So there I was, the other evening, sat sitting sittingly on my inoffensive wee mooring at the towpath when all of a sudden a boat whizzed past, missing the Cardinal by mere Molybdenum molecules, and it edged in so close to the Cardinal’s bow that one could actually hear the squeezing and squelching of time and space between us. The crew then used their NHS plastic hip-replacements to leap off and tie up with perhaps two of the shortest pieces of hairy string that I have seen since they hanged Shorty McShortarse, the world’s shortest bank robber, and Shorty McShorterarse-Still, his wheel man.
So, there went the view forward, replaced by the blank burgundy edifice of something quite obviously not designed by Mr Grandebungi Baldini Spamalota Sexilinesi Beautifale Arsendi of the Italian House of Boat-Design.
Why they moored there, I do not know. There were millions and millions and dozens of yards of free towpath both fore and aft. My best guess is that they just hadn’t seen the Cardinal at all, and their missing us was pure fluke. They were probably aiming to moor up where we already were.
At 0600hrs of the day following, the Cardinal and I moved. I do hope that we didn’t wake them. My one-man-band outfit is a delight to wear, but the knee-cymbals are not the quietest fashion statement ever signed under oath.
There is traffic on the canals at this time of the morning, but it’s much-reduced and especially so on a day that was just dotting the camera lens with raindrops. I met none other at the tight turn of the Barbridge Junction and no-one at all challenged me for ownership of the next bridge, a little s-bend thing under the main road and labouring under all of the charm of a festival portaloo.
Mind you, it says perhaps too much when even your tiller-pin won’t look ahead at what’s coming, preferring instead to watch the scenes of carnage and devastation unfold behind. Actually, this view is not as bucolic as it may look, a main road towards Chester is up on the bank to the left, just t’other side of that armco…
I don’t know if it’s shallower than other areas that I have been used to, or full of rubbish, or perhaps both, but the Cardinal was jiggling around like a belly-dancer’s wobbly bits half of the time, mayhap sliding along bits of the bottom. Actually, that works with the belly-dancer metaphor too. Mother tried to get me to follow her into the profession, but try as I might, I could keep neither ruby nor emerald in my belly-button, and so I went into the Civil Service where they don’t care if you wear jewels or not so long as you can keep the left-wing tassel spinning at the same time as the right-wing tassel.
Anyway, I called at Calveley to drop off some recycling and some land-fill rubbish and pootled a little farther on to a place where I know that I can walk, if perhaps at some wearisome length, to a Co-op shop and get some cash-back, to supplement the 3/- 6d that I have left on me in coin of the realm.
Shall we just say that the tone of the neighbourhood has changed a little since I last arrived here in April of this year (tis now the merry month of June). For one thing, last tme was “choose a spot” while this time was more “find a space”.
On our last visit I was the weirdest thing in town, but not any more. Oh no, not any more.
Up ahead is the “Dog Boat”. I think its sole occupant and only crew is a large dog. Every once in a while the flap of the cratch cover whips up, a large dog leaps out, takes a pee or curls off another string of Wall’s bangers, and then leaps back on-board again. Do dogs travel the canals single-handed? Bark once for yes, twice for no and three times if you’ll meet me in the ha-a-a-allwaaaay. I maintain that a well-mannered single-pawing narrowboat dog would scoop after itself, so the jury’s still out on “Dog Boat”.
A very well-mannered and considerate chap in a green waxed jacket and green Hunter wellingtons found one of Sailor-Dog’s larger offerings, and, walking on, he very kindly cleaned his boots off on the grass just where I step off the Cardinal’s bow…
Civilians see the narrowboats, but they never associate “boat” with “people being on-board, watching”.
The gentleman was ebber doe abologedic, eveddually, and we both agreed that the new shape of his doze would, henceforth, afford him the raffish air of the bar-brawler and, if flaunted in suitable neighbourhood establishments, might even get him laid more by the certain type of lady that he’s hitherto only admired from afar. Being the soul of generosity that I am I didn’t even charge him for the two tissues (wadded up and stuffed one up each nostril, to staunch the bleeding until he can get to either of A&E or a garage with arc-welding facilities, to have the damaged blood-vessels cauterised).
For the rest of the week I’ll be stepping off the Cardinal’s bow onto a lovely old green waxed jacket.
