Wherein squirrels hide their nuts and I lament having never been a Legionnaire #narrowboat #boating #boatsthattweet

Which will win the race to “Preparedness Nirvana”? Autumn, or me?

I suspect that autumn will break the tape. The berries in the hedgerows are already glowing like little neon warning bulbs, and I saw two elderly squirrels wheeling suitcases along the towpath yesterday. The cases had “Coconut Airways” stickers on them and they were muttering about ‘Oh, we’re going to Barbados…’ and something about ‘…a sunny Caribbean sea…’


Me? I’m stocked up with enough comestibles to bink a sattleship. If I starve then I shall only starve emotionally or intellectually or both. The bony lump of watery protoplasm that carries this “face that only a mother could love” (and even she didn’t) will see spring sprung.

It will soon be time to begin regular purchases of coal. If I am going to persuade Mr Stove into seasonal activity I’ll need a ridiculously large amount of kindling to keep him amused until he realises that we’re both in it for the long run. Matches, too, I shall need more matches until he agrees that “continuously lit” is best for both of us.

I shall have to visit my tailors soon, too, to be sewn into my winter longjohns. Tried to do the job myself once, but I got the flap back to front which made things most inconvenient for a while.

By way of displacement activity I have been working through some of the more minor jobs on my “to do” list, thus ignoring a couple of larger, more important ones. The larger jobs will get done of course, but I need to gird my loins some more first, and allow the madness to come upon me when it will. The weather hasn’t helped much, affording me only irregular and unreliable periods when it is neither too blazingly hot nor raining biblically in which to do what a man has to do.

The paintwork a-patchery continues, with only (“only”! hah!) the port-side (Port Said?) gunwale to do now. Yesterday and today saw some dabbling on the stern and we’re up to the first top-coat of blue on the ratty bits around the centre-post.


This is where the centre-ropes attach and had begun to show signs of pox. I’ve used blue on it (after the undercoats) because the blue is the best-quality paint that I have, and it will in any case be tucked away under a new rubber mat/collar. The mat is there to resist the clattery-clonkery of the quick-release climbey-mountaineery “croutons” or whatever those things are called. Note to self to include on regular jobs list to check under this mat to make sure that it’s dry and behaving itself. I really wanted the new mat to be of the thicker, knobblier, holier and thus better-draining rubber stuff (such as is on the well-deck and stern), but I don’t have any, so this thinner ribbed stuff will do until procurement procures.

The well deck has had its pre-winter spring clean (huh?) and sort-out. Ye gods, I tell you not a word of a lie, there was a spider in residence so big that even when I hit him with the dog-poo shovel and kicked him over the side he just paddled back and clambered aboard again.


Why, in the name of all that is natural, when the aliens were “seeding” this planet, did one of them imagine that it would be a “good thing” to include ‘…and some of those half-kilo spiders with the vicious fangs…’? Did the same idiot sprinkle the planet with wasps?

All of the vents have been cleaned, including the four electrickerally-powered “roof” vents – dismantled outside and sprayed and scrubbed, then dismantled inside and sprayed and wiped and vacuumed. I know how to have fun! I do this in case The Universe conspires to deliberately mis-hear me; I always wanted to be a (French) Legionnaire, not to catch Legionnaires’ Disease.


On a slightly less successful note, the rear tonneau cover still looks a bit more lived-in than I would like, this in spite of being shampooed several times and sprayed with Fenwick’s Patent Canvas Re-Proofing Spray. I shall give it another couple of passes under my shrine to St Borax-of-Soapflakes and then take it down to the Temple to offer prayers to the Greek and Roman gods Rinse-Well and Repeat.


The white bits on the cover here are just fluff blown from the local hedgerow fluffweed. The suspect-looking patches are caused by the immense amounts of “matter” that comes out of ducks’ backsides. Still, tis better than it was – and tis better in das realen lifeski than it looks to be in the photograph. Waterproof again now too.

Fartlek In celebration of winter draws on I have purchased for the Cardinal a little present. I have taken my social life in my hands with this present for it is a “wind indicator” and I may set it off rather more than will the environment.

Some boaters use flags or wee pennants to give themselves a clue which way the breeze is blowing, but the flag has yet to be invented that appeals to me. Even the virginal-white flag of surrender leaves me cold.

I could have had the Hutson family crest sewn into pennants, I suppose – that’s “crossed cutlery rampant over a wronged cook” – but the cost would be prohibitive in gold thread alone. The Hutsons have never favoured small spoons, and our cooks have always tended to be a bit “gosh, did you taste it while cooking, or did you cook a separate pot all for yourself?”

No, this will, I think, do the job very nicely, and will look quite techno-workman-like when I discover a method of mounting it up at the pointy end, next to all of the aerials.

Then we shall see which way the wind blows, and mayhap have more of a clue in my manoeuvrings.

What’s that you say? Some hope? Oh well. One does one’s best.

