Ducks in hot water, and madding crowds being instrumental in #narrowboat #england

Someone in procurement at the Meteorological Office is off their medication. Instead of a nice, orderly menu of breezes and sunshine and cumulo-stratus-bigfluffius they have, this past week, published a selection of gibberish. Yesterday, for example, it never even bothered to get properly light. I spent the day wandering around with an electric torch and wondering if we were experiencing some sort of total eclipse of the waking hours. Had I not gone out at noon with a lavishly lit candelabrum my solar panels would have starved. It really isn’t good enough, and I have penned an angry letter to the Times. That’s the best that I can do until the revolution, after which I shall be Lord High He-Who (Must Be Obeyed).

Then things will change, you mark my words.

Dodging rain-showers and wotnots though, the Bro and I did manage to get one job done, tick, VG, and off the list of things to do. We moved the engine coolant temperature sensor from  where it had previously languished, sampling the coolest hose of the cooling system, to the hose that takes water directly off the engine block, where it will now read the highest coolant temperature available. This has had the splendiferous benefit of making the rinky-dinky coolant temperature gauge on the instrument panel actually lift itself off the stop and work…

Polaroid Picture Frame:

…and it doesn’t get more ticketty-smooch than that. The instrument panel, bee tee double-ewe, was cunningly constructed by the aforementioned Bro out of an oak door we removed when renovating t’interior. We removed most of the doors and, one way or another, they all got recycled. If I were some trendy “hipster” metropolitan person I suppose I’d say that they were all “up-cycled”, although I’d probably do so without the hyphen, since skinny jeans and neckbeards seem to preclude the generous use of English grammar. Have you noticed that acronyms are no longer indicated by the use of full stops? E.N.G.I.N.E. B.A.Y., except of course that that is not an acronym, just an exercise machine whereupon I clamber in and out, using the engine itself as a step, and yoga-squeeze myself into impossible corners to do nifty things with spanners.

Ghost Photo Effect:

It’s still looking neat even after a whole season of use and mere functional maintenance. The newspaper is down there because the tabloid press soaks up spilled antifreeze remarkably well.

It’s been a mixed week, all in all. I found a nice, long, straight and as-wide-as-it-gets-hereabouts stretch of canal to moor in, and I set up my enmoorination (new word) halfway along its length. Would you believe that we have still been clobbered a couple of times? Presumably my cloak-of-non-visibility has extended itself to the 57′ and 18 tons of Cardinal Wolsey.

Polaroid Picture Frame:

Whatever Timothy West and Prune-Seller Scales may tell you, narrowboating is not supposed to be a “contact sport” any more than is yodeling, unicycling or sex*.

*I’m not entirely certain about sex, it’s just possible that I misread the rules on the back of my cell door and/or misheard the Chief Warden’s lecture. I mention it in concert with yodeling and unicycling because we only had the one outdoor exercise session a day, Strangeways Segregation Unit was run along progressive lines and, with so many inmates in the yard all at once, it was difficult at times to say what was going on.

Polaroid Picture Frame:

As well as the inclemencies there have been some languid, lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer too. It has taken me decades, but I am now beginning to adapt to these (as well as may be expected). Depending upon the look of the sky at sunset I lay out several knotted handkerchiefs, short white socks to go with my black shoes and a deck-chair next to a crate or two of chilled Chateau Puissance de Squashy-Grapey mis en bouteille au Grimsby.

Tritone Filter:

Of course, one no sooner finds a nice, quiet stretch in which to lie low, languidly, than the world and its ruddy budgerigar moves in…

Tritone Filter:

All I can say is that I am obviously a trend setter. This is confusing because my medical notes lead me to believe that I was brought up as an Irish Setter. My parents wanted something with a pedigree, and I was their last, best, forlorn (and futile) hope.

The fishermen of the previous weekend are back, travelling again with more luggage than Elton John. When I walked past their encampment the other morning one of them was sitting cross-legged in his tent, forking pilchards from a can for breakfast. It seemed rather a poor show, really. He didn’t make eye-contact, and I refrained from guffawing.

