Well there’s lovely for you, yes indeed, Myffanwy. Atcherly, is has been quite spiffing, albeit tending more towards the Rennie at times than I would like (Peppermint Rennie, not Mackintosh).
Yesterday (swipes away a few stray bars of a Beatles song) one positively leapt out of one’s flea-pit with an unseemly amount of agog, one flung one’s jim-jams to the wall (bulkhead), one dressed and rushed out to meet the new day.
Yesterday, the Cardinal and I moved again. A quarter of a mile…
The plan had been to steam northwards, towards the town of Nantwich, right through Nantwich, do not stop, do not collect £200, go directly to gaol, then to carry on up into the frozen northern wastes just beyond. A journey of much more than a mere quarter of a mile… Carry On is probably an apt phrase.
I ought to have seen the portents. I ought to have seen the signs.
They were clear enough. As clear as a tin of runes in unsweetened juice. As clear as a buzzard scratching in the entrails of the last honourable politician.
It all began, as most things do, the previous day… There I had been, sat sitting sittingly and sipping my early-morning chalice of virgin sparrow’s blood (strained through an old sock to get rid of the feathers, which do nothing for me at all), when suddenly there came a commotion all about, outside. Lola* had arrived. Lola, to bandy about the technical term we boaters use, is “one of those boats with a funny name, a Flemish Barrage, or a Tugette, or something, I can never remember what”.
* I shall call the lady “Lola” for the purposes, since, like Lola on her lonely bar-stool, she is a delight to behold but perhaps in need of some TLC.
The rather huggable Lola did not arrive under her own steam. I assumed that she had broken down and that the nice, liveried folk from a certain marina not five minutes pootle down the canal had been kind enough to commandeer the towing services of a very nice (and wholly innocent) passing boaterist, and to assist Lola in reaching a place of mooring sans the notorious Shroppie Shelf. I rendered minor assistance myself in the matter of holding onto ropes and so forth.
However, on chatting to Lola’s keeper, later, I began to feel a tad used.
Boat and keeper were actually being “put out” of the marina, much in the way, it seemed, one might put out the empties for the milkman. By stepping out to greet and assist in even a tiny way I had become complicit in someone else’s disagreement, an unequal spat twixt private individual and commercial marina. Serves me right for poking my nose in, I suppose. My attempt to be merely friendly and possibly useful had backfired. I felt mired. I have no idea of the who said whats, the ins or the outs of the dispute, and I don’t want to know, but having had my bow quite literally bumped into the action I do feel a little bit included against my will. That’s just me, probably over-sensitive as ever.
One more gargle with salt water and one more wash with a rough flannel in cold water and the last of the feeling will go away, doubtless. Maybe.
Then came the canoeist.
Not only a canoe, but one of the smallest canoes that I have seen since Snow White and the seven PORGS canoed up the Orinoco, or something. Was it really certified for use other than in a bathtub? He didn’t bear the happiest of expressions, and he was heading away from the aforementioned marina, so I couldn’t help but wonder if he too were in commercial disagreement, and paddling away under his own steam with all of his worldy goods. It seemed unlikely that someone would undertake any sort of serious journey in so small a …thing… unless forced to.
It was somehow disturbing. Was everyone to be moved north?
When I awoke yesterday I began to wonder if perhaps I ought not to vacate the area too.
If, as the Niemöller poem goes, they’d already come for the fancy barges/Dutch thingies/whatever, and they’d already come for the canoeists, would there be anyone left to speak up for me, should they come for the narrowboats next?
So much so did I wonder that I made preparations. I decided to go before I too might be pushed. I planned a route of some miles, attached some ropes, removed other ropes and all that sort of thing. It took not some little manoeuvring to persuade our bow out from the side against the breeze that popped up the moment I let go the last line to the towpath, but by dint of some reversing we managed it.
From being in the middle of nowhere with no-one in sight the Cardinal and I found ourselves suddenly betwixt and between a boat in front and one coming up behind. Rush hour, a les canals, just like the M-ruddy-25. Well no sooner had I eased us into the throng than I took my first opportunity to glance at the instruments.
Oil pressure – ZERO.
Damned da nada.
Zip. [Further swearing deleted.]
Off with the engine we went immediately, followed by some eek, egads, gadzooks and odds bodkins what the hell was that manoeuvre called coasting through the next bridge hole and in to the towpath just beyond. We were, to put it mildly, a little too close to the bridge hole for comfort, so I stepped off and made like an old horse with the centre-line and bow rope and walked us forward until we were clear. There are advantages to having cloven hooves instead of feet and the thighs of a rugby player (which reminds me, I must put those thighs back into the freezer).
Back out with the mooring ropes and the chains and the wotnots. This being England of course, from calm beginnings we then went to rain, rain, rain, wind, rain, cold, rain and rain the moment I oiked the hatches off the engine bay. At first glance – and second glance – it looked as though the oil-pressure sensor had sheared its mount (new last year…) and had thus parted company with its electrical earth.
The oil was where I expected it to be (in the engine) and was still black, and the coolant water remained laced with nothing more lethal than a 2016 Margeaux Supreme Mis en Bouteille Antifreeze (delicious, overtones of raspberry, and hints of rubber-smoke to the bouquet). The entirely separate oil warning light hadn’t come on, just the gauge dropping to zero, and there was the sensor dangling. Here’s a photo of it not dangling, but lashed where it ought to remain.
This image, taken on the previous day, was actually a dirty-great portent that I missed. If you look closely you can see the split beginning in the mount… I didn’t look closely, I didn’t see the split beginning.
Well, I’ve Heath Robinsoned it back together, but the world is much mistaken if it thinks that I am going to re-start my lovely great lump of a very expensive, very important diesel engine purely on my own say so!
The Bro, long-suffering and oblige, has agreed to come out asap with his electrical meter and bits of wire and stuff – the machinery of a mechanical sage – in order to have a poke around and an exploratory prod before we try again.
According to Google Maps the Cardinal and I made it all of a quarter of a mile in our journey, and here we stay until confirmed fixed. Bona fide constant navigation is having a pause. The weather is bank holiday-miserable anyway.
This is precisely the reason why the Cardinal and I are taking it slowly and not heading at full-speed for the horizon in our early travels – this is early days, this is the Sheikh D’Ownrun to find problems exactly such as this. If it please the Greek and Roman gods, please let me have to find no more. I am supposed to be avoiding stress, not worrying about my engine!
Is there a moral to this rambling tale? Yes indeed. Should you find that someone has dumped a tug/Dutch Barge/whatever on your bow AND you find yourself passed on your port side by a canoeist in a very small canoe – be ware, be very ware indeed, for the flow of the Universe probably has things afoot.
A foot is, at sea-level and billiards room temperature, about twelve inches.
I’ve lost it again, haven’t I, Nanny?
Wibble. Ruddy oil-pressure sensor mounts.
Sodbucket? Fetch me lunch – and then load the blunderbuss with grape, just in case those who came for the whatever they’re calleds and the canoeists come next to find me too.
Ian H. Stranded, for the moment.