The F-F-F-Fudge Boat, Neil Morrissey’s pub, and the two-narrowboat garage. I am Stoned no longer. #narrowboat #England

Aye, well, ‘appen as reckon as mebbe.

The Cardinal and I have mooched on. That we have mooched on in concert is good, since were we to move separately I would look like a right plonker wading along the canal, and The Wolsey would present an eerie sight cruising sans Admiral at the helm.

Four locks, just over two and a half miles. The four locks in question are the penultimate winter stoppage, the Meaford Locks, due to close on the 7th of January, and tis reet goodly that we are past those. The only other stoppage now in our way is Trentham Lock, and that is not due to be closed for work until late in February. The Trentham lock sounds like a horrid beast, at just a smidgen shy of twelve feet deep.

We lie now at anchor (alright, tied up on goat-chains to armco) in the village of Barlaston. ‘Barlaston’ means ‘Beowulf’s left kneecap’ or some such, in Anglo-Saxon, and the village was originally founded by cave men who specialised in painting dinosaurs. We are also now in Wedgwood territory, the original factory is getting within spiitting distance. Actually, we’re in a fifty-yard gap between some seventies-build housing and the railway line again. I quite like the railway line.

England is a funny old place. Some parts of it are what they are, content and complete within themselves, other parts are trying so hard to be more and more and more that you can see the sinews in the infrastructure straining. This is (another) one such. New money is desperate to look like old money, but actually just looks like white UPVC double-glazing and an equally stark-white Audi “Big-Nuts” GTi 4X4 SUV “Massif” on the block-paved driveway, three feet or less away from the neighbours’ similar stark white German automobilen mit der designer badges and trillion-horse-power engines.

Behind the facade is more of the same old, same old, and I have to note that these moorings are actually Dog Shy-Talley. No-one seems to bother to scoop their designer dogs’ poopsicles. I managed to avoid it all while mooring up, but avoiding labrador-mousses does detract from the real business of tying up securely, especially since the bank here is low and necessitates going down on at least one knee to furtle around for the armco…

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On the trip here I passed what appears to be a half-cottage half-barn half-conservatory big gates place with what looked to be the world’s only two-narrowboat garage in the lawn.

I got the first three of the four Meaford locks to myself. One was agin me and needed emptying, but two were of the self-draining variety (mayhap why the repairs are scheduled?) and just needed a tweak to lower the water level half a metre or so. On the fourth lock a boat with a crew of thousands caught me up, which was most fortunate, since the towpath at that lock was closed off and sealed with wire-mesh fencing. To open the gates I had to leave the Cardinal and walk along the nearby lane, then retrace my steps. One of the crew of thousands – his motivation being, I suspect, to get me out of their way – offered to work me through the lock, thank’ee kindly and yes please.

Barlaston is another of those towns with bog-all in the way of mooring except for the “approved” stretches, most of the bank being highly eroded and/or buried under yards and yards of weed and reeds, and doubtless too shallow too now, having not had a boat near the edge in decades. I was just getting to the stage of “oh good grief, this is Stone all over again” when several things happened.

Passing under Bridge 103 the Fudge Boat hove into view, moored up and doing what business it might, into view over the top of the F-F-F-F-Fudge Boat hove Mr Neil Morrissey’s pub, the Plume of Feathers “with ye olde Neil Morrissey”, and some moorable banking with vacant space appeared.

Pheeeeee-ew.

A lot of the moorings are on a curve, and the options there would have been to leave either bow or stern poking out rudely into the canal, or to split the difference and leave both bow and stern poking out but with only half each of the rude poke (but still with all of the step-on step-off disconvenience). I pootled on a little bit further along and found, wonder of wonders, a straight stretch where a more sane equilibrium might be achieved.

Pheeeeee-ew.

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The old lorry-tyre motif is perhaps a practicality too far…

The Fudge Boat is really more of an old-fashioned sweet shop than anything else, stocking as it does all manner of sugary nostalgia. I bought a small bag of that peculiar small “rock” stuff that is of a consistency halfway between “rock” and “fondant icing”. No idea of its real or proper name. It hails from the days when sweets weren’t all made in the depths of Europe to suit foreign tastebuds. The stuff that I bought promises all varieties of fruit flavourings, and it may indeed cover the entire panoply, but we must remember that I have but three functional tastebuds – hot, cold, and curry.

Neil Morrissey‘s pub?

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Plume of Feathers. Mr Neil Morrissey’s pub. Barlaston, Trent & Mersey Canal.

This is it, the Plume of Feathers, and this is their website here.

I may troll in there in the coming day or two, order a pint of Bishop’s Old Scruttock, wave my autograph book about and demand a “selfie” with Neil at the bar.

