Can you be booked for children’s parties or do you just do funerals, wakes and state executions? #narrowboat #boating #moaners #miseries

The gentleman looked rather blank when I asked him that.

I was cruising past, standing on the stern of my boat in my (amazingly convincing, very dignified) “Hornblower” pose. He was hanging out of his side-hatch, doing what I think he does (and enjoys) best, looking like Father Jack’s scruffier sea-going cousin and moaning at passers-by one and all.

He didn’t like me or the Cardinal one little bit, I could tell.

His sneer wore a sneer all of its own.

My crime had been to use the boat horn.

This chap – presumably – chose all by and for himself a semi-permanent private mooring right next to a canal T-junction, a junction under a blind bridge and leading to a half-mile of canal with boats just such as his moored either side, narrowing it somewhat ridiculously for passing traffic. It’s a busy place. Use of the horn is rather obligatory – during “office” hours, natch – if you want to entertain any hope of not t-boning or being t-boned by at least two or three other boats. Perhaps it is a case of renter’s remorse, and he’s just now realising that his mooring on Narrow Bendy Alleyway Moorings Next T-Junction are going to feature in a big way “the boat horn”?

No-one – except the moaners – pays the slightest bit of attention to horn signals of course, but that’s no reason for me not to use them. If you don’t blow your horn where you ought and I hit you – your fault. If I blow my horn (as advice and in warning, not as threat) and you ignore it and proceed (or don’t warn me with your own awoogah woogah so that I know at least that you’re there) – also your fault. Simples. Talk to the hand, Dimples, because the rest of me isn’t listening (well, not listening for anything other than pertinent boat horns and echoes thereof, anyway).

Holidaymakers appearing around the bend, so to speak, as the evening water begins to boil in this weird semi-summer, part-winter, more-than-a-little-autumnal weather with insanely hot spells.

The canals are about eighty-five to ninety-percent miserable at the moment. I think that it may be the general mood of the country. Perhaps the mood of the whole planet? Past years I’ve estimated the proportion of rude people to nice people at two-thirds scrote to one-third diamond-geezer/geezeress. Pardon my French and please pardon my flip-flopping from percent to fractions – I was damaged by partial metrication during my formative years.

Few people this year – fewer than ever before – make eye contact, nod or, ye gods above, actually offer a passing ‘Hello’. A significant proportion of folk look at you as though you’ve escaped from a mental institution (The House of Commons?) if you offer an old-fashioned en passant human greeting, the way folk used to do before the iPhone generations, before the Idiocracy installed itself in Westminster, before IQs dropped through the floor and before hashtag-me-me-me replaced Shakespeare’s Collected Works in the Snowflake Psyche.

#mememe #snowflakepsyche

Not everyone is so of course, nothing is entirely black or white except, possibly, for a Minstrel show on BBC2, or perhaps the case against current governments the world over vis-à-vis their being lying, cheating, thieving, amoral, criminally self-serving, spine-free, gorm-free speckle-pated dandywits with faces adapted over the in-bred generations the better and deeper to fit into public feeding-troughs.

There was a slightly hippie chap on a boat this morning, a very traditional but converted seventy-odd-footer methinks, who approached the very same junction alluded to earlier, while I was sat sitting in the morning breeze awaiting my groceries* **. I checked the junction for him and gave him a thumbs-up to indicate that his time was his own, the area was boat-traffic-free and he was not about to meet any opposition in his cornering. He was so cheerful and happy and polite that I wanted to dance up and down the towpath in celebration. Instead I just grinned and gibbered, the way that dogs and OAPs do when someone pats them on the head for a change instead of kicking them up the sit-upon bone. It was a tad embarrassing in retrospect, but I just love polite and human people. Had I been possessed of a tail I would have wagged it in happiness.

