A few days ago, lazily, I took the Cardinal up through a couple of locks in the town of Middlewich – and nearer to a supermarket, thus having less distance to lug some shopping back to the boat. These moorings were right in the middle of town, albeit a relatively civilised town…
The shop in question was through a couple of alleyways, along a couple of roads, through a car park and Bob’s your aunty. Rather delightfully, the place sells 227g bags of very potable
cocaine coffee for a third or less of the more usual price, £1.20 versus £3.60 and upwards. An incentive to shop there if ever there was one.
Once the grocery baskets were sated I decided to move on again, on very nearly indeed the last leg of our cruise around the (now repaired) Middlewich breach thingummy. February it may have been but the sun was shining, the twirds were bittering and, where disturbed by floating take-away wrappers and empty beer cans, the water was sparkling. Light mast down, stove flue pipe off, tiller bar on, engine start, fenders up, ropes untied and tally ruddy ho, Doris!
It was over the breach repair (see previous post for details), up through the 11′ 1″ rise of Stanthorne Lock and out into the countryside that makes the Middlewich Branch canal one of the best. Aristotle or Democritus or someone, it may even have been Churchill, once remarked that there is nothing quite so tickettysplendid as messing about in boats, and I am beginning to agree. We pootled, we mooched, we cruised at minimum tick-over revs past lines of moored boats, and we punctuated our cruise by passing under railway bridges.
The main-line railway (and road) bridges are rather akin to the mole on Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s bum, in that the occasional dash of the blot upon (even on the sit-upon) serves only to accentuate the glowing alabaster-white beauty of the ensemble. Or, in the case of the English countryside, the alabaster-green of the whole (except when it snows, then it’s
alwhite alright to describe it too as alabaster-white).
The new bridges are invariably ugly things, designed and built under the lash of the small grey accountant, and they also serve to make wee boaters …we boaters …appreciate the ancient bridges more than ever, standing as they do, just, and only just, like inmates in an Old People’s Home waiting in line for “Happy Hour” at Matron’s Bar (half-price anti-inflammatories, sedatives and laxatives, the latter two needing especially careful balancing if dignity is to be maintained).
Some of these long-established, happier bridges have stood the test of time so well that they now allow foot and carriage passage from nowhere to nowhere. This is all to the good, because at my age (and, if you’re honest, your age) it is easy to forget where you started from, why you’re moving and where you’re going).
Doubtless due to the clemency of the weather the Cardinal and I encountered something on the order of a dozen other boats moving about. Haven’t seen such terrific traffic since Trafalgar. Well, since late summer of last year, in any event. Damned peasants. I threw mouldy cabbages and dead cats at them as we passed, and they all apologised for using my canal.
TBH (“TBH” is “Youngspeak” for “to be honest”, usually indicating someone being nothing of the sort) it took a moment or three to remember to pass on the wrong side (the “foreign” side, the right) and to allow for the swinging of the bows as we shared the shallow water. I actually had to give way at a couple of bridges! This insane traffic is one of the chief of reasons why I prefer the canals in winter over summer – fewer folk to get in my way.
I had a few potential mooring targets in mind when I set off, but the day was such a glorious one that I just kept on pootling (at our customary 2½mph), deciding that I would look for space on the “official” moorings outside Aqueduct Marina or, if they were filled with the vessels of Messrs Hoi and Polloi, continue up one more lock and seek safe harbour near Venetian. In the event the moorings near Aqueduct were what we captains of large vessels call “entirely empty”. This was doubly fortunate since one of my urgent tasks is to make enquiries in re the blacking of the Cardinal’s bottom, and Aqueduct Marina is tippetty-top of my list of places to get such done, if possible. The moorings are within easy strolling distance of verbal enquiry. Sweet!
Summer in England, and most especially summer in February in England, is a fleeting thing, and winter set in again overnight. The moment the sun set (but only on this portion of the English Empire, never the whole) the shires everywhere went from “shirt-sleeves and pints in the beer garden please” to “shall you take the penguin for its evening walk or shall I?” Confusingly, the photograph above is of sunrise the following morning, and that is the last of the overnight freezing fog and the grass is frozen.
This mooch onwards of some six and a smidgen miles and one lock puts us within two miles of closing the loop, so to speak, and being back where we began when we began.
However, for reasons alluded to earlier in this post, the loop is not to be closed for at least a week or two yet – for the Cardinal and I are now becalmed upon dry land. I kid you not, we are not upon the water…
More of that in the next post, with a little bit of video (and a lot of coffee).
Events moved apace, and there is much to tell.
So, for the mo’, à bientôt mes little post-French amis.
Damn this “French Style” coffee, just damn it to Hell. Wherever could I have bought ten packets of it? Tis doin’ my nut in.
Ian H & Cardinal W.