Ram a llama ding-dong Mr Christian. Quarter-wits on the poop deck. #narrowboat #boating #boatsthattweet

Her Majesty’s sun setting over my coal heap.

Yes, I had to ring Ma’am on her mobile to arrange it. Yes, Ma’am was pleased with the interruption. The corgis are fine, the kids not so. Yes, Ma’am, I do still have the telephone number of the chap who arranged the “Mercedes in the tunnel in Paris” thing and he is still in business, le numero Ma’am needs c’est zero zero huit huit trois et le cetera cetera… and I can’t see any reason why he wouldn’t do the same again but with a full six-passenger limousine.

Lots of sunshine this past Friday “evening” (afternoon, when it now gets dark in Ing-ger-lund) but all too late and low to feed my solar panels. This past ten days or more have been the most dismal, dark, wet, rainy and cold nonsense since Michael Fish’s first fumbling flash-flood forecast.

About five o’sundial, Thursday, when it was already as dark as a politician’s heart and as windy as a politician’s underwear after six courses in one of Westminster’s (many, lavish, heavily taxpayer-subsidised) dining rooms, I was a-jarred and a-jolted by an almighty and protracted BANG THUMP SCRAAAAAAAAAAAPE BAAAANG and by the Cardinal rocking, rolling and reverberating (this is how narrowboats indicate displeasure).

My first thought was that a tree had come down in the wind and had landed horribly on the Cardinal, but Mr Brain-Gland soon engaged and advised me that the sound was metal upon metal, not wood upon metal. Some quarter-wit had rammed us. I assumed and it so seemed as he tried some sort of “coming in to moor” manoeuvre in the dark, against the thirty-miles-per-hour off-the-towpath breeze, probably with both forelobes tied behind his cerebellum, worm in his wooden leg and his parrot out of action with the mange.

Oh gosh, what a happenings, I said to myself in measured tones.

My, my, my, I must see if anyone is injured, and render first aid and huggy-huggy emotional support.

‘Don’t relinquish hope; I have bandages and hot tea…’ I called out, fumbling for my old Army Medical Corps blood-apron, my upside-down watch and my self-warming Field Enema Kit.

[Did I ‘eck as like; I swore like a trooper and promised to rip out the entrails of whoever it was attacking my home and to strangle them with their own oesophagus. This wasn’t a mis-hap “bump” of the sort that happens to all, it was a full-on ramming amidships.]

I controlled my blood-pressure, put my seeth to one side (so that I was no longer seething), and decided on a forced niceness in the face of farcical numptitude. I put my boots on, went out and helped the Quarter-Wit to moor up. My reasoning was that the sooner he and his boat were restrained the better for all. Whether he was clinically gorm-free or just alcohol-enabled I do not know, once I had him tied up away from the Cardinal I returned to Mr Stove and to my library book*.

*The Illustrated How Best To Kill People Who Get In Your Way & What To Do With The Icky Bodies With Quick-Lime Still On Ration From The War.

At least he didn’t try the old ‘I’ve been boatering for thousands of years, I can handle my boat in any weather yacketty-yacky-dah’ nonsense, or try to blame me for being maliciously moored up on a canal that is only four boats wide and as straight as a Roman road for several hundred yards…

I am fed up to my salt-encrusted sea-faring auto-inflating nipples with listening to folk who think that having been born on a leaky life-boat during a storm and having to cut their own umbilical cord with a cutlass and then take the oars from some scabby picaroon who didn’t know starboard from larboard makes them somehow immune from the effects of meteorological inclemencies. I really don’t care if your great-grandmother excavated the entire length of the Grand Union Canal for fun and using just a small wooden spoon that she’d carved in her spare time at Naval College from one of the timber offcuts she had left over after building Noah’s Ark; you hit my boat and you hit it hard you b*stard. Case closed! Constable, take him down!

Mr Quarter-Wit and his boat were both gone next morning before dawn. I have assumed – because I don’t really care – that he cruised away and didn’t just sink without trace overnight.

Mr Cardinal did not suffer any major damage that I have spotted, just (“just”) loss of paint, but I confess that I do wonder why I spent weeks wire-brushing and painting the gunwales when I could instead have just strapped sandpaper and paintbrush to half of the other boats afloat and let them do the work for me…

…and, yes, I am painfully aware that it happens to us all and that the next time I move the Cardinal I am now quite liable to hit and sink a ferry full of disabled nuns taking orphaned puppies and kittens to the seaside. But well, grrrrr! Aaarrrgh even, alright already.

