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Archive for May 17th, 2020

Virtual BCN Challenge 2020: Day 4

Posted by alexgreyauthor on 17 May, 2020

The Virtual Adventures of Augmented Reality Indigo Dream (ARID)

Day 4 – Thursday 7th May

1. Outline Cruising Log

From

To 

Miles

Locks

Time
IN

Time
OUT

Wednesfield Junction

Neachall Branch Junction

0.8

6

09:00:00

09:49:12

Neachall Branch Junction

Neachall Branch Terminus

0.5

0

09:49:12

10:01:12

Neachall Branch Terminus

Neachall Branch Junction

0.5

0

10:01:12

10:13:12

Neachall Branch Junction

Bentley Canal Junction

2.7

4

10:13:12

11:38:00

Bentley Canal Junction

Anson Branch Terminal

1

0

11:38:00

12:02:00

Anson Branch Terminal

Bentley Canal Junction

1

0

12:02:00

12:26:00

Bentley Canal Junction

Anson Branch Junction

0.5

0

12:26:00

12:38:00

Anson Branch Junction

Moorcroft Junction

2

0

12:38:00

13:26:00

Moorcroft Junction

Monway Arm Junction

0.22

0

13:26:00

13:31:17

Monway Arm Junction

Monway Terminus

0.5

0

13:31:17

13:43:17

Monway Terminus

Monway Junction

0.5

0

13:43:17

13:55:17

Monway Arm Junction

Gospel Oak Junction

0.14

0

13:55:17

13:58:38

Gospel Oak Junction

Gospel Oak Terminus

1.5

0

13:58:38

14:34:38

Dumaresq Junction

Dumaresq Terminus

0.5

2

14:34:38

14:56:38

Dumaresq Terminus

Dumaresq Junction

0.5

2

14:56:38

15:18:38

Gospel Oak Terminus

Gospel Oak Junction

1.5

0

15:18:38

15:54:38

Gospel Oak Junction

Tame Valley Junction

0.64

0

15:54:38

16:10:00

2. Detailed Cruising Log

The day started fair, and with fewer locks today I had the opportunity to spend the day in the galley, but more of that later…

For the moment, we set the time machine to take us back to the Bentley Canal in its heyday. Again the contrast with the present day, or even the days of forty years ago, was marked. The first thing we noticed were the neat locks. Christine tells me that there was only paddle gear on one side, which would have made it easier had we not had enough crew to operate both sides of the lock. No matter, it meant that Simon could spend the morning on the daily challenge while Christine and Emily lock-wheeled and Richard manned the helm.

fibersley_lnr_01_cm

Fibbersley Nature Reseve – a far cry from the canal’s heavy industrial past…

But that is as it is today, back in the day, the canal served a thriving industrial area – collieries, ironworks claypits and brickworks, of course. But there were also more diverse manufactories producing manure, acid, weldless steel tubing and phosphorus, and there, in the middle, a maker of chocolate and confectionery. It was an unexpected hint of sweetness in the fumes and stench.

Bentley Lock Noo 1

We were surprised at the complexity of the canal network here – it’s not such a big area geopraphically. But the great expansion of the local population on the mid-1800’s speaks of the rise of insutry and its insatiable need for coal.

There were some fascinating canalside industries – “The Phosphorus Company” of Wednesbury developed an innovative process for generating phosphorus from electricity. Although it was only on the site for a couple of years, imagine, in 1890, the sight of vast steam driven electric furnaces driving a huge alternator to produce electricity.

It didn’t take us long to reach the end of the first flight of six locks. Soon after we made use of the “time telescope” to take a look at the entrance to the Neachells Branch – it was a sorry sight, but fortunately we were cruising in happier times, when the collieries were in production and the canal abuzz with traffic.

Our next adventure was the Anson Branch – the subject of much team debate. We were very excited to find reference to an Act of Parliament which allowed the construction of an inclined plane. The lift would have linked the branch to the Wyrley and Essington at Birchills. Indigo Dream has never been lofted on an inclined plane, so we thought this might be our chance,  but sadly the structure was never built. It sounds as if ideas for extending the canals were ditched in favour of a tramway. Another industry that fascinated us here was a weldless steel tubing company – we were familiar with Stewarts and Lloyds over on the Dudley Canal, but hadn’t realised there were others in the city. Interestingly, the rise in weldless steel tubing was partly driven by the rise in the popularlity of bicycles!

