It is not often that I seem to move in the correct direction. If within ten miles of a hole I can fall into it for no apparent reason. Recently though, the Cardinal and I mooched our way east, off the Llangollen and – unknowingly, incidentally – away from the approach of Ophelia.
Storm Ophelia, now happily “passed on” in every sense was, during her overnight visit, a still cantankerous, still obstreperous and still unpleasant shadow of her former hurricane self. On the edge of her flapping black cloak the Cardinal and I got winds of 50mph, Eire was treated to winds of 118mph, the Welsh coast and Wales within to something in-between. Today, the day after Ophelia’s dying outburst, has dawned with blue sky, fluffy clouds and a light breeze. As all howling harpies do, she has blown herself weak and hoarse and away over the horizon. She will not be mourned.
I took a few sensible precautions before her arrival. That which was on the roof of the boat and could not be moved was lashed down. I doubled-up on the moorings, using four lines and six mooring pins – Ophelia was set to blow right across us, off the towpath.
One thing though that I couldn’t legislate for was, having chosen a nice rural and sparsely populated mooring, some engine-running, tooth-achingly twee numpty then mooring stern to bow with the Cardinal… he’s running his engine now. Three hours a day, twice a day, and whatever old lump he has in there, it is heterodyning horribly with my boat windows and panelling. Thrumble thrumble thrumble thrumble…
If only murder were legal.
What? What’s that you say? Thurggle grrgk urrkgh my hands around your throat? Krrgh urgghke ooogphmxyy can’t breathe? Oh, I do beg your pardon, I have no idea how they got there. Do allow me to offer you a windlass to the temple, or perhaps a boat-hook to the forehead instead.
Ophelia’s local winds of 50mph provided some… entertainment, as I listened to my boat creaking and the covers flapping, bouncing around and straining at the lines. In the wee small hours the sheer pressure of the wind against my windows broke a couple of window-catches (they never were of the best design to begin with), and bleary-eyed, boxer-shorted and bemused by the sudden howling draught, I had to fetch my screwdriver set, find the pieces of each catch, reassemble them and screw them back in place. Other than that, I slept the sleep of one who is comfortable in the knowledge that the bodies will never be found.
This is a nice, rural area, deep in the heart of
corporately-owned pension fund Cheshire lush dairy farmland. One thing that did surprise me is that the pension fund managers Farmer Giles took the pre-storm lull as an opportunity to cut the nearby field of grass (sadly not that kind), and to leave it in rows, drying out.
It seemed unwise to me, wot wiv such strong winds forecast, but obviously he knew his onions, since it all seems to be there and undisturbed this morning. I really thought that all of this loose grass would be in Russia or Subsidyscovenia or Kent by now. Perhaps, like tornados apparently oft do, the winds of Ophelia skipped over his field, thus be-knobbling his plans for an insurance claim for lost crops? Cynical of me, I know, but as someone once sang, I yam what I yam (and I wasn’t born yesterday).
These moorings are within the sound, not of Bow Bells, but of Railtrack’s offering to transport hereabout, and to the trains of both Local Clatterer Transport Ltd., and Mr Virginal-Branson. I was somewhat embarrassed when photographing the line and a train appeared, doubtless the driver classifying me as some sad train spotter…
These things happen though, and I girded what was left of my persona and carried on, albeit with a sigh.
This is a two-carriage 448-6A1 diesel, the model with the two-two-four wheel arrangement, the undersprung carriage seating and the steam heating system that surveys have discovered to have a “customer satisfaction” rating of just 31.26% when adjusted for seasonal commuters. I noted it in my personal spotting log as a “Category 77-b-3” spotting.
Seriously, if you didn’t know where the canal was then you’d not trip across it hereabouts. The approach is hidden down a farm-access lane, and a CaRT sign on the steps forbids entry to all but those with a smile and a sense of adventure. Silly sods.
So, here we are now in the day following Ophelia. The
grindingly annoying happy boaters on my bow are, as I type, running their four-cylinder, three-injector, two-bearing, single exhaust-pipe engine. Thrumble thrumble thrumble. The Cardinal’s solar panels are burping and farting happily as they feed (SILENTLY!) on the sunshine, and the usual random assortment and tasteless array of coffin-dodging walking enthusiasts, all freshly escaped from some institution or other are plodding past my portholes, each on one or two legs and two or three sticks. Who could have imagined that sales of bobble hats and mountaineering backpacks to the elderly would prove such a lucrative industry? There’s not one of them who couldn’t spend three weeks on the Großglockner, the Zumsteinspitze or the What-Can-The-Matter-Be-Horn without the need to so much as unzip a pocket to refer to their Ray Mears Survival Manual.
I’ve done my walking for the day, I perambulated at dawn – south to check that my favourite canal service area hadn’t been blown away overnight (it hasn’t, thanks be to the Greek and Roman gods), and north to see if Bunbury locks and environs remained (they do, although the lower two sets of lock gates – I’d guess at over a modern “tonne” each – had been blown open by Ophelia. What a windbag she was. Glad to see the back of her, sensible shoes, bustle and all.
The area does, currently, hold one good laugh, although I doubt that many have laughed aloud at it as I did. It’s a lovely boat moored half a mile or so back from the Cardinal.
Give us a kiss, big boy.
This is the sort of fender arrangement that will doubtless bring on nightmares of kisses from elderly aunts, dowager duchesses and sundry village spinsters.
Seriously, although I had to wade out a yard or two to get it, it was the best snog I’ve had in years. Rubbery (and, no, I’m making no Japanese mockery), solid and surprisingly warm, quite unlike, for example, a surprised Collie dog or a well-trained Rottweiler.
Right, let’s move on from all of this hunkering down in high winds, and get back to more regular boating life.