Her Majesty’s Met Office is frothing at the ears again, issuing wind and rain and thunder and lightning warnings. Well, we’ve had the rain and I can believe that there’s more, much more, on the way. We’ve got the wind, gusting above the Hutson Boat-Move Indexometer. Will we actually get the promised son et lumière show starring The Gods?
Certainly, summat’s brewin’.
Whatever’s brewing has been on the boil for a while though, we ought not to feign surprise.
We have mooched on a little, the Cardinal and I. As planned we executed a stealth raid on the six locks through Middlewich (by which I mean Big Lock, the Middlewich three, Wardle Lock and Stanthorne Lock). In spite of taking place at sparrowfa*rt o’clock though, it proved to be no stealth raid at all, with boats abounding and queues at the locks in the weak early-morning sunshine.
I beganded (new word) our mooch with a visit to the water point near Middlewich Big Lock and filled the main tank, my cooking/coffee water carriers and my hip-flask.
There are rules for old age – never pass a toilet without visiting it, never miss an opportunity for a nap, never trust a fart unless you’re wearing Tena-Pants™, that sort of thing. Similarly there are rules for narrowboaters – never pass an Elsan point, never ignore a water point, never pass a rubbish bin, keep your tinder dry and keep your pistols loaded with grape.
Then the boats appeared, someone else making a dawn raid on the water point, a boat coming down the lock with a couple aboard who talked ten to the dozen, sharing much more than I would like to know or needed to know about their “domestic” arrangements. Honestly? I’d rather that they’d handed me tea and toast than this over-share of information. The colony in the Americas could bin its entire stock of Sodium Pentothal if only they’d realise how people talk (and talk and talk) in a most inappropriate manner while working through locks.
Make Julian Assange take a 70′ narrowboat up and down the Wigan flight a couple of times, keep your ears open and you’ll save yourselves a fortune in hypodemic nerdles alone.
Want to know the location of the bodies? Ask someone in some quick conversational aside while they’re halfway through the Cheshire Locks and you’ll get local land-marks and very probably grid-references. Probably also the locations of several bodies that you weren’t even looking for.
The couple (who sleep in separate beds) were happy for me to assist – with their locking, thanks be to Bit About Britain, see comments below, for pointing out my contextual faux-plonkez! 🙂 – and also happy to motor themselves off into the distance with a ta very much. The boat at the water point below had lots of fascinating things to do of their own, none of which were “sharing the lock” or making eye contact…
Middlwich Big Lock, probably so named because it is an utterly anachronistic double-width lock on a narrow canal, is a bit of a booger (mispelling). It only has a level change of roughly five Imperial footsies but there are no walking boards on the lower gates (id est no way across), the footbridge is closed and the gates leak almost as much water as a single paddle allows to flow in. For a filthy rotten we-don’t-need-your-sort-around-here single-hander, thus, only one gate and one set of paddles is actually really accessible. Even if the gates didn’t leak, it wouldn’t be a fast filler (or emptier).
Going up the lock and tying the Cardinal to a near-side bollard to stop him roaming around like an adventurous duck in a hotel bath tub a chap must unwisely shuffle over the top gates and open the far-side paddle so that the water has a chance of catching up with itself – while being careful to close the paddle and totter quickly back across the top gates before the levels equalise and the gates, free from the water pressure, begin to flap around and open themselves, leaving a cove stranded on the “wrong” side. Try to be too clever and misjudge it, allowing the top gates to separate before you’ve got back across them, and a chap could be covered in “Embarrassment Factor Fifty” or higher.
Eventually the water levels almost equalised, I closed the second paddle, tip-toed through the tulips over the still-firmly-closed gates, and caught the water level just before the leaky lower gates could start it dropping again… I could open one of the top gates, move the Cardinal through and then dangle his stern in the lock exit while I tidied everything up and then we could scoot off – about half a mile to the Middlewich Three.
Well look at this, what do we have here? Audrey, of Driftaway Holidays – the boat load of bunken drums who cared not a jot for their own late-evening full-throttle shenanigans a couple of days ago…
Moored for the night on a waterpoint, discovered in the long, early-morning shadows. Tsk tsk.
All blinds and curtains drawn, still – I assume – sleeping off another night on the alcopops.
How unfortunate then that I am childish enough to discover within myself a sudden imperative to perform a few full-throttle manoeuvres of my own alongside the sleeping beauties, and to test the Cardinal’s (120db) horn half a dozen times.
Childish, yes, but satisfying.
Anyway, the Middlewich Three. I was helped up those feeling rather like a chap with his trousers on fire. Three other boats oiked up just after I’d worked myself through the lower of the three locks and I was very gently assisted
out of their way then by the guides and hunting parties sent out from the multi-crewed boats to prepare their own way ahead. 🙂 Seriously, thanks for the help, chaps, twas much appreciated.
