A visit from the fuel boat

So, when you’re low on coal and wood and diesel and gas and things who are you going to call? Well, certainly not the last batch of two-flops-a-second, couldn’t-catch-Casper-if-you-tied-him-into-a-paper-bag-for-them “Ghostbusters”. No, you are going to call Halsall, the fuel boat.

The one-way blue-tinted glass in my windows and portholes confuses the hecky-heck out of my cctv cameras – it’s high time that I set to and organised proper exterior mounts! Still, you see the idea. Imagine a floating market in some corner of the far-flinged far-flung world – hustle, bustle and crowds and noise. Then imagine one boat, birds tweeting, clouds drifting, hedgerows growing quietly, the thump-thump-thump of a classic, low-revving engine on an old working boat…

This boat, and others like it, patrol their patches of turf (canal) on a fortnightly basis. This being the twenty-oneth century customers get notified of their schedule via text message and email and online on the interwebnettings. Cuss-toh-mahs then just respond with their needs and, hocus-pocus, bibbidy bobbidy boo, oo ee oo ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang, Shem HaMephorash and even klaatu barada nikto – this nice chap pootles up and delivers right to your gunwales (not, absolutely not, “gunnels” in English English whatever the scheming hidden-agenda lying political nutwits at the Oxford are now telling us as they try to merge current, modern English and the American language in order to save corporations money).

Rush hour. The fuel boat delivering to the boat just up from mine while Linda from Black Cat Narrowboats (Holidays and Training) steams past, homeward bound.

The seasons in England are not so much meteorological or even climatological, but more a state of mind, a condition of wardrobe, a whim of some perverse Roman or Greek god. Thus, it is often colder (and snowier) in April than in March, and bits of Winter may oftentimes be found strewn over Spring and Summer, with all and each of them eager to hand over to Autumn. The Cardinal’s stocks were down to a single bag of coal, and as far as wood went, well – I was on the verge of burning some of the Chippendale from the smaller dining room. Halsall was due in the area, and I gave Halsall a call.

There’s something very, very civilised about this service. A chap doesn’t even have to be aboard to have coal, wood, diesel and wotnot delivered – the two boats up from the Cardinal got all of their needs met without the owners (“keepers”?) being present. Halsall chugs up, the guy lashes the boats together and the rest is just a card payment taken by hand-held mobile device afloat.

Home delivery.

Five sacks of Excel are now secreted about the Cardinal’s cunning storage, there’s wood a-plenty in the well deck, and the stove won’t starve for a while yet. Just because there’s a small patch of blue sky overhead is no reason, no reason at all to strip off another layer of longjohns. I didn’t get where I am today by stripping off my winter longjohns too early. Besides, I don’t have the necessary methylated spirits to soak off another layer.

1P1090037 Yes, yes – Mr Stove does still carry the scar of a minor overspill while cooking some rice, and yes, Mr Stove does need a general dusting down and brush-up. Mr Stove though, like the rest of the Cardinal, is a working beast, a functional feature, a fine figure of a heating thing. He’s happy. As soon as we get two or more days of Summer in a row, he’ll get his.

The trick today will be keeping Mr Stove ticking over, just enough to keep the place canoodly but not so much that I need to keep opening the doors.

It’s an art-form.

So, let’s please put your grubby hands together and have a quick round of applause for the fuel boats. The King is dead – long live the fuel boats! Huzzah, and all of that sort of stuff. Huzzah! Sodbucket – pass me the firelighters, and then tell Cook that I want lunch at two.

Talking of which, we are hurtling towards the asparagus and strawberry season. I wonder if there are any boats… no, no, a silly idea. I shall have to venture out onto dry land in search of those.

Gin too, I suppose.


Ian H.


  1. I love it, now that is a retirement job I would love. Floating during the day making deliveries. Talking with all the boaters and seeing the grand boats. Wonderful. Hugs


  2. Good God. You aren’t letting the Gin get low are you?

    Someone needs to organize a booze boat delivery service. It’s a great small business opportunity. I mean I suppose they could include food stuffs as well. But Gin etal is the really IMPORTANT thing.

    And specialization is what the modern markets go for. I imagine someone could run a good business just selling Gin off the side of a narrow boat. Perhaps they could get wild an include garnish. But stick to the basics. Choose a booze type and just go all in on it.

    I’ve nearly talked myself into this as a future business for myself.


  3. Never cast a clout til May is out, my old mother used to say! What an excellent notion, I did wonder about how you hauled gas bottles and such about, even with your dolly trolley! Now there is an opening for the first of the mighty supermarkets, although they might have to get the notion of slowly slowly catch’ee monkey! I remember the days when we had a coalman, all sooty faced with hessian sacks – ah the olden days!

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    1. My sister is lucky enough to still have coal deliveries the old-fashioned way – a chap rolls up in his lorry, oiks full-sized hessians sacks of the stuff onto his shoulders and even takes it around the back of the house to the coal bunker! He’s usually even cheerful too… 😉

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