*Groceries – I have added further stock to the Cardinal’s stores baskets, just in case Boris asks Mrs The Queen to prorogate supermarkets… If England may, rightly or wrongly, be stripped of its parliament on the mere request of a blethering Etonian silver-spoon-sucker from New York (Boris Johnson) then anything might happen. I want sufficient food on the boat to be able to live long enough to see the first few peasant-wielded axe blows meet the backs of the first few political necks. I’ll be there in the front row, knitting and cheering and wiping the blood-splatters from my cheeks using bits of faded parchment torn from an old copy of Magna Carta.

**Groceries – my parents never quite got over the war-time privations of their parents and, being generous like that, they passed on the whole kit and caboodle of store-cupboard insecurities to me. Besides, I used to like to play “post offices” as a child, and a row or two of those little jars of (organic, vegan) Pesto (black olive, red chilli and green basil) look so very, very neat and satisfying (provided that the nearby cartons of chopped Italian tomatoes with garlic and herbs are all stood correct-way-up).

Anyway, my joy abounding at the humanity of my interaction with Mr Bandana Long-Boat was short-lived. The chap delivering my groceries was a miserable fish. I could see his van in the distance. He ignored my on-the-order written instructions about where I could meet him, rang me on my (ugh!) “mobile” – and then ignored what I said he ought to please do then, too. On his final, almost accidental arrival, having made not some minutes of unnecessary manoeuvres for himself, he then sported a face like a bulldog standing with its bollocks in a nettle-patch – and he began to attempt to give it some verbal wellie.

Some way in to his mounting diatribe he caught sight of my expression – and quietened himself. This saved both me and him the bother of official complaints pursued zealously to the full extent. He then began to gibber a little and, at the end of the mechanics of my grocery delivery, confided to me that he had, in his career, experienced three or four customers who had expressed an interest in dragging him from his van and demonstrating to him some of the finer points of nasal pugilism.

No shit, I thought, I think I may know why that might have been, Mr Attitude.

In other thrilling news – 🙂 – my progress down my list of things wot must be done continues. The Cardinal’s gas-locker lid has changed colour. It was red, now it’s blue. I would have liked it to remain red, but I only have blue paint. It’s also (still) a bit like a wood-cut of some map of a complicated archipeligo, the many, many layers of paint applied over the years being harder, much harder, than diamond-tipped Harderiteium, and quite impervious to electric drill and rotary wire brush. I know; I’m the one who had to re-charge his drill several times to get the metalwork even to this stage!


The good thing though is that canal boats are like that. They’re built of 10/8/6/4mm steel and they are big and butch and they look “lived in”. I do think that Mr Gas-Locker Lid has suffered over the paint-layer years from the attentions invited by being easily accessible – anyone who could kneel on the well-deck could slap another colour on there, and promptly, apparently, did so.

We’ll see what he’s like as (matching-) Mauritius Blue. I might succumb myself and bung on a coat of red or – hmm – what about “Day-Glo” orange? Whatever I do, he needs a new sign proclaiming (for Boat Safety Standards regs) “Gas Locker”. The old one leapt off some time ago, and threw itself into the canal to drown. I heard the plaintive cry at the time, but didn’t realise until I’d moored up some hours later what a drama had been unfolding at the pointy end.

Eh-Up Duck thinks that the locker lid looks alright as it is.


Eh-Up Duck lives now on the gunwale under the cratch cover, and I don’t know whether I rescued him or kidnapped him. He was floating down the canal, quite alone, and looking rather tiny among the narrowboat traffic so I oiked him out of the water. He may have fallen off another boat or he may have been on some desperate and important personal mission that I have foiled. Either way, he lives now under canvas, collecting spider-webs and tips about thinners and brush-strokes.

He is a bit fed up with me saying Eh-Up, Duck, every time that I see him.

Mind you, so are most of the (live, non-plastic) ducks on the canals hereabouts.

Some of them laugh and titter as though they’ve never heard that one before. Others just give me the duckish finger.

It’s really all go here on Ing-ger-lund’s canals.