We travered various arms before briefly visiting familiar territory on the Walsall Canal. Then we deployed the time machine again and headed up the Gospel Oak Branch.

View_looking_back_at roving_bridge_gospel_oak_branch_behind_on_left

Looking back at the roving bridge at the entrance to the Gospel Oak Branch

The Dumaresq Branch at the far end of Gospel Oak was a mystery – we knew that it served the Gospel Oak Ironworks but there is very little information beyond that. Speaking to locals wandering the towpath back in the day didn’t help us. Was the canal named for the unfortunate Mr Edward Dumaresq who moved to Australia and had had a disastrous second marriage to a woman he described as “utterly selfish, hard-hearted, tyrannical and a swindler”? Or was it Lieutenant John Dumaresq who invented a mechanical calculating device that related vital variables of fire control when firing from one moving ship to a moving target. Ah, we’ll never know!

At the end of the day, we headed to our overnight mooring at the Tame Valley Junction.

tame_valley_junction

After a filling dinner (see From the galley), we took a walk up to the site of Ocker Hill Power Station and used the time machine to take a look at the cable laying operation. It seems impossible now that this heavy, inflexible cable was laid by a workforce of women, many of whom managed a cheery grin for the camera.o

Ocker Hill Power Station

3. Daily Challenge

As I mentioned in the introduction, all boats were fitted with an “Automat Sensucht” – a time machine which would enable us to cruise the lost 60 miles of canals of the BCN. This was today’s message from the organisers:

When we set about this challenge we didn’t fully anticipate the huge amount of you who would take part and so procuring supplies of the “Automat Sensucht” became a little more difficult than we envisaged. We ended up sourcing the supplies from a wide range of different manufacturers, both here and abroad, and in different times and while they all have the same specification we are aware that they probably all look a bit different. To assist us with some market research on this subject it would be helpful if you can all share a photo of your machine so we know which suppliers we will be best to use in future.

Simon took on the challenge of creating ARID’s Automat Sensucht – I’d have been happy with a photograph of his creation, but he rightly pointed out that all crew members needed a fundamental grasp of how to operate the device, so he wrote a most instructive manual for us…

The Automat Sensucht: A Manual

Overall design concept: The Automat Sensucht used by the Indigo Dreamers comprises everyday boating components. When disassembled, they can be used by members of our crew when they assist visiting boaters who are traversing the tidal Thames. This approach reduces the risk of theft and/or inappropriate use of the device, and enables it to be stored in plain sight when not in use.

Training: New  users should take the virtual course now offered by the RYA (Royal Yachting Association), and secure their VHF SRC qualification (Virtual Hyperspace For Spacetime Roving Canalling). It is possible to use the device to enable you to take the training after you have used it for the first time, but this carries some obvious risks.

Instructions for use

Automat Sensucht

  1. Unlock the virtual device. To avoid malicious use this requires use of a) CRT/BW key, b) an Environment Agency Abloy key, c) the key to the marina next to the finest Cathedral in England d) the key to the Elsan point at March, Middle Level Navigation, and e) a CRT anti-vandal key. Not necessarily in that order. If you use the keys in the wrong order, something very unpleasant will happen to you, and the device will no longer work.
  2. Connect up the virtual power supply to a convenient 12 volt supply. This gets increasingly difficult in the 18th Century. Variants are available for those who have a virtual 24V system on their boats. (I am getting bored of typing the word “virtual”, so will leave it out from now on).
  3. If you are in the middle of a lock flight, set the thing that looks like a VHF radio to the number of locks in the flight – in this case the Wolverhampton 21. Press the “scan” button to see if there are other boats in the flight, and “dual” to see if the lock width has changed (useful between Napton and Knowle, in particular)
  4. Set the target year using the large silver handle. (An Ouse key is preferable, but both mine are on the boat).
  5. Set the target date using the calendar device. As currently configured, the device is obviously set up for Tuesday 21st July 1925.
  6. Set the target time using the stop watch.
  7. Use the thermostat to estimate the temperature at the target date and time, and dress accordingly
  8. 😎  Orient the boat correctly in the space time continuum, using the device that looks like a compass
  9. Use the wind gauge to assess the rate of flux in the space time continuum. Pay particular attention to gusts.
  10. The yellow safety knife can be used if knots are discovered in the space time continuum
  11. If the towpath is muddy, turn up the squelch knob on the radio
  12. Issue an alert using the air horn, and blow the whistle if there are likely to be greyhounds at the target location. You can use as many hoots as you like, as nobody knows what the international conventions are today, let alone in the last century.
  13. Press the PTT button on the radio. PTT stands for “Press to Teleport”
  14. Switch off, in the reverse order to step 1, and carefully disassemble and stow the components. Try to avoid the silver handle touching both battery posts at the same time.
  15. Use the clipboards (you can never have too many) to organise assorted navigational documents, and record where and when you have been.
  16. The flags may be useful for semaphore communication, if the battery runs down.

