There was a spot of frost about yesterday morning.
Alright, that’s typical English understatement, it was as cold as the heart of government.
Yeti were seen to be slipping their toes into Ugg boots and to be wriggling into Duffle coats, scarves and woolly hats. The local drug users found themselves at a loss as the flames from their Zippo lighters froze solid underneath their spoons.
The Cardinal’s ordinarily better-behaved stove flue is smoking that way because I had just bunged on some fresh “coal” briquettes, some of which must have been harbouring damp. Mr Stove, generally in a good mood more often than not these days, keeps the Cardinal sufficiently warm overnight (with just one or two nocturnal feedings) that I don’t get goosebumps when leaping out of my bunk and performing my customary two-hundred press-ups, three-hundred star-jumps and warm-down stretching exercises.
My domestic first-thing-in-the-morning routine is an up and down the boat one, cleaning and feeding the stove, checking the stated state of the battery banks, putting the kettle on to heat, firing up the MiFi unit and asking the laptop to join me in the study, that sort of thing. Narrowboats are by design long and narrow, so each job usually involves plodding from one end of the boat to the otherm trying to remember to do half of two other jobs on the way past. Eventually it all settles down and I can huddle over the morning news online, sipping a glass of the blood of the orange fruit and savouring the aroma of coffee grounds drowning in hot, not boiling, water.
The hoar frost appeared to be playing technical havoc with the Virgin electric trains passing by in the dark, each one was trailing blue-white fire and a trail of sparks from its overhead power-pickup pylon. The sight was more than a touch post-apocalyptic and very impressive. I noticed later in the day that all trains were then passing at no more than a walking pace, presumably while some chap in hi-vis mended the damage with a hammer. They’re all back to “normal” now.
The ropes were frozen solid again of course.
It was quite amusing in an “I’m in the warm and just being nosy” schadenfreude sort of way to watch the boat moored up ahead trying to untie. Their wooden cratch cover had frozen solid too, and required much messing around to loosen so that they could reach out to the ropes. The ropes themselves didn’t know whether to bend or to just snap like twigs. The gentleman on the bow eventually worked everything loose and flung the rope to his companion on the towpath. The rope remained in the shape of a triple-granny double-wonder that’ll-do knot, and had to hugged and cajoled into coiling away.
Ee by gum, I were reet glad to not be moving, just watching.
The coal situation is not quite as dire as the lead photograph would suggest. The Cardinal sports an “indoor” coal cellar, and that, at the moment, still contains four sacks of coal, one of kindling and a bucket of the tools for the making of Man’s red fire. The single sack on the well deck looks lonely and forelorn, but in truth it is not alone.
However, Halsall, yonder The Fuel Boat, is on the roam and rove again after the confustications of the Silly Season (Spendmas and New Year). We have been in touch via the techno-wizardry of the interwebnettings, and they are due to pull alongside and tie on for bunkering tomorrow afternoon. Six more sacks will join that lonely one, and fifty or sixty litres of gently warmed Napoleon Diesel will splosh into the Cardinal’s tank to bring him back to “brimmed”. I must remember to keep my shoes on and a jacket handy.
If nowt else, I want this weight of fuel aboard to help with keeping us as low in the water as possible, the better, I hope, to get through the Harecastle Tunnel sometime very soon.
The way ahead looks, initially, to be inoffensive enough…
…but it leads to an overgrown place called “Stoke on Trent”, and that is a place that is as rough as an elderly badger’s bum.
Mr Wedgwood began his career hereabouts, the site of his factory is just up ahead. I am sure though that this (nineteen sixties?) “Sunshine Desserts” type of blot on the landscape is not the original factory!
This is where they make that unglazed blue stuff with the white raised figures on it, the stuff that makes my mind ache just touching its rough surface. Some people love it, my mother loved it, but I don’t.
I won’t be taking the factory tour, thank you very much indeed but no, thank you.
One thing that I do thank Mr Wedgwood for though is the canal.
The Trent & Mersey canal was completed in 1777, due in large part to the self-interest of Mr Wedgwood and his need to move goods to and fro his factories as efficiently as possible and at minimum cost.
I shall pause to salute the factory when I cruise past.
Unless there’s a really heavy frost again, in which case it’ll be to cold to pause and he’ll have to make do with just a nod.
Is it bed-time yet? Too early to go to my cabin again with a steaming mug and a damned good book? Are you sure? It must be mid-evening somewhere in the world, why do I have to keep to local time?
Damn, I’ve just remembered that I finished my damned good book yestereve, I shall have to choose a fresh one from the shelves. Somewhere there’s a Hornblower that I haven’t read yet. It’ll probably take me until evening just to find it.