It’s all great fun until someone loses an aye-aye #England #narrowboat #winter

England doesn’t really do “seasons”. Where other, lesser countries have “spring” and “summer”, England simply takes a little Meteorological Lithium and is merely clinically complicated and precipitately confused. Where some more predictable, less innovating countries have “autumn” and “winter” England simply stops staking the pills and relaxes into pure, unbridled climatological insanity.


We’ve had “dull” for most of the past week. Not your average, “Made in China” dull, but the dullest dullth since Dully McDull invented dull for the dreary masses. It hardly got light at all. There were times when I had to strike a match in order to be able to see well enough to light a candle. England doesn’t care, you see, about a chap wasting two matches just to light one candle, England doesn’t give a fig.

We’ve had rain, too. Oh, not rain such as anyone trapped on the foreign side of the English Channel might know it, oh no. We had rain such as would hammer a chap into the ground if he stood too long in one spot. We’ve had rain so torrential that a chap couldn’t hear himself scream and howl in inclement anguish. We’ve had rain so hard that it bounced back right up where it came from and then fell all over again in some sort of very damp perpetual motion.

We’ve had frosts too, although in all fairness it has to be said that these have, to date, been of little consequence to those indoors with both buttocks pressed firmly against a well-lit stove.


Winds? Well yes and no and yes and no and now quite definitely yes again.

The winds hereabouts today were demonstrably of sufficient force to up-end large but unwary pachyderms. I can tell you that once a pachyderm has been up-ended by an English wind it doesn’t readily get to its feet again.

There have been boats moving on the canals, one or two. “Nutters” is the technical term for them. They’re evidently not, as proven by the simple fact of their moving, the brightest little bulbs on the Corporation Christmas tree. I must confess that even a jaded old (miserable, cantankerous, dour, grouchy, prickly, crusty, crochetty, choleric, sour, bloody-minded, vinegarish) cynic such as myself was surprised late this afternoon, thus, to hear one of my least-favourite sounds – a boat engine to the Cardinal’s blind stern going into “emergency reverse” and “bugger the bearings, con-rods and valvegear, Doris, give me all the revolutions she’s got”.

Full panic mode.

They missed the Cardinal’s rear end, shot across the canal and then cut in front leaving a margin into which one might have fitted no more than two or three coats of British Leyland-quality paint, aimed themselves vaguely at the towpath and then performed some sort of Satanic ritual involving ropes, rooster-tails from the prop, all points of the compass and a good deal of confusion. I have taken subtle steps in the photograph below to maintain the anonymity of the boat concerned, I feel their pain, I’ve been up Faeces Creek without a paddle once or twice myself.


I often wonder if chaps such as me, myself, and I, and indeed anyone with anything even approaching my own physique (“Greek god”), who has wrestled with a narrowboat in the wind, tamed it and lived to tell the tale, would make good cowboys. There can’t be a “steer” or un-broken Palomino more ill-behaved than a narrowboat in an English breeze. Note to self for possible future career move.

I watched. Of course I watched – schadenfreude is one of life’s few free pleasures, and contrary to the rumours (and evidence provided in several courts of law) I am human.


They got moored and I was just about to return to writing my treatise on the innate uselessness of the overwhelming majority of the species when more excitement hove around the far bend. I refer, of course, to the monumental clouds of smoke visible in the photograph above.

These noxious and particulate “M’aidez and m’aidez me quickly you fools” messages eventually proved to have another narrowboat hidden inside them (who ever said that cracking the code of smoke signals was a difficult business), and it wasn’t so much “coming around the corner” as it was being obviously steered by a physically-uncoordinated  gibbon high on some cheap hallucinogen.

This boat then smacked into the towpath and continued to belch ridiculous amounts of smoke. I, and indeed the crew of the recently-moored vessel I’d just been watching, assumed that a conflagration was underway. I am not generally good in a crisis but here, today, I excelled myself and played my full part in proceedings, flinging a fire-extinguisher over-arm, a la Geoff Capes, into the smoke where I hoped that it would a., not actually hit anyone nice on the head and b., find someone prepared to go close enough to the unpredictable exothermic nonsense to use it per the instructions.

As it turned out, the chap on the burning boat was rather puzzled, since he always manoeuvred such a fashion, and the belching, battle-field smoke was, he said, the usual result of his lighting his heating stove. Everything was tickettyboo and par for the course, he said.

I have no idea, if such smoke were genuinely the norm, what he used to light his stove or what he then burned in it. Chip-fat and cannisters of WWI Mustard Gas would be my best guess.

At least the wind is – currently – blowing the clouds away from the Cardinal, for which I am truly grateful.

There endeth the afternoon’s fun and games. You never quite know on a canal, one moment it’s all deliciously devoid of examples of the not-me Human species, and the next there’s two partial shipwrecks and a pollution crisis that’ll doubtless see Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior moored up behind us by morning. Save the whale! No! Bugger the whale – save the silver from the dining room and the larger of the two Canalettos from the library, they’re the only valuables we have left.

It’s started to hail now, as I type this into the interwebnets. Either that, or someone’s throwing gravel at my boat. It’s probably Michael Fish throwing gravel at my boat.

I can’t take this pace, you know, I’m just not built for it. Something is going to have to give one of these days, and I suspect that it will be my mind that goes again. It does, do you see? Two concurrent crises and a chilblain and I’m done for, I sink into Horlicks addiction and terminal gibbering. I’m on the edge even now, just look at me in the mirror (photograph below). If that’s not the face of a man on the edge then my name’s not … um … Copenhagen? No, no, that was the Duke of Wellington’s horse, so it can’t be me. Well, whatever my name is, I’m on the ruddy edge.


