Winter drawers on, the planet has gone insane, and I feel the need to hibernate #narrowboat #boating #boatsthattweet

Someone please call me in late spring.

Notable Bene – all photographs in this post are from previous winters, we’re not quite there yet this year.

The “it” of it is quite dull today. Not cold, but cool, so dull as to be almost dark, drizzly and with a breeze that just can’t make up its mind. Mid-October and today is the first day of the season – whatever this benighted excuse for a “season” might be – upon which my solar panels look as though they might go hungry to bed. We shall see.

Reflecting the general mood of Her Majesty’s peasant in England some nine-tenths of those on the canals are grumpy and ill-disposed. Where once we were almost where we needed to be, with everyone just one more silliness away from riot and much-needed insurrection, the populace seems now to be simply fed up to the ***s with absolutely everything.

Disappointment that the people are merely thoroughly disappointed rather than roused to action only adds to the disappointment.

Anyway. Pfft and pshaw.

Halsall, yonder The Fuel Boat in these parts, patrols all year but I believe that the nature of their business changes slightly with the seasons. In summer they supply mostly gas (for cookering) and diesel (for cruisering), while in winter the trade leans more heavily upon coal (for heatering). This winter’s official canal stoppages (for repairs to the infrastructure) are going to make their more usual stately and circular-route progress somewhat on the impossible side of difficult.

CardinalWolsey508533 (34)
Halsall, the Fuel Boat in these quarters, flies in all weathers.

Making their business more difficult has the knock-on effect of meaning that I have to be that much more careful to maintain stocks of combustibles.

Living on a narrowboat, esp. in current socio-economic and political climes, involves the constant solving of a rather large and complicated formula. Uber-economy in all things versus eco-credentials versus cruising because cruising is good/fun/part of the raison d’etre versus being within reach of service points for water/gazunders/shopping/rubbish-disposal versus Her Majesty’s English Weather versus Personal Energy and occasional bouts of Can’t Be Ar*sedness versus, occasionally, the canal rozzers versus mooring somewhere decent and (relatively) safe versus meeting the Fuel Boat Halsall versus being where I want to be sometimes when I want to be versus just ruddy-well enjoying the canals versus extending my boundaries and exploring farther afield when the mood takes me.

…and everyone takes one look at a boat moored up or cruising amiably and assumes that the totality of living on the canals is one-hundred percent relaxation…

Again I say pfft, pish and pshaw!

Winter in England of course is generally the season when the countryside lies largely undisturbed except by skinny red foxes loping from hedgerow to woodland, and by black-clad, wraith-like clergyman scurrying from hearth to altar and back to hearth again. Anything with life in it generally lays down a trail of smoke.

CardinalWolsey508533 (21)
The Cardinal’s stove belches forth a touch of the old “dark, satanic mills” as he is encouraged out of his stopped-down slumbers and back into service of a morning.

…although some particularly flashy individuals with the benefit of triple-expansion forced-aspiration engineering lay down more than most.

CardinalWolsey508533 (31)
A splendid beastie and a regular sight on the tracks hereabouts. Usually being chased along by a Wickham trolley with a woman hanging out of the window and using a megaphone to announce ‘My name is Amber Spottiswood, I am the Headmistress of St Trinians, and I would like to claim the reward with regards the Great Train Robbery…’

Even those sardines cheek by jowl in marinas aren’t immune from the neighbours burning old chip-fat or whale blubber or old car tyres or something similar in their stoves on a frosty morning. Neighbourliness is next to godliness murder.

CardinalWolsey508533 (49)
North-Atlantic convoy, making smoke.

The usually much more humane and open-aspect towpaths can get a tad crowded and smokey if the few boats still moving about mis-time their moochings and accidentally congregate.

CardinalWolsey508533 (60)
Careful with that axe, Eugene.

Of course, this being the Planet Numpty you’re not really safe even when moored up and frozen in. There’s always someone who thinks that they are in charge of an ice-breaker, and who cares, generally, not a whit for the concomitant slamming and crashing about of great slabs of ice into other people’s boat hulls and blacking.

It doesn’t actually do anything like the damage that you’d imagine – so long as your hull is healthy and thick – but it does sound appalling, and the minor damage that it do do – Dodo? Dodo do-do – is almost always wholly unnecessary. Tis guaranteed to make nine out of ten boaters vewy, vewy, angwy… incwuding me. 😉

CardinalWolsey508533 (52)
Boaty McPillockFace in search of penguins to run down. How I wished and wished and wished for a Polar Bear to appear, race across the snow-covered ice, and give this gentleman a gentle gnawing…

It’s all jolly japes (until one of their crash-bang-wallop victims gets their hands on them at the next bridge-hole)…

Personally, I find that a large log thrown to make solid contact with the nape of the miscreant’s neck oft has the effect of increasing manners and consideration.

Wildlife can be confused a little by water which is at or is approaching 0°C.

CardinalWolsey508533 (53)
Oh Desmond, I’m mortified – it’s quite obvious to everyone where you stopped for a widdle.
CardinalWolsey508533 (75)
Dave? Yes, Bert? Dave, it’s just possible that I may the new messiah. What makes you say that, Bert? Well, Dave – I appear to be walking on water…

But I digress, of course. Today is merely dull, grey and wet. Captial dull, darkest grey and wettest wet. Mr Stove appears – praise be to the Greek and Roman gods – to have accepted that I would prefer him to remain alight now until mayhap March or April (or possibly May or June).