The reservoir behind the dam that breached recently has been drained. Repairs to the dam are in the “what the hell exactly are we going to do and who is going to pay for it?” stage. Years and years of nobody has a clue and millions and millions of pounds that we haven’t got are phrases that loom large in technical meetings, along with “It was like that when I found it” and “I didn’t do it”.

The poor holiday share-boat that was cilled and sunk day afore yesterday in the lock a few miles up from here has been recovered. I am fairly sure that it has also been re-floated and made good to the extent that it cruised past me under its own power late yesterday evening – the well deck laden with soggy soft-furnishings and the steelwork sporting some very unsporting kinks and damage where no ordinary boat would expect kinks and damage. All hail the recovery teams of Canal & River Rescue, anyway.

Locks are dangerous places, I mun re-double my respect for them and be ware.

The weather – which is what is a lot of the spoiling of my working through my list of jobs – continues to be all things to all men. Ridiculously hot, raining, windy and – last night – almost cold. I was tempted to get up in the middle of the night and seek out an extra blanket. This morning Mr Stove would have been welcome at breakfast, for an hour or so. It was hot hot hot while I put on a layer of blue top-coat paint this afternoon – and then two hours later it rained again on my efforts.

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

Ozy-bloody-mandias probably stopped by at some stage to put a layer of paint onto the Cardinal’s gas locker lid too, if I’m any judge.

nota bene – I’m not a Judge, I just like the wig, the tights and the buckled court shoes. And the power, I love the power. I’ve only got to pop that little square of black material on my head before I pronounce sentence and the motorist in the dock generally has some sort of knicker-accident and blacks out.

Well, that’s been my few days. I hope that yours have been splendiferously ticketty-boo too. In a week or two I am likely to be cruising back past Mr Miserable near the junction.

Can anyone lend me a set of drums or a one-man-band outfit?

I’d like to cruise past him performing the Colonel Bogey March on the over-amped electric annoyance and the bass castanets.

Oh well. Chin-chin for the mo, chaps.

Keep on keeping on, and give ’em all Hell at every opportunity.

Ian H.


  1. Is it possible to rent for long periods a slab of earth next the canal in order to berth one’s narrow boat? I’m surprised various farmers or their cows aren’t supplementing their income with this gig.
    I assumed all the canals belonged to Her Majesty and were foolishly and tyrannically managed by the CaRT.
    And honestly – that would be better than individuals renting space…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Technically (most of) the canals and (some) rivers are managed “in trust” for the Nation by CaRT – including the vast amount of property alongside the canals. The assets are not owned by CaRT. They do seem to be selling an awful lot of it off though… The family silver is flying out of the window!

      These long-term “private” moorings are also belongethed to the Nation, via CaRT – they charge folk who want to run them as moorings – and then charge the folk who rent them as moorings too. The general strategy appears to be to have ALL boats stuffed away in marinas and private moorings, coming out onto the canals only on high days and holidays.

      I really don’t like the “sardine” culture of standard marinas and wouldn’t live in one even if I could afford to. Far and away the most pleasant moorings are indeed, as you suggest, on the offisde of the canal and run by farmers making an extra (few tens of thousands of) quid here and there – much more pleasant to my mind. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well I think the gas locker blue is rather fetching, the doing of something that may have been a tad more amenable than meeting a surly delivery type scallywag who fails to follow the recommended course of action.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The plain blue is growing on me too (not literally, I’m just liking it more as time goes by).

      The Cardinal is not a screamer and a shouter, the more dignified one-colour scheme suits his sober – and sombre – personality, methinks. We shall see, we shall see.



      1. The gentleman had the cheek during his attempted rant-ette to tell me that he often made deliveries to that marina… which, I said, sort of begs the question of why then could he not find it without such a fuss! He just couldn’t grasp my logic. A strange chap, perhaps just having a really bad day (or week, or month, or year…) – I was as kind as I could be, not being in the mood myself for an argument. 🙂


Comments are closed.