Winter, eh? Mother always used to fly south for the winter, but then it was so easy for her, she’d been convinced for quite some years that she was a budgerigar. Caused quite a flap in medical circles, I can tell you. The Civil Aviation Authority were none too impressed the first couple of times either.

Father used to cover himself in goose-grease and have himself sewn into his London club in October, and he was rarely seen out of the metropolitan area again before April or May.

I’m stuck here on the canals, a tiny weeny little fleck of sentient life, sanity’s only representative among the nutjobs and wackos, and I still can’t remember my name.

I think it’s time for Horlicks and a more robust approach to hibernation.

We, my homunculus and I, must move the Cardinal on again in a couple of days, otherwise the waterways rozzers will be after us, and that wouldn’t do at all.

It’s supposed to get quieter on the canals in winter. Quieter they said. Quieter I was promised. Where is my peace and quiet, I ask you? Where?

If anyone wants me, I’ll be under my duvet. No idea how you’ll get my attention though unless you know my name.

Wellington? No, no, that can’t be my name either, that was Copenhagen’s duke.

Does it really matter in the final analysis?

After all, no-one can hear you scream on the canals…



  1. The Unconflagration Neighbor would motivate me on to new harbors and seas.
    BUT not if the wind is blowing.
    Perhaps if it continues to blow you can bribe the spotter with a bit of rum to warm them up on a very cold job. 💨🍃💨🍃💨🍃

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been lucky and the wind has stayed in the right direction – for the moment! Fingers crossed… I’ve never seen a chimney smoking like that one before, I can’t imagine what would make that sort of volume of smoke – or how they managed inside the boat! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank’ee ma’am! This country is truly a country filled with folk all carrying spare and inappropriate clothing, “just in case”! Carry a raincoat and never need it – forget to take it, and be drenched… 😉


    1. Hi Chris – thank you, tis much appreciated! I am awaiting a reasonably dry spell today or tomorrow, I have a job or two to do in the engine bay – and then I need a brief window of reduced breezes so that I can move the boat along to a new neighbourhood! Picking the moment seems to be an art form… Boats with crews of two and more can move more easily, with only me to hang onto the ropes against the wind it’s a bit more complicated – and bags of slippery, muddy fun! For a form of boating that is all about low speeds of no more than 4mph (and I rarely reach that giddy level) the wind doesn’t half play a large role! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You really have people who go around and check how many days you are in a specific spot? Wow what anal retentive people. If the weather is not good enough you should be able to stay where you are as needed. That seems designed to create a problem to life and boat home. Be well and warm. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We do indeed, there is a small regiment of people spread over the canal system paid to walk along and note down our boat name, number and position into their rinky-dinky little iPads… The (self-declared) powers that be also require in the terms of my boat licence that I not only move, but move from “place A to place B to place C to etc without then returning to place A yadda yadda” – while they also won’t (can’t) define “place” and other than the 14 days of the Parliamentary Act won’t (can’t) define a timescale! It is indeed all very anal, although I suspect that the problems and this sledgehammer “solution” is the result on boater’s nonsenses and abuses in city areas, especially London… Here in the (much nicer) north of the country tis much more civilised.

      The “Ship’s Log” link on the menu here at the top of this blog is just one of the records I keep of our movements so that I can prove where I was and when. I also keep card and till receipts when I use local shops. The “Spotters Spotted” page is just the times when I have incidentally noticed the official spotters logging me – there must be a zillion or more times when I don’t happen to see them! It’s a lot of fuss over not much, but I have to keep on my guard since they “reserve the right to not renew a boat licence” – which means that the Cardinal and I would be off the water and homeless if we transgressed and they got snitty about it.

      It’s the usual “modern” petty bureaucracy that sees the real customers reduced to the level of an annoyance to the bureaucracy. As ever, the general workforce of the “authority” is human and nice, it’s the “senior” management…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. We had our first snow in the night, a mere powdering enough to settle until it warmed up to freezing the rest of the day! I would definitely have my rear up against the stove and to be fair we haven’t got anywhere near to what the weathermen are forecasting for this winter – perhaps the odd lit canal boat nearby might save on kindling? Stay safe and warm as you move ever onwards……

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The stove and I are having words again and a minor battle of wills – the coal boat didn’t have any of my usual brand (Excel) so this week I am burning something called “Supertherm”. Somehow it produces more ash than its initial volume, I have no idea how – so much ash that it can smother itself in a couple of hours. I now have a routine of kneeling in front of the stove and raking it through with the poker while cursing about “bloody artificial coal eggs made with brick dust and glue”! 🙂 Note to self – put order in for coal boat much earlier than last time!


    1. When this place does “lousy weather” it really goes to town on it! Last night was constant hail and heavy rain – I suspect that the towpath this morning, when I eventually hitch up my skirts and step out onto it, will be soggier than the canal itself… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. How odd, we have had marvellous weather here for over a week now. There was a proper, real frost this morning and the sun has shone all day again. Chin up!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s all great fun, just a tad unpredictable! There is a word that I remember hearing a lot during my childhood – “squall”. My father was a deep-sea trawlerman for many years, doubtless he was familiar with them. I find myself using the word (to myself) more and more these days. Relatively peaceful and clearing up one moment and blasting winds and lashing rain the next – then back to dull again… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.