Lomo Photo Effect Tool:

The wildlife has been living the wild life for most of the week. Geese with geeselets (another new word) have been zooming in to beg each time I open the sidehatch doors. There’s a duck family with eight duck-pups, and they cruise around quite a bit. There were nine duck-pups earlier this morning, but Mrs Nature is indeed red in tooth and claw and carp. I speak from experience when I say that is is quite disconcerting, not to mention discomnobulating, to be sashaying along the canal, quack-quacking, only to find oneself wholly unexpectedly seized from below. I count myself fortunate that I am generally too much for the average carp to swallow, especially when wearing my water-wings and snorkel. Duck-pups, on the other hand (do carp have hands? Max Bygraves always said that you need hands), well, duck-pups are mere horses doovres to fish that size (see earlier posting). Sniffle, weep, ce sera, sera etc etc.

With the increased traffic on the canals that lack of snow, ice and Arctic gales brings, comes some variety of boat design. I couldn’t decide whether this one needed a hug or some remedial welding by a chap with a functioning sense of proportion and some knowledge of the Greek notion of “Golden Ratios”. The more I look, the more I still don’t know. It’s a water-borne puzzle. I like it, but I’m not entirely certain what sort of it it is.

Lomo Photo Effect Tool:

Were the lovely wee beastie my boat (and I want no other than the Cardinal) then I would be sore tempted to paint a spectacle frame around those two portholes in the bow doors.

I have groceries again, having tempted a Sainsbury’s delivery van into the locality, and having reached it before the savage locals fell upon it, ravening, as the savage locals hereabouts do. They raven unashamedly. We have dined like a king upon fresh comestibles and shan’t starve for at least another day or two at this rate.

My laundry is doing whatever laundry does when it is hanging around on the fore-deck, drying in a light breeze. I remembered to include the Lice-be-Gone in the rinse-water this time, so there’s hope for me yet.

Yonder solar panels have replaced all of the electrickery I used in the washing machine plus cutting the overnight deficit by a third so far. Mr Sunshine is billed to be on-stage until late evening, so there’s every chance that the batteries will find themselves among the liqueurs and After Eight mints today. I do hope so. I have to re-enter the engine bay and find a way to roam among them soon, checking if top-ups with distilled water are needed, and lathering their terminals with jelly of a petroleumesque nature.

I know how to live, you know. Why, I remember back in Poonah in ’43, or was it ’44? It was elephant-neutering season and I had just taken delivery of a new set of nut-crackers sent by steamship from Harrods. Suffice it to say to begin with that one elephant looks much like another, and… Oh, but I mustn’t burden you with these recollections. I hear boat traffic approaching, I should probably better spend my time brandishing a barge-pole and issuing death-threats…

Other than this, and probably even including this, there has been little gossip or scandal this week, and only two minor shipwrecks.

I will try to do better in future, but you know as well as I that what goes aground comes around. Lighthouses never are, are they? Have you ever tried to lift one?

Perhaps it’s time that I went indoors again. It’s all getting rather too much.


Ian H.


  1. Your brother is an artist with wood, isn’t he? Very clever with lots of other things too, I think. Lucky you.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Do you exchange insurance information and boat lic # when two or more long boats get…intimately acquainted? Or do you keep hand fulls of cash read at the tiller to throw to the offended or scraped boat?
    I forget what you said about having bumpers or padding over the water side to absorb shocks? I use to have to have batteries on the RV. However I could charge them from my diesel truck. Does your boat engine charge the batteries?
    Happy floating and adventuring to you. Love reading your journey. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For damage and serious clonks insurance should be swapped – but that’s another reason why I am also going to install recording CCTV on my boat (for when I am not on board). Narrowboats are very sturdy, but it’s still rude to collide and then – as these folk did – pootle on as though nothing had happened, with no word of by-your-leave or apology (or explanation).

      The Cardinal has a lot of options for electrickery. An entirely independent starter system with its own battery, alternator and solar panel & controller. For the domestic power I have four 110Ah batteries, charged by the engine alternator and also charged by three 135w solar panels on the roof, also with a separate control system. The solar panels cover most of my needs for about three-quarters of the year.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I hear that ‘forking pilchards’ can be a strong decoy during mallard hunting season; it does sound an awful lot like an Agatha Christie – Ten little mallards! I suspect that the ‘two men in a boat’ dined on duck en croute at tea time! Your instrumentals look in tip top shape, I must say. With all that traffic it is very brave of you to exhibit your washed winter vests on deck for all the world and that aquatic Sherman tank to see. They do look like pirates to me, hoist the jolly roger or something, that should see ’em off!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I quite enjoy watching folks’ reactions when they spot my laundry blowing in the breeze. The chuckles of recognition at the horse-hair boxer shorts, the guffaws at the trusses and the screams when they spot the canvas buttock-supports… 😉


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