A couple of mornings ago the sheep in the field next to the canal decided to explore beyond the confines of the fence. I spotted them just as they stumbled down the bank. Since there was no-one else about at the time I smiled, waved and ventured a cheery “Baaa… baaa…” intending to encourage them on their way. To a lamb they looked horrified, stared at me as though I had made disparaging remarks about the flavour of their chops and then stampeded back the way they’d come, returning to the familiarity of their field. To the best of my knowledge – and I can see their escape-gap from my desk – they haven’t been out since. What the hell had I said?
Hello, darling – give us a kiss? Ooh you’ve got no coats on, you saucy things? It’s not the reaction that a veggie with a career spanning five decades hopes for. I didn’t feel comfortable sitting in the well-deck reading my book anymore, so I went back inside and put some trousers on.
The weather here in Ingerlund has, of late, been archetypal. Very warm, cold, dry, damp, windy, still, bright, blue-sky, eight-eighths overcast and oppressively dull. I’ve had the stove lit in the early mornings when my nose has been complaining about the brass monkeys looking increasingly panicky, and then halfway through the later morning I’ve been throwing open the side-hatch like a mid-menopausal hot-flushy version of Juliet looking for a balcony.
The gadies and lentilmen of the canals have been passing by under cover of some pragmatic solutions. A couple of boats have slipped past with their cratch covers zipped up so tightly that I haven’t been certain that the boats weren’t just out on their own. Mind you, when it’s been cool the cool has been damp cool – bone chilly cool. I daren’t look over the hedgerow to check on the sheep, but they’re probably all wearing clear plastic pac-a-macs and headscarves decorated with little red kisses or green frogs or some such.
Yesterday morning dawned just that little bit more civilised. For a while at least.
Certainly, the weather was clement enough for me to complete my usual dawn Zen Holistic Buddhist Chairman Mao Confuscius People’s Republic-recommended exercises designed to loosen my overnight chakra-knots and encourage my bowels to sing the Song of the Bear in the Woods. There’s just enough room on the rear deck so long as I use a slightly under-sized fan and don’t forget myself in the endorphin rush and try for a “Leaping Gazelle of the People’s Revolution”. I do so love exercise, don’t you?
Stretching exercises were especially important, since I was expecting groceries. Oh, I don’t mean that I was sitting around eating gherkins and crabbing about swollen ankles and how patriarchally unfair [Mother] Nature is, I mean I’d ordered my groceries to be delivered from Messrs Sainsbury’s & Sons.
Being blissfully road-vehicle-free in the era when no English supermarket has yet had the commercial foresight or customer-orentated chutzpah to have a “sail-through” aisle in their checkouts, home delivery is a boon. They do, however, insist upon a Brixandmortar address to arrive at, and the nearest one in my current case is the marina car park, about three-quarters of a decimal mile away along the towpath. £1 delivery charge and a one-hour slot is not to be sniffed at though, and I didn’t sniff at it.
May I introduce you all to Igor? Igor is my trolley. Igor will allow me to drag along up to ninety kilos and he folds flat and stores in an especially-constructed little compartment in the galley. The blue boxes don’t fold flat, they hide out of sight in one of the “dead” corners under the galley sink. Igor helps me fetch my comestibles and gas bottles and fuel and things. Igor could do with being twelve inches bigger. He’s the biggest trolley available on the English interwebnets markets but, like most things, is still built for the feminine-physique mode, and requires a six-foot chap to hunker down at an “orang-utan” angle and gait when actually in use and not standing at rest next to a self-satisfied, deluded designer who has saved on material costs at the expense of functionality.
Igor has fairly big wheels, and so Igor makes it possible to wheel ninety kilos of groceries along a rutted and uber-bumpy towpath (hunger also has a certain part to play in making such a project viable, since if I don’t wheel groceries, I don’t eat). Don’t tell Igor, but when I have the necessary moolah he is to be supplemented with a similarly large-wheeled “looks like it’s from an Arctic expedition” wholly dedicated shopping trolley. Maybe I’ll get them to breed?
Suffice it to say that I shall feast on saladings and fresh, live vegetables (screaming in the pot) for the next week, after which it is back to the jars and packets and cans and rickets and scurvy.
Later in the day I had a visit from an old fisherman. This is the chap who earlier in the week was gobbling up moorhens and moorhen chicklets on the opposite bank. He’d obviously had enough of the game and had developed a hankering for some fish brain-food. Fish-brains, for the bird-brains. Cheeky bugger was right on the Cardinal’s bow.
He caught several unfortunates of the Piscean Nation, noticed me watching him and then flew off in a huff – beating my shutter-finger and the response time of my wee compact camera to it, but you can see the image anyway, since it’s so almost, and I’m not proud. I’ll get him next time.
If you want to know what that confusion of ropes is, I mun ‘splain that the Cardinal hath but a single T-Post at his bow, and here I found need to tie two mooring ropes to it, which is why it looks a little crowded. The knots are a “dog’s dinner” and a “double-hitch half-clove canalman’s wotnot”.
Look, I was knackered when I moored up, alright? We haven’t drifted loose since, so they must be holding nicely. If you’re so clever with ropes then may I suggest that you get knotted?
As well as the wildlife, a well-fed chap’s sport is to be found in watching the world go by, both along the towpath (joggers, dog-walkers – dog-emptiers -, cyclists – lycra-louts – and other folk towing ninety-kilos of groceries, mumbling to themselves about recipes), and along the canal itself. One such brilliant sight was this vessel with a splendid-looking motorbike slung over the rear-end. It must be a bit of a fifty-fifty gamble though, getting the bike off the boat or getting it back into its rack. Neat job though, and well done. You can see that this was spotted during one of the “dry, sunny” spells of the recent meteorological mélange.
I am sorely tempted, sorely tempted. I wonder what slinging a small, sporting Rolls over the rear-end would do to the Cardinal’s manoeuvrability in locks?
The Cardinal and I have the option of a few more days lashed to this little piece of Cheshire before our fourteen days maximum is up, and I have things to do such as to finish the T-Cut & Polish on the accessibile side of the boat, check the engine over, watch a few clouds and, oh yes – do some writing.
I also have to make a decision about direction and destination. This random meandering is all very well, but it does require a little forethought if I am not end up crossing the English Channel by mistake or heading out into the Irish Sea. Well, for the time being, anyway.
So, there you have it, a few paragraphs about the domesticity of living on a narrowboat. Stove on, stove off, groceries click-click then lug-lug, wildlife coming out of my ears (must see a doctor about that) and motorbikes drifting by.
It’s all go, you know.
Perhaps I could begin with a mobility scooter, one of those Italian ones by Puch Maxi-Dolmio, and sling that out on davits… (Hey-a, whensa your mobilitee day-ah?)
I wonder if it would tow my groceries? I shall have to investigate.
Oh well. Chin-chin until we meet again. We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again, some sunny, rainy, hot, cold, blustery, still, cloudy, blue-sky dayyyyyyyyyy…