Or I may not.

A day of gusty wind is forecast hereabouts for tomorrow, so these moorings will do very nicely thank you for a while or half a while. The foot traffic on the towpath is impressive, we must be between somewhere that people live and somewhere that people want to walk to. There have been a slack handful of anglers about, but they have been of the six-foot rod school, not the thirty-foot carbon-fibre pole variety. The cyclists? What can I say about the cyclists, except that “keen” cyclists for cycling’s sake are the same everywhere with the ting-ting-ting get out of my way you damned pedestrians, and with the yellow and black lycra barely covering bodies more suited, generally, to oil-cloth kaftans, Egyptian mummy bandages or even, we can but hope, someday soon, fashionable ankle-length concrete overcoats.

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All of the other boats here present appear to have left a bit of a “git gap” between themselves, so I have followed suit. This is winter after all, with reduced traffic and there are lots of moorings ahead of me (and on the annoyingly curved bits).

In busier places and busier times, such as the Llangollen in summer, tis more polite to moor bow to stern, or stern to bow, or both, without wasting mooring space on polite elbow-room. The main thing to note is that this is on the canal – nothing akin to being squished like a sardine, side by side in some marina, so bow to stern, when needed, is not so bad as might seem.

Not unless you are trying to squeeze a 57′ boat into what may actually be a 56′ gap.

The train line here is quite busy, but I do like the sound of trains passing, and they won’t keep me from my sleep.

Four locks and a few miles is not a bad cruise for me. Less than that and it feels unworthy, much more and it leaves me creaking and groaning, clutching at my lower spine and barely able to lift a mug of Ovaltine to my lips.

An awful lot of other folk on the canals, even at this time of year, seem to set themselves targets such a fifty miles and twenty locks, or twenty miles and fifty locks, but I think that that’s slightly insane. For one thing, they’ll all have missed the Fudge Boat and Mr Neil Morrissey’s pub.

I’ll have my customary strolls forward and off to the sides in the coming couple of days, and see what else these road-runner types have missed.

Chin-chin for the mo, though, folks. In fact, th-th-th-that’s all, folks.

Oh F-F-F-F-Fudge…

Ian H., &Co.

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14 Comments

    1. It is amazing, isn’t it? There are also, dotted about the system, book boats and craft boats, and there’s a boat moored just a few yards back from the Cardinal at the moment that produces pet portraits. Somewhere about is a roving floating pizza boat too, complete with wood-fired pizza oven on deck… But before you imagine a floating market, they are all dotted about in 2,000 miles of canal and river, and only meet up in any sort of commercial density at pre-organised festivals. Nice to see though, and I feel obliged to support where I can. 😉

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  1. The pub looks cozy, but I’d probably pull up a table in front of the ffffudge boat and be just as content. 😀

    I was expecting the pub to be more a band oriented place, but apparently not? Which is all to the good. You can’t relax when a band is playing.

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  2. Yep, definitely Edinburgh rock and always put me in mind of a box of different coloured chalk. I love that stuff that looks like the middle of a Crunchie Bar without the chocolate (?cinder toffee) either way tooth rot! Worst of all is the ‘tablet’ fudge they have in Scotland = pure sugar and far too sweet. Interesting piece Mr. H and with menus (love a good feret around a menu)!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have heard about “tablet” and how it is just about one hundred percent sugar. Scotland of course is not known for the population’s love of fresh fruit and veggies, certainly it wasn’t when I was a sprogling there! The bag that I bought was the least evil that I could see, and I always feel obliged to try to support canal-based businesses (subject to their being cheerful and not a total ripski-off corset-cough). 😉 My teeth are largely made from old dentistry bills these days! Several such have retired to the Bahamas on the strength of my gob…

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    1. That’s the stuff, but these are the like extrusions two or three inches long. Definitely that consistency though, and those colours. 🙂

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  3. I could do with another helping of that sort of life, but without the compulsion (financially motivated) of doing half a county, flights of locks, a bridge and a tunnel or two daily. Amazing that on our brief excursion we actually managed to find several free moorings set in pristine countryside and with not another boat in sight.

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    1. I do luckily have the luxury of taking my time, the other folks are quite often pressed. Saddest are the uber-expensive hire boats, the holidaymakers aboard all understandably desperate to maximise their holiday experience – I get to sit out the lousy weather, usually, they have but a week to enjoy. Mind you, some canal folk bring their own weather along with them – clouds of gloom hovering above their boat! 😉

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      1. Some people, indeed, find that the mode of holiday does not turn out to their liking. We loved it but I was one of the desperate ones wanting to maximise each moment, and sitting doggedly at the helm in pouring rain.

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