4. From the Galley

A few days ago, I was distressed to find so few traditional Birmingham foods for vegetarians who don’t like curry, so I set out to find a recipe for vegetarian faggots. I was delighted to find many different versions online and spent some time in the galley making my own version. Fortunately, I belong to the school of cookery that believes “if I have half the ingredients the recipe will probably work!” – that was definitely the case today.

Note: These are super-delicious!

Vegetarian Faggots – makes four big faggots – all weights are very approximate!

  • 150g celeriac, diced
  • 150g carrots, diced
  • 50g leeks, halved lengthways and thinkly sliced
  • 50g mushrooms (shitake & chestnut), finely chopped
  • 100g tinned chick peas with a liitle bit of juice
  • 150g dried breadcrumbs
  • 10g pine nuts
  • 10g pecan nuts
  • Half a bell pepper (I used a yellow pepper), finely chopped
  • Small handful of parsley, chopped
  • Four fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • Large pinch of ground Allspice
  • Large pinch of ground Mace
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Sunflower oil for frying

Method 

Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 4 – 5 (around 180 degrees centigrade). Peel and dice the celeriac and carrots. Place them on a baking tray and drizzle over some veg oil. Season with some salt (you don’t need much) and pepper. Roast in the oven until they’re soft – 30 minutes was plenty. 

If you have a blender/processor, whizz the nuts with the breadcrumbs – they don’t need to be too fine as the nuts give some texture. Put the crumb into a large mixing bowl.

Chop the leeks, mushrooms and pepper finely (I used the blender).  Add put some vegetable oil to a small frying pan and heat gently; add the mace and allspice and toast gently for a minute then add the leek/mushroom/pepper mixture to the pan.  Cook for 5 – 10 minutes until soft. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Remove the celeriac and carrot from the oven and set them aside to cool a little. If you have one, give the roasted vegetables and the chick peas a whizz in your blender (or use an old-fashioned masher). Add the ingredients to crumb that you put aside in a bowl earlier and mix well (hands are best!) until you have thick sticky paste.

Take a handfuls of mixture (I have small hands) and roll into balls. Shallow fry (I used a wok) until golden brown with a nice crust on the outside. 

Put a sheet of greaseproof paper on a baking tray, then place the faggots on the tray. Pop them in the oven (at 180 degrees C or gas mark 4), uncovered for 15 minutes while you make the onion gravy…

Onion Gravy:

  • Two small white onions – halved and sliced thinly
  • 20g-ish Butter/oil
  • Tablespoon flour
  • 400ml vegetable stock (I used a knorr stock cube)
  • A few drops of gravy browning

Melt the butter/oil over a low heat and add the onions. Fry the onions gently until golden brown – this may take a few minutes. 

Add the flour to the onions and stir until it has absorbed the oil; allow to cook for a minute or so.

Add the stock, stirring vigorously until it boils – don’t worry if the gravy is a bit thin at this point

Putting it all together…

Take the faggots out of the oven and transfer to a casserole dish. Pour the onion gravy over them and return to the oven for another 20 minutes.