The canals seem to be a little quieter now that most if not all of the Child Custody Institutions (some folk call them “schools”) have re-captured their inmates. One or two hire boats around (Canal Time and Black Prince Boats you know who you are) speeding past as though their ar*ses are on fire, probably advised by the company that Vladivostok and back is possible in the week’s hire period.

Not far down my list is the task of “planning a winter navigation”. The Powers-That-Yadda-Yadda have published their schedule of winter canal closures and this year, probably but not necessarily exclusively due to some re-structuring of administrative areas, it’s a little less cruising-friendly than in past years. Where there used to be a clear and wide – and navigable – division between pre and post-Christmas repair work, this year tis a tad more mixed. There must be a Hutson-route through it somewhere, I shall have to get out the charts and the sextant and the chicken-bone runes and come up with one.

It’s a complicated formula in which I must balance moving on a regular and plausible basis while taking into account the weather (including ice – the canals do occasionally freeze over, as seen in previous years) and with assured supplies of comestibles, diesel, coal, access to services and all of the many other factors necessary to life on a boat – while avoiding the closures.

I have neither the moolah nor – thanks be – the necessary sardine-DNA to allow me to take refuge in one of those “marina” things, as many do over the cooler seasons. Besides, provided that I am both wise in my planning and successful in my execution of my plan, winter is so much more enjoyable a time on the canals than is Silly Season. 🙂 Fingers crossed, eh?

Which is what does reminds me &etc., I must move again soon to somewhere where the other gunwale is accessible from the towpath – either a change of towpath orientation or a volte-face for the Cardinal. Still, it won’t get done unless I get it done. The Cardinal will look very butch and battle-scarred then until next year, when I shall have to learn how to do a more serious, all-over paint job.

Needs must when the Devil rides out on a moped.

So much for my favourite hobby of “sitting down and staring vacantly into space, moving only occasionally to scratch a moist itch or to assume a brief expression of exasperated bewilderment”.

Don’t mock, it’s what I do best, and I have won many awards for my ‘Is he alive, do you think, or ought we to call an ambulance?’ pose.

[Sighs wistfully, and gets on with it.]

Chin-chin for the moment, chaps.

Keep on keeping on, and give ’em all Hell if you can, for that is our only recourse in these interesting times.

Ian H., and Cardinnal W.


  1. Interesting times indeed … the goings-ons of the parli-lamentarians is … astonishing. Not even the Caribbean looks good at the moment. Still, the sun never sits on the Empire and us scattered daughters and sons can only blink in befuddlement and wait for Dame Vera Lynn to set it all right again … just Googled her and ‘good grief’ she’s still kicking at 102 and a few months!!! … gives one hope doesn’t it? … doesn’t it? 😀

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    1. The antics in Westminster are incredible, aren’t they? Sad thing is though that they are just a reflection of the state of the general population – no-one has any personal responsibility these days, everything is someone else’s fault or problem to deal with. The weasels, garden-gnomes and plain lunatics in Parliament are indeed leading the way, but they’re only half a pace ahead. Those who own England and all of the souls therein these days are interested only in farming the workforce in the most efficient way possible, and in counting the profits (and taxes). Tis sad, but tis “Interesting Times” indeed.

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  2. I like the idea of spring cleaning in the autumn. After all, in the spring and summer, when the weather is likely to be warm(er) and nice(er), I like to go out, so don’t see the dust and dirt. In the autumn and winter, I’m indoors more and see it. So it makes sense to do it in the autumn.
    Good luck with sorting out your winter routes.

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    1. Spring cleaning whenever it happens also has to wait until the madness overtakes me! In this case the almost-overnight appearance of autumn and the probable arrival of winter two weeks thereafter was the key. 🙂 That said, our best and most consistent week/ten days of “summer” in England this year took place in … February! Crazy, blurred seasons – the ice-age, the polar-flip and the Grand Solar Minimum are upon us.


  3. You have been busy! Just figuring out the winter navigation sounds like a an overwhelming task and you have added battling Shelob AND painting things.

    And none of that is even remotely as horrifying as this excessive cleaning you have taken on. A bit of dirt and mold is good for the soul and constitution. The American Constitution has been thriving on them for a couple hundred years.

    Sit down. Enjoy a vacuous stare in the satisfactory knowledge that you are doing the right thing. 🙂

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    1. Winter navigation is a bit of a ticklish thing this winter, something that I suspect is all part of some dastardly “The Grand Plan” to confound and confusticate. Tis further complicated by my need during that time to be where I want to be to get the chap I want to do it to do the Cardinal’s boat safety inspection and certification… I remember planning the shipping traffic for the D-Day Landings, and it was nothing like as complicated as this!

      There will – WILL – come a time when I can toast my hairy toes in front of the stove, sip at a whisky-laden cocoa, tug at slices of hot toast and Marmite and re-read my Hornblowers. 🙂

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