Even the gentleman himself was bright enough to realise that the green Hunter wellington boots will eventually reverse course and pass naturally, provided that he keeps up with the Alpen and adds a little more fruit to his diet.
I decline to describe the remainder of the non-canine attractions, but let’s just leave it at “the circus is in town” and throw the detail to your imagination to wonder about. Loud music (speakers on the towpath), domestic altercations and rows on the towpath, the usual English summertime selection of “please dip my eyes in carbolic” sartorial sights and, this afternoon in the drizzle, a large party of braying walkers from Loudly-cum-Lately Yah, a small village of upper-class twits who tour England making certain that everyone knows who is – ahem – whom. Colonel Fnarr-Fnarr (retired) led the party while the ladies rattled their pearls, tugged at their bridles and whinnied fit to burst. I think they were lost.
They’ll certainly be lost to the land of the living if they carry on to the moorings at Calveley and any of the locals are home…
The garden here is looking quite lovely, a certain element of “ooh, that’s lush” being added to the greenth by the recent
monsoons gentle showers.
One unexpected delight of the season is watching the farmer and his stout peasants coming along three times a day to wring out the cows (otherwise they get waterlogged and all you get is semi-skimmed).
One of my very most favouritest trees is growing nearby.
The sadly all-too-rare “G4-Signal Masticus EE”.
I can spit a grape seed at this one and be rewarded with a metallic “ding!”, but it must not be fully grown or something, because it still only gives out a couple of bars of signal. If I stay here any length of time I might experiment with hard-wiring a cable from the Cardinal, across the canal and through the field.
The towpath, on the other hand, is awash with freshly-flowered Mooring-Pinnius Wellbangedin au Sainsbury’s Baggium. I grew this one from seed, myself, and if you’ll pardon me saying so, it’s a very healthy specimen with a stout double-stalk and classic orange colouring.
The only disadvantage to this species though is that if you try to grow them in damp or – heaven forbid – even soggy soils then they will need re-potting every day, sometimes twice. Basically, every time some quarter-wit flies past at why-are-you-even-on-the-canals-at-that-speed mph someone has to be sent out in the rain to belt these flowers with a lump-hammer. It’s gardening, Jim, but a bit industrial. Since I’m the entire it on the Cardinal, that’s me then.
Don’t misunderstand me though, the towpath, lovely at all times of the whatever, is providing laughs a-plenty. Whenever I pop ashore to belt my Mooring-Pinnius Wellbangedin au Sainsbury’s Baggiums back into the ground with a lump-hammer I always take time to put my head to one side (like a puzzled Welsh Collie) and to listen, although I have yet to hear anything other than the domestic noises earlier described. Perhaps the sign is misleading?
Deep Mud? How much deeper could Glam Rock go than Tiger Feet, The Cat Crept In and the unforgettable Oh Boy? I am intrigued. That’s right, that’s right, that’s right, I really love your tiger-light… that’s neat, that’s neat, that’s neat… please wipe your tiger-feet.
Not a tiger, and no feet were wiped, but… as I typed this a rather damp bundle of white-Anorak-swaddled joy* (*poetic licence) with two dogs came striding up the towpath. One dog ran straight past the Cardinal, the other one, whom I understand from the human screechings to be Molly, jumped on the bow, leaped in through the open doors and hopped down the steps into the boat. Molly then spotted me, squealed and about-faced faster than a politician challenged with a video recording of election-promises. A visitor! Briefly, then the usual reaction kicked in.
Molly was treated to a grand lecture from her human once outside again, including the thirteen reasons why a young dog ought not to accept crunchy gravy-flavoured treats from strangers.
I am so pleased that the lady* (*yes, yes, no further qualification required) described me to Molly as a “stranger”. I go so far as to wish that’s she’d screeched “stranger than most”.
I thought that I was perhaps losing the knack and had become ho-hum, mundane, ordinary. If the strange is still with me then perhaps I’ll last out the week or ten days here after all.
Maybe I fit right in?
I wonder how, if they indeed ever have cause or inclination (and that’s highly unlikely), the others here-present on these moorings regard me?
Answers on a postcard please, addressed to
The Deluded, Grumpy Old Git
aboard Long Hard Look In The Mirror,
England’s canals, somewhere, in the rain.