There was some fun to be had at Wardle Lock – on England’s shortest canal (some 47 metres or so…) – which is a lock immediately after a right-angled turn under a very low bridge under a main road. I moored up before making the turn, since without the luxury of advance hunting parties and native guides there’s no way for a chap to know if there’s already a boat on the single-boat-capacity lock landing just under the bridge. Unless I wanted to risk some odd reversing manoeuvre I had to moor up temporarily and walk around under the bridge to check first.
There were two boats up top, one in the process of coming down, one waiting his turn.
To add spice to the mix, for some time now there’s been a boat moored just in the exact place where it can make the turn as awkward as possible, right outside that Last Bastion of Customer Service & Honourable Dealings, King’s Lock Chandlery. No idea why the boat’s there, but it is, double moored too just to make a turn onto the T&M south a thing of pain and injury for all involved (unless you’re in a rowing boat or a canoe or something short, very short).
It would be my turn in the lock (and on the turn) once the boat in the process of coming down exited the lock and came through the bridge.
They wanted to go south…
We’ve all done it. We’re all prone to doing it whenever there’s an audience. I myself once performed a fifteen and a half point turn at the end of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct for the amusement of several hundred tourists with still and video cameras.
The gentleman on the descending boat made a monumental abomination of his turn, and it only got worse. The “folk” on the double-moored boat that was taking away a third or so of anyone’s facility to properly make the turn came out, stood on the well deck, shouted and then folded their arms and stared, doing the whole “passive-aggressive” thing to “help” matters along. I assume that they haven’t fully understood yet why their boat is being hit so many times, moored where it is, right opposite the blind exit of a bridge on a canal “T-junction”…
Anyway, the gentleman’s torture ended, they turned onto the lock landing south, and it was suddenly my turn to oik the Cardinal out, back, around through ninety degrees under the bridge and away into the lock the unfortunate boat had just vacated.
An accident happened.
The accident was that I nailed it. Better yet, I looked casual while I did so. Pure fluke, I assure you, but I had a grin on my insides wider than my appendectomy and lobotomy scars laid end to end. No revs, no rooster-tail of spray – I think that perhaps the Cardinal was bored and took himself under the bridge and to the lock. It was my impression that, under the continuing (wholly inherited) passive-aggressive stare of the idiotically-moored boater remaining on his well deck, had I asked the Cardinal to dance the Foxtrot and then take a bow before reversing under the bridge and performing a high-speed j-turn into the lock, he would have been pleased to do so, for our combined honour.
Tis possible to moor thence in the main drag through Middlewich, and the moorings there are very nice. Indeed, there were even a few spaces available, but I wanted us farther on though, in preparation for the Met Office’s weather hysterics. The plan is to be at services again within the week, but en route to be away from trees. The tree that fell in Marston and managed to tickle our mooring ropes was warning enough about winds and old trees in soggy soil. Besides, trundling through the next lock, Stanthorne, puts me psychologically out of the town of Middlewich. I feel as though we are now back out and into countryside proper.
We’re on a spot the only downside of which is the “Black Post of Doom” dictating “48 hours maximum”. Yes, well, if there’s lightning and high winds as promised then we’ll be the judge of that. 😉
Today’s sky certainly seems to be promising something.
If there’s room at them then there are places that I can oik us along to without putting too many lives and limbs (and funny-bones) at risk as I fly the Cardinal like a big steel kite, trying to persuade him back to the towpath on the centreline. If I judge it proper to do so. We shall see. We’ll cross under that bridge when we get to it. These restrictions, while placed with the best of intentions, I think, are so Byzantine that if other boats hereabouts were to move then I could walk the Cardinal either back two boat lengths or forward two boat lengths and be totally de-restricted (allowing me the full fourteen days of the 1995 Act). It is as daft as moving two parking spaces to either side, should they vacate, and being able to park for a fortnight instead of two days…
I have advised the folk on those boats that they are quite possibly in my way, and offered them the example of my own dear, late parents as what may happen to people who get in my way.
It is more likely though that the Met Office is merely having hysterics, and we shall be treated to no such lightning (haven’t seen a decent lightning storm for years and years), although I agree that the gustoids of the wind are a little adventurous on slab sides fifty-seven feet long by six feet high. Certainly this afternoon I am not for the moving.
This may well be the ideal weather conditions in which to dig out and re-watch my DVDs of Hornblower, and the film Master & Commander.
Damn it, I think that I shall.
Capt. Jack Aubrey: Do you want to see a guillotine in Piccadilly?
Capt. Jack Aubrey: Want to call that raggedy-arsed Napoleon your king?
Capt. Jack Aubrey: You want your children to sing the “La Marseillaise?”
Right, I must away. I have a boat full of food, not one item of which actually appeals at the moment, even though if I don’t eat I shall like as not turn into Mr Crabby Old Hector (not that many can tell the difference). Soup? Rice and something? Pasta and something? Curry? A ruddy tin of peaches and another cafetiere of coffee? Some chuffing thing has to appeal, surely?
Oh. Oh well.
Chin-chin for the mo., anyway.
Ian H., & Cardinal W.