Two, almost three hours of bliss!
Then people arrived.
We moved ourselves this morning, the Cardinal and I. Just two and a half of the English Imperial miles, but five locks, including the intriguingly broken Middlewich Big Lock.
The day has not, though, been without …incident and mystery.
The mystery is dogs. I am a serious lover of the dog species. Ninety-nine point nine percent of dogs not only tolerate me but actually think that I am “really quite OK, for a human”. But not today. Nope.
Not long after six of the morning o’heck I had cause to cross the very busy roadway that we were hitherto moored alongside. There was a chap trying to cross in t’opposite direction. He had a large bag in one hand and the lead to a very large dog in the other, so I waited until there was a gap in the triffic traffic and held the canal-side gate open so that he and dog could just bound across in the gap and leap to grassy towpath safety. The dog was looking at me peculiarly. It was reluctant to cross at all, staring at me as though I were the offspring of a one-night stand between The Devil and the Borg Queen. Halfway across the road, still looking at me in horror, the dog refused to go further (closer), struggled, slipped his collar and backed off…
Traffic halted (this is England), the man eventually re-secured his dog, thankfully, and yet still the dog behaved as though I had blazing red eyes and an exoskeleton. I backed off ten yards and the man eventually persuaded his dog through. I apologised (for what I do not know, but I am English, so I apologised perhaps for holding the gate open…) and the man had no idea what was wrong, his dog he said was usually blah blah licketty-cuddle blah big softy loves everyone.
Later this morning at lock number two of the day (dog two of the day) a woman was walking her young Labrador on the towpath, on the opposite side of the lock to me, while I waited for the lock to fill. The dog stared at me, it set its paws and wouldn’t be dragged, it barked and barked and barked and barked at me. This time the woman apologised on behalf of her dog, normally so placid, so friendly, no idea what’s got into her today, &etc &etc. As she dragged the poor dog away it kept looking behind, staring at me, still barking.
Where we are currently moored there is a boat with two collie dogs. Dogs three and four of the day. One dog utterly ignored me – and didn’t approach, let alone come close, kept quite far away in fact. The other collie stared at me and barked and barked and barked and barked, and kept coming at me as though to bite, but not quite being brave enough to go all-in on the attack…
What the heckitty-heck, I ask, is going on?
I love dogs, dogs love me – but not today, not they.
I’m not certain that I even want to know why!
Anyway, the cruise-ette, Bramble Cuttings, bliss and wotnot.
These are rather splendid moorings. The moment that I oiked up, rather unusually for me I had what I can only describe as an urge to …there’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just say it …an urge to sit outside. Very un-me. Most not-I. So I answered the urge and did sit outside. I read more of my current and most splendid Arthur W. Upfield. The birds twittered. The trees rustled. The wooden bench provided didn’t quite cut the mustard, so I dug out my fancy folding chair and relaxed. Hmmmmmmmmm. Ahhhhhhhhhhh.
Stomach eventually rumbled. Even more unusually for me, I decided to eat al fresco (virtually unheard of). Pasta a la whatever was available. Reet delicious it were. Just to show that I too can exhibit symptoms of Smartphone-Instagramitis-mit-Facenbook, here is a photograph of my lunch…
I got more than two but less than three hours of bucolic bliss and then two things happened. It began to rain, and people began to arrive. The first boat overshot, changed his mind (“mind”), gave it wellie in reverse, smacked into the Cardinal’s stern end, shouted at his “the wife” who replied in kind, as you do, didn’t so much as acknowledge me or the boat he’d just exchanged some serious paint with, and moored slap in the middle. After twenty minutes, five of which were, for some reason, spent sitting on his well-deck and attempting to “out-stare” me (as I sat inside the Cardinal, bow doors open because it’s humid), they left. No idea what that was all about either.
A very shiny boat then oiked up – the full red, green, stripes, castles and roses, vintage engine, you name it, and he filled the gap betwixt myself and a boat that had sneaked on to the far-end, with mayhap two cigarette-paper widths to spare at bow and stern. There are, I have to admit, some boaters out there (out here) who won’t be happy until they’ve got a parrot and a wooden leg. With the red and green (which should never be seen) flashing unavoidably in my line of vision I may well get one of my heads soon, and have to ask Eugene if I may borrow his axe…
My eyes are beginning to roll in their sockets – one clockwise, one anti-clockwise, and they’re not rolling at the same speed as one another.
Why do people put bright red alongside bright green? Eek!
Grumble grumble grumble. 😉
Should it stop raining later I may, I say just may, go and have another stab at this “sitting outside” thingy, perhaps with another mug of java.
One of the stops I made en route this morning was to refill the main tank with water – and I did use the (official, CaRT waterpoint, under lock-and-key) tap that I had hitherto not even noticed, at the two abandoned buildings of an earlier post here.
Ghostly water, anyone? 😉 I’ll let you know if it makes good coffee.
The broken lock? Well, that’s Middlewich Big Lock. “Big” because it is wider than is usual hereabouts, almost wide enough for two boats side by side, so as well as back and forth, a boat might wander from side to side as it is worked through. There are double gates top and bottom. The “broken” element though, is that there are no walking boards (the usual boards on the side of the lock gates, used for crossing from one side t’other) and the footbridge nearby is closed – so a single-hander twonk such as myself has access to only one side of the lock, one set of gates, one set of paddles… on a lock that is incredibly slow to fill and slow to empty (the leaking of the top gates almost matching the leaking of the lower, and both nearly matching the efforts of one paddle).
It took me a moment to work this out. The good thing is that this lock is only 5′ 1″ deep, so having done the necessary I could step on and off the boat without recourse to (damned wet, damned slimy) ladders. The other good thing is that the Cardinal, Greek and Roman gods bless his little cotton socks, instead of flailing all over the double-width, stayed glued nicely to the near-side lock wall. Huzzah for the Cardinal! No, seriously – huzzah!
There are some interesting narrows on the way here, mostly due to vast overgrowths of weed and reed, and not some few blind bends in the narrows. Naturally we met an on-coming boat in the tightest of these, but since both he and I were hoofing it at a crawling pace, expecting some such sort of disconvenience, there was little to no drama.
Bramble Cuttings. Perhaps we shall return in the off-season, towards winter, and see what it’s all about then. Or perhaps not, since I notice that on the maps – but not in the Nicholson guidebooks – Bramble Cuttings is just north of Hell’s Kitchen Bridge (number 176). Hmm.
We shall remaineth here for (at least) the night, anyway, and see what tomorrow brings. Hopefully it will bring a drastic improvement in the worrying reaction that dogs have been displaying to me of late. Perhaps also the oomph to move on and onwards, closer to the full services which is what we need and are generally aiming for. Services that we are beginning to need with a capital “N”.
All in all a weird day, what with the dogs and things.
This being England in summer the rain now appears to have set in permanently, and there’s an excess of relative coolth about the air. I think perhaps that I shall forget the hounds for the moment, rejoice in the spell of pure bucolic bliss, dig out a packet of Ginger Nut biscuits and get horizontal in front of a relaxing DVD. Then it’ll be bed-time and back to my book…
I know how to live!
Chin-chin for the mo, Ian H., and Cardinal W.