Five miles with a spider on my head – at an average speed of 2.67mph #narrowboat #boating

Hatstand was not impressed.

I have no idea why I do these sorts of things, it’s not as though the Guinness Book of Records are going to be interested.


Not going to happen. It was a wholly undocumented spider for one thing, about an inch across but lacking any and all serial numbers or identification plates. In the absence of his Kennel Name I have dubbed him Sir Persistent Little-Bugger.

Most people would think that cruising for a couple of hours was sufficient, but I like to go above and beyond the call of duty. I like to think of it as that extra dash of flare, a soupçon of style that is rare in a chap these days. There are few of us left who can carry off this sort of inter-species sartorial statement with any degree of success.

Half a dozen times en route Sir Persistent made himself known to me, usually by dangling in front of my eyes from the brim of my cat flap*.

*Flat cap.

Half a dozen times I evicted Sir Persistent, and thought the job finished.

These appearances had less of an effect on me than you might imagine because I have been to Hell and back with spiders over the years, and little that they do now comes as a surprise. I once woke up to find a large house-spider on my pillow, fully in focus and looking at me. I mention “fully in focus” because without my spectacles that means within about five centimetres of my eyeball. On another occasion I reached out one early morning and put aforementioned spectacles on only to discover a fully-grown house-spider was sitting on the inside of one of the lenses. Who disliked the sensation of tickling one another’s eyelashes the most I cannot say, but we both screamed during the process of separating ourselves. I’ve washed my face very energetically once in a lovely, dark, cool, wet flannel – only to discover some of the violently dismembered spider on the flannel afterwards, and of course, the rest of the archnid body-parts slathered over my face. You just don’t recover from trauma such as this, not completely, not ever.

Upon arrival at these moorings I was adjusting the mooring ropes and – yep – down he dangled again, abseiling in front of my nostrils and lecturing me on grooming, recommending the Bosch Nostril-Hair 12,000 (the newer model with the Butane flame-thrower action).

Ena_Sharples_1980 No wonder I had to give a couple of extra-hard tugs to get my flat cap off, it had been welded down with fresh spider-web. I must have looked like Ena Sharples on her way to a Yorkshire wedding.

Is it only me that these sorts of thing happen to or does anyone else cruise around with items of domestic English fauna on their head?

I made damned sure that Sir Persistent had been properly evicted (walked him a long way up the towpath) before restoring flat cap to the care and attentions of Mr Hatstand – who in spite of my swearing and flapping about remains to be convinced and retains an expression of indigestion on his face.

Oh yes – the velocity I mentioned? I timed us for part of the cruise-ette. Fifty-three minutes from leaving moorings to Bridge 19. The Ordnance Survey wallahs tell me that this is a distance of 2.3636 miles and Messrs Arithmetic & Co suggest that our average velocity thus must have been on the order of 2.67mph. The average naturally accounts for some measure of passing moored boats at creepy-crawly speed*.

*I heard whispers in my ears advising this sort of speed, and now I know who was doing the whispering. Everyone’s got an opinion, even the bloody spiders.

The figure is higher than I would have thought; the Middlewich Branch always feels vaguely uphill to me (especially shallow, possibly, or perhaps the water’s heavier than most – there is a lot of chemical and gas and radioactive waste stored under Cheshire, in the old salt mines). I consider myself to be one of the slower users of the waterways and have been known to pull over, raise my blunderbuss and insist that some following boat be on its way, out of my hair.

Was it always hair though, or have I always been wearing spider-webs on my head? What hair I have left is white-grey, sort of web-coloured, so I may have been deceived. Perhaps I’ve been totally bald for years, but wearing a wig supplied by Sir Persistent?

I don’t want to think about it any more.

This morning’s cruise very swiftly met with traffic and with un-forecast breezes. I had two possible targets in mind and there proved to be an ideal mooring available on the first of these, so Spider, Hatstand and I called it quits. The breeze at the time was offshore – blowing off the towpath – so the Cardinal required not some little unseemly physical grunt to persuade both ends of him to allow me to tie them up neatly. There were, fotunately, no witnesses so I could use an ancient Yorkshire “strength chant” that my late Mother taught me, as I pulled on the centreline.

K’mere yabbastud… you’ll notwin… I’ll getchyah inthe end… Aye, thassit…

[and repeat.]

The views are quite splendid. ‘Bucolic’ is the non-pretentious word that springs to one’s mind. 🙂

The towpath green and grassed, not paved for chuffing lycrasaurs.

The towpath is green and grassed, as it should be, not paved for chuffing cyclists.

The view from the side-hatch.

Even the “Black Post of Doom” 48-hour restriction here isn’t a bother, this time. I have an elsewhere where I both want and need to be in two or three days, so we’ll not out-stay our welcome.

Another Black Post of Doom. Now, finally, after all of these long years, I know why dogs pee up such things.

The timing was splendiferous – the moment I moored up the traffic went (relatively, in the canal-sense) barmcake nuts. There’s a lock just up ahead and I counted ten boats in very quick succession all heading for it – gawds alone know what the queue looked like (but I’d hazard that it looked possibly like ten boats, queuing). A boat that had come down the lock made the huge mistake of waving on the oncoming traffic at some narrows just ahead, where a now-demolished old bridge used to cross the canal – five narrowboats took advantage of their manners before they could bully their own way through. I had thought them there for the duration, and was preparing to go out and throw stale food and boxes of Red Cross cigarettes at them. Heck, if they had run short of protein I could have thrown Sir Persistent Little-Bugger at them, although I have no idea how one cooks spider these days.

In my day spiders were all by Vesta and were boil-in-the-bag.

It’s quietened down since of course, and we’ve had a touch of rain. The breezes that foxed me on mooring have subsided, which is only polite, given that the forecast didn’t mention them.

Cardinal, Hatstand and I – but not Sir Persistent – will mooch on again sometime soon, but this time even earlier than Ye-Gods o’clock. I want to avoid a lot of nonsense at the lock for one thing.

If I set off earlier and earlier I will eventually have to leave the day before I want to go anywhere, or else consider myself to have not arrived until two further days hence, or something – time travel always confuses me.

Especially so if I’m not wearing my spider.

A final, brief, word to the wise – check your heads carefully for wildlife. You know it makes sense. Let my experiences be a lesson to you.

Chin-chin for the moment.

Ian H., &etc.


  1. You evicted him even after he had created such works of art just a few days ago. Just for you!

    I don’t think I could enter the boat if I thought the spiders were that friendly. I’m fine with them as long as we both remain respectable non-interfering distances from each other. Him on a far wall, me at least 6 yards away.

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    1. I have a visceral discomnobulation in re spiders, and yet still they persist in trying to be friendly. It always amazes me that spiders (and flies and wasps and whatever) have such absolute confidence in their being welcome. It’s never a ‘oh I say, would you mind awfully if I came in’, it’s always ‘well, here I am – would you like a game of Canasta? I’ll shuffle the packs while you fetch snacks…’ 🙂

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    1. I spun him around in the catching-glass a few times to disorientate him before throwing him into a particularly challenging patch of grass – he won’t be back. I hope. 🙂 Unless of course, he had a compass and a folded up map in his little rucksack? Oh…


  2. Eek! You sure do attract animal/insect/wildlife and I really do think it might be the spicy smells you create in your galley. Change your shower gel to essence of ‘feral beast’, it might frighten them all away. Now I feel all itchy with the thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Shower gel…” What is this shower gel of which you write? Are you implying that I – and there’s no easy or polite way to say this – that I… wash? Ye gods no! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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