I make but best preparations for my annual squirrel-esque hibernation. Seeking out the other two-thirds of the six-thirds all-seasons duvet, and releasing thick blankets from their vacuum-bag storage. Experiments have been undertaken to re-familiarise myself with the process of “the making of herb dumplings”, and this week’s task is remembering (the knack of) how to make stove-top Aussie damper.

My cunning plan is that, having made such preparations as may be, we’ll now have some sort of “continental (relative) heatwave” instead of winter. You never know.

Nanny? Is it too early for bed, Nanny?

Saw a wonderful t-shirt advertised the other day. The slogan was along the lines of

‘I LOVE SLEEPING (it’s like death but without the commitment).’

Whatever. 😉

Now, I must bung another slack handful of coal into Mr Stove. I want him up to temperature this afternoon so that I can experiment with making bread streaked through with Marmite…

Then I’ll go to bed (with a book, and with whatever proceeds out of the other side of my bread experiment).

What else are such dull, damp, grey days for, eh?

There’s nowt quite like a boat stinking of freshly-baked bread to attract a circle of adoring, slavering, canal-side wildlife.

Chinni-chin for mo, Muskies.

Ian H. &etc.


  1. Love the T-shirt quip. 😀 … it’s getting a bit like that too. We’ve packed up the patio and have hauled out the mighty axe to render wood unto a nice big bonfire. T’is the season. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have no real idea what El Winter will be like this year, but the berries have been plentiful, early and very, very red – and I haven’t seen a squirrel for weeks! I wonder if perhaps the local councils can’t afford to maintain the third-party contracts for the supply of wildlife, and have cancelled them? All of those rabbits and foxes and sparrows going back into warehouse storage…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Herb dumplings you say? That’s lunch for me then on the top of my tomato and Romanesco soup. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love the things – they’re pure comfort food. I was mightily surprised that the first ones of this season didn’t come out like cannon balls! They usually do… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh there’s always one or two for every freeze – in winters past the ice comes, stays for a few days or a week or two and then retreats to return again when you least expect (or want) it. The last ice-breaker of this past winter was trying to get through ice so thick that they had to keep reversing the boat and ramming the ice afresh. I kept my tongue, but I gather that the long line of boats moored after me (private moorings, just around a corner from where I was moored) were not so forgiving!

      An inch or two of ice can make it very “interesting” trying to get a boat into the confines of a lock flight – I’ve watched some antics being performed.

      This year I think that if I hear (always hear first, then see some time later) an ice-breaker approaching I’ll just load the blunderbuss, go out and shoot the ice around the Cardinal – and then stand there with the blunderbuss over my shoulder and a slightly insane (more than usually so) look in my eyes.

      If they’re really struggling then I’ll dress in my best “hillbilly”, go out, play my banjo and tell ’em that they’re in an area best not to get stuck in… 😉


        1. Her Maj’s Constabulary took a dim view of my logging activities last year. Apparently I ought to have been shouting some some of warning before lobbing things at idiots.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, we can all hope the winter is not to wintery, but I suspect it may be on its way. We have put up the requisite 2 cords of split birch (no maple or oak available in this area), cleaned the wood stove, swept up the leaves and put them on the garlic bed and put away all backyard items that we don’t want covered in snow. Neighbour mentioned the other day that they saw a large black bear on the street, nosing about the garbage containers. We live in the middle of British Columbia…80,000 people surrounded by our little suburbs and then suddenly, hectares of forest and bush. Moose, bears, foxes and lots of waterfowl, all getting ready for the big snow. -7C this morning. I am glad I got all the tomatoes off the plants last week.
    All the best with your winter prep. The herb dumplings sound delicious. I am prepping a turkey for this weeks Canadian Thanksgiving dinner.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Moose and bear may sound like exotic fun – but I am happy (and safer) with just rabbits, foxes, the occasional badger and a lapwing or two! How do you cope in an area where a bear might be lurking around every corner? Do you just get on with life or do you check carefully and keep pepper-spray in your hand at all times?

      When you say that you’re prepping a turkey for Thanksgiving you don’t mean that you’re teaching it silver service and how to serve wine, do you… 😉


      1. Haha! I can just see a turkey with an apron on, serving the guests. More like thawing out a frozen bird, making the stuffing, etc. As for the bears, it does pay to keep your wits about you. I approach the corner of the house where the garbage bin is located with a great deal of caution. I reserve my bear spray for my cycling rides in the forest. They will not always hear you coming, so be bear aware!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Ooh, that put the shivers up me! It’s so wet today your ducks could swim over here. The trouble is with Mr Stove and baking bread (hold the marmite) it all sounds loverly and cozy. I hope the writing isn’t being neglected?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Since starting to live on the canals and coming into contact with the wee beasties on a frequent basis I have developed a distinct dislike for swans, a “meh” attitude towards ducks and a fondness for moorhens. Swans are nasty and violent, ducks have no pride, but your average moorhen just gets on with it bothering no-one and asking for nothing. 🙂 Also, they have ridiculously large feet.


Comments are closed.