Lovely to see so many shedding the layers but I didn’ think it was quite mild enough for her shirts.

Breaking the code

ho deny W  fljuns Unzil ube. Juknyeds. Mojo kdnu Neil may….. Ok that’s all gobbledygook, but we did have a fascinating day visiting Bletchley Park, the WWII home of British code breaking.  It’s hard to know how to describe the day because we both came home feeling a bit overwhelmed by the awesome effort that went into breaking the German codes generated by the Enigma machines. I’m not going to make any attempt to describe how it all works.

The film, The Imitation Game, told the Holywood version of how Alan Turin was recruited, persevered and built a machine called Christpher that was able to decipher messages sent by the German military. Bletchley Park tells that same story with a lot more accuracy (or so they tell us).

Turin was indeed a genius, but he was very much part of a team effort. There were over 9000 people working at the Bletchley site during the war. Non of them lived on site, so many had to be bused in from the surrounding towns and villages, yet the work remained a secret. Even those on site didn’t know what was happening in other buildings. The mindset was that as it was part of the war effort, you didn’t ask questions. I can’t imagine that happening today. Churchill called the people at Bletchley “the golden geese that never cackled”. The top brass working in the magnificent Mansion were known as Captain Ridleys Shooting Party. ( Weatherspoons renamed one of their pubs down the road with the same name but that’s all they have in common)

We took the guided tour around the site before setting off to look at the exhibits in detail. But even so we didn’t feel that we’d absorbed everything the site had to offer. It’s not a cheap day out at £17.50 each but our tickets allowed for unlimited returns for a whole 12 months. So we made a second visit and restricted ourselves to just B Block. This houses a replica of the Bombe, named after the early polish machine, the Bomba which was used to decipher the enigma codes. They were filming an in house promotional film the day we visited but we weren’t asked to take a starring role however we were able to chat to several of the team involved in recreating the machinery used. It did have an air of ‘boys and their toys’ about it but they also brought the whole thing alive sharing their enthusiasm with us.

All in all we can wholeheartedly recommend a visit to Bletchley Park and if you are travelling along the Grand Union it’s about a 30 minute walk from Fenny Stratford or Water Eaton. We would also recommend taking one of the guided tours which highlight more of the social history of the site. It’s both educational and humbling looking back at the sacrifices and commitment given by so many in order to preserve our freedom.

We’re planning to return again to see Colossus in the National Museum of Computing, housed next door to Bletchley Park.

What a difference a day makes

What a difference a day makes, yesterday nothing would have enticed me to leave the comfort of my duvet, yet today we woke to sunshine and still waters. Or at least the waters would have been still if there hadn’t been so many boats on the move. I think we were all so glad to be outside and on the move again, the day had a real happy feel to it.

We had been moored next to Fran and Mick on their lovely green wide beam. I think we were all suffering from a little bit of boat envy as we proudly showed off our homes. We’ll be playing leap frog over the next few miles as we both head north.