An icy pootle from Barbridge to Bunbury in my oddly-shaped bucket

H’yar today, gorn tomorrow, as we terribly posh folk orfen say. Except that this is more a case of th’yar yesterday and h’yar today. Chained to the armco in Barbridge on Sunday and staked to the ground near Bunbury by Tuesday.

An early-morning move – and the early-morning is where the ice comes in – there was a layer of it ¼” to ½” thick on the tonneau cover (where the hail had gathered overnight), and a frost such as Jack would have been proud of everywhere else on the Cardinal. The longest job of the departure was removing the ice from the canvas so that I could roll it up and stash it. Don’t be fooled by the blue of the sky here, or the sunlight, for that is an Arctic-blue and a sun without warmth. This is, when all is said and done, only the end of April in England… I have no idea what month it is elsewhere on the planet. Do you foreign chaps use our calendar too, or do you just muddle along cutting marks in totem poles or something? Don’t answer that, I’m not really interested. I didn’t get where I am today by discussing foreigners and their damned strange ways.

The Railway Station platform at Calveley Services. Two taps for potable water, Elsan up the ramp and rubbish/recycling behind the shed.

It was then a cool (Englishman’s understatement) but idyllic couple of miles to the CaRT services at Calveley, where I obtained the other half of my main water tank’s contents, the half that Nantwichians wouldn’t let me take on board there…

Le soleil brillait… les oies ont crié… l’eau étincelait… et mon fingerless gloves did nothing, not one thing, for the ends of my fingers. At least I didn’t need a pee, for I have yet to master the old working-boat technique of steering backwards while performing micturition off the stern.

The depot at Calveley was a-buzz with early-morning CaRT chaps, preparin’ to do clever things with canal infrastructure – and saints be praised if such there be – I accidentally moored like a boss, if you’ll pardon the trans-Atlantic expression just this once. Drifted past the moored boats with their snoring crews, air-kissed the railway-station platform (for that is what it looks like) the way one might air-kiss a great-aunt who smells of lavender and (real moth) moth-balls, and threw my lines around the bollards as though I’d been tying nautical knots all of my life. Pure fluke. Total splendid happenstance.

It was just so nice to not have an orderly and polite queue gnarling at my heels in a slightly threatening albeit still orderly and polite way, as at the N-place. I even had time and liesure to take photographs.

From there twas but a hop through the bridge and thence to find some nice towpath moorings with:

  • space
  • a view
  • a mobile internet signal
  • the cheery breeze that sprang up blowing me onto the towpath, not off it

and there I was, in what I knew to be the stretch before Bunbury staircase locks. Lo (biblical touch, lo, what with the crepuscular rays marking the spot and all), there was a mooring with space, a view, a mobile tower on the horizon and a wooden sign reading “Hello Sailor, I love you long time (14 days max in any one location unless otherwise signposted)”.

No A51. Well, there is but it’s far enough away to be out of earshot. It’s beyond the Crewe to Chester railway line, and even that is far enough away that Mr Branson’s Express Virgins are but quiet curiosities interspersed by the occasional grunting cargo train and the ever-present nuclear waste convoy. I can just see them over the meadow when I am sat at my desk.

Well, knock me down with an ostrich-feather if we didn’t accidentally get that bit nicely done too, stepping off lightly to the roar and applause of an adoring sparrow, holding my centre-line, mooring pin and 2.5lb lump-hammer.

I flattened the adoring sparrow with my lump-hammer, knocked in the mooring pin and declared that I claimed this land on behalf of Her Majesty, the Queen Eliza-Beth the Two’th. After that I shot and ate the last dodo, enslaved passing natives and established roads, railways and rule of law, as required in my copy of The Admiralty Manual of Seamanship. One mustn’t let imperial colonialist standards drop, must one?

This is not Hackney.

This is the somewhat rural setting of Government House, as the Cardinal is now known while at anchor. Terrible, isn’t it? The photograph below is just around the bend. It never takes me long to venture around the bend, once I’ve established a secure foothold. Securing a foothold is made all the easier by having prehensile toes and wearing vegetarian shoes.

With the sparkly-sparkly water and everything. A bench. Not -the- Bench, I mean I haven’t been Called to the Bar or anything, not yet, anyway.

The bench has proven to be both comfortable and to be sited with aforethought, as I will attest in my later account of a venture yea even unto the village of Bunbury for comestibles from the Co-op – a village that is not where everyone says it is. Nor is it just one village.

Bunbury staircase locks, I hear you cry. I don’t know why you’re crying, it’s me that has to get the Cardinal safely through them soon. I shall meditate, cogitate and ruminate for a week, possibly more, and then work out a plan of attack, for they are form-ee-dah-blurgh.

Double-wide for one thing, so the Cardinal needs must somehow be restrained to one side while trillions of gallons of water is doing the flowing in and flowing out thing.


EEK, even!

Staircase locks, because the two chambers must be worked in sequence. You take the water from the top one down with you to fill the lower, and vice versa on the way back up.

I’ve been through them once before – twice if you count coming back again (something that I also plan to do from the dead). This was during my training course with the redoubtable Cheshire Cat Narrowboats and Wotnot although that seems like many moons ago – and then there were people, many, many people about and not just me…

Still, all of that lies in the days ahead. For the moment, for today at least, I must simply dress myself like an aged hippie with superb fashion-sense, and be seen, be seen to be posing there on the well-deck, here on the roof, sometime on the stern, reading something weighty and hardbacked and unknowable to the common folk as they walk by. When the sun goes down this evening I shall have cocktails and I shall count my elephants as they are brought back from their labours.

During the day I shall make the occasional public address. Long speeches such as “Oi! You! Yes, you – kindly clean up your dog’s shit…” to the dog walkers (had to deliver one of those speeches yesterday), and perhaps a cheery “Ye gods, your legs look like two dry and broken reeds – however do you manage to move such a portly body with them at such a pace?” to the joggers.

Noblesse oblige.

Lettez les poor sods mange gateaux, and all that sort of thing.


Ian H.


  1. So pleased you’re continuing imperial expansion on behalf of Her Majesty, Ian! From Skipper to Governor – wow! You don’t mess around, good sir!

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    1. Well, I always say that so long as I have the uniforms, the braid and the medals taking up space in the wardrobe I might as well wear them once in a while. Besides, if I don’t wear it then the feathers in my best-dress pith helmet go limp, and that’s never a good thing. 😉

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  2. Are ‘bunburying’, Algenon would be so proud and not a handbag in sight. Of course, the Importance of having a strategically placed Co-op (how English!) for vittles, an earnest endeavour in the absence of Tesco or Sainsbury deliveries. They always did sell things in ones or twos, so you should have no trouble with your weekly brussel purchase. Take care on the 39 steps (well three) there may be foreign agents about!

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    1. The Co-op – in exchange for moolah – have just modestly re-stocked the Cardinal’s cupboards for the next week, so there’s a job done. Fresh this, fresh that and a jar or two for when the fresh is done. They may not be the leadinng-edge of comestible shopping, but they are the ones who are usually there when no other chain is!

      I had quite forgotten about “Bunburying”! Thank you for reminding me!


  3. I am enjoying your adventures in the Cardinal but I do worry about you being alone to manage the lock stairs; will there be no-one around to help?
    I hope it warms up for you soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The sun is out today, it’s not warm, but it’s bright and that’s what counts with me! 🙂 In other good news, I’ve just walked up to the locks and made enquiries, and it seems there will be a “volunteer lock-keeper” on duty most days next week – someone to help! Bingo! huzzah for volunteers, long may they volunteer! Now, I just need the breeze to die down a bit…

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