 

Vegetarian Faggots

Bonus Recipe for Greyhounds and their pals: Liver Cake

I did have recipes for meat-based faggots too, but the greyhounds objected to wasting good offal on humans so I made liver cake for them instead:

There are many, many versions of this popular houndie snack– here’s mine!

  • 500g lamb or chicken liver (raw or boiled – the pre-boiled liver makes a ‘softer’ cake – see below)
  • 3 eggs
  • About 450g Self-raising Flour (or Plain Flour with 3 tsp of Baking Powder)
  • Milk to mix

For a more luxurious version add 30g of philadelphia cheese. I like to add 30g of Garlic and Herb Boursi – that makes it smell even more attractive as a training aid. However, garlic is controversial – some say it’s fine, some say it’s not – if you’re worried don’t add it (generations of my hounds have been absolutely fine). 

Liquidise the liver in a blender and put in a mixing bowl with the 3 eggs – beat well; add flour until the mixture binds to a ‘soft dropping’ consistency (splats gently off a spoon); if the mixture become too thick then you can add a bit of milk to get the right consistency. The easiest method involves baking in a shallow cake tin (a 9″ round sponge tin works well) but I often make liver muffins (as shown below) ; bake at 180 degrees C for 40 minutes – depending on your oven, you may want to give it another 10 – 15 minutes if still seems ‘raw’ in the middle.

Keep out of reach of greyhounds until cool – that’s the hardest part of the recipe!

Liver Muffins

Gin of the Day 

Lytham Gin from Lancashire.

A wonderfully dry floral and fruity gin, made with ten carefully chosen botanicals. Flavours of juniper and orange have been enhanced with the infusion of pink roses, apricots and hibiscus flowers.

Lytham Gin

4. Tales from the Geistersammler (Ghost Collector)

The Bentley Canal curves around the area of Willenhall. With such a rich industrial history, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Geistersammler, even so, I was surprised when a fine gentleman appeared in the cabin. He was dressed in white breeches and a long-tailed coat; he wore an extravagant silk bow tie around the collar of a fine cotton shirt. As he saw me, he swept his tall hat from his head and bowed.

“Mr Harthill, Leader of the Board of Health at your service.”

“Welcome, what tales do you have to tell?”

Before he could draw breath, a wretched man staggered out of the Geistersammler. He collapsed at Mr Hartill’s feet, his grey face convulsed with pain as he clutched his belly. He was filthy and looked as if he should smell, but, as he was a ghost, we were spared the stench of his stained clothes.

“Water?” the wretch croaked, before convulsing again and vanishing back into the Geistersammler.

“Who was that?” I asked, shocked.

Mr Hartill shook his head sadly. “That was Joshua Morris, victim of the great cholera epidemic of 1849. Two hundred souls and more we lost to the bloody flux.  This what I and the Health Board vowed to prevent.”

“What did you do?”

“It came too fast.” He pointed to the busy industrial landscape that surrounded us. “The canal, the manufactories, the people. But where was the clean water, the sewers, the burial grounds? Nowhere, I tell you. That is what my Health Board built.”

“A Health Board built sewers? Wasn’t that the job of the council?”

“The Justices kept the peace, the parish managed the trade, but the cholera swept through like a fire. More was needed.”

“Did you succeed?”

“Look.” He smiled.

I looked around, the landscape looked bleak and hellish to my modern eyes, but he seemed so proud of what his board had achieved. As I mused on what health might mean to different societies and different times, another fine gentleman stepped out of the Geistersammler.

“Ah! My lady, may I introduce you to Mr. Farquhar, secretary to the Willenhall Literary Society.”

“Literary Society?” I looked blank.

“Yes, a most important institution.” Mr Farquhar explained. “We commissioned the library here in 1866 and championed schooling for the children. Our people had been too weak to study, but thanks to the Health Board, they became strong enough to learn. Thus our society grew and prospered.”

The men shook hands and turned to look over the valley below, their faces full of satisfaction at a job well done.

Their pride seemed out of place to my modern eyes, but then I remembered Joshua’s suffering – maybe these philanthropists had earned the right to a little self-congratulation…

http://www.historywebsite.co.uk/articles/Willenhall/LocalGovernment.htm

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