Friday thus dawned lacking three things: Mr Q-W; the usual rain; and the usual wind. I decided that it would be a good day to get done that which would soon need to be done whether I was in t’mood or not – water, gazunders, a sploosh of diesel and a sack-ette or two of coal for the stocks. There was not another boat moving.

Until, of course, I began to move, when the world and its dogs came out to re-enact the 1588 and the 1589 Armada debacles. I ended up three in a queue of four to go back up the Cholmondeston Lock once I’d serviced and turned at the winding hole. This at least was better than finding myself amid either rather disastrous armada… where a narrowboat might have looked just a little bit out of place.

My sincere thank’ee kindly to Sir nb_SnowGoose for rising from his sick-bed* for to work me back up through the lock, thus saving me clambering up those damned ladders. 🙂

*Hypothermia and seriously weak ankles according to the local rumour-mill, and we all know that gossip is rarely wrong in these matters.

I may only hope that I haven’t delayed your recovery sir, but the fresh air and the brief exposure to daylight can surely only have done you good. Plus, it showed the rest of us what “death warmed up” really looks like.

Haven’t seen the like of it since Venice in 1576-1577.

Anyway. Back up the lock. Cholmondeston. Pronounced “Chum-ston”, don’tcha know.

I scooted out of the lock, moored up temporarily almost back from whence I had begun and then sashayed back to assist Mr Fourth in the queue through the lock, since he was (also) on his own. The gentleman was, I think, a little bit Mutton Geoff, so I scared the bejabers out of him by looming over him as he came into the lock when he had thought himself abandoned. I am not sure that my attempts at sign-language – shaking my windlass at him and baring my teeth in a friendly rictus while standing on the lower gates and beating my chest – were any more reassuring than perhaps some member of a loincloth tribe shaking a spear at an anthropolgist entering the jungle.

One does one’s best, and the gentleman can always launder his underwear on a boil-wash.

We are now in the brief period when all that ought to be empty is empty and that which ought to be full is full, with the exception of the rubbish and recycling – but that is part of my cunning plan, Baldrick, and why I am volte-faced and pointing towards dustbins at Barbridge and dustbins at Calveley. I may not be pretty, but I’m not totally dumb either.

In fact, we have bunkered to the extent that there is a lonely sack of coal on the roof, there being little to no room for it elsewhere. Something that I said I would never allow…

It will be there but briefly, since once the current open sack is consumed I shall bring it inside, where it is warm and Mr Stove may eat him, one juicy briquette at a time. Part of my childhood was spent in the northern wastes of the outer isles of Scotland; I still can’t bring myself to have more than one lump of coal a-flame at any one time. T’would be sheer profligacy, and sign of a dissolute character. If we’d been intended to burn coal at a faster rate then they would’nae have invented the gloves, scarf and thick woolly socks. Nae, one at a time is plenty. If there’s a wee extra-cold snap I can always set flame tae a candle-stub and redeem ma sleepin’ hat frae the pawn brokersh.


I moored up here initially in relative isolation but of course Supermarket Car-Park Syndrome never seems to allow that, and it wasn’t long in this busy, buzzing mid-November crush that I heard the frantic “Full-astern” and “No – no – perhaps full-ahead, Doris?” and “Brace! Brace! Brace! For the love of god and all of the seven dwarfs will somebody throw me a rope!” of the usual suspects carefully and thoughtfully mooring. The Cardinal was, within the hour, in some sort of linear sardine formation, nose to tail.


I do hope that they like loud music, for I feel the need.

Let us hope that there are no more ramming incidents, I’ve run out of “no, be nice…”

Chin-chin for the mo, folks.

Ian H., and Cardinal W.

Ing-ger-lund, on the canals in The Great Age of Stupid.

[I’ve finally found somewhere where I can blend in rather splendidly.]




    1. Exercise never did anyone any harm – except for those that it killed. Thank’ee kindly again sir for the assistance, twas much appreciated (I dislike lock ladders). 😉


    1. I run and I hide and still they come… if they get me, and they will, please tell Nanny that her National Insurance Card and her Passport are under the old bust of Churchill in the second chapel. They’re coming… I can hear them… aaaaargghh!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. You always manage to bring a smile to my face, even when you are in the direst situations. I think your idea of putting wire brushes and sandpaper on the other boats so you don’t have to do it, is a brilliant idea.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank’ee kindly, ma’am! Happy to o’blige. 🙂 I take my example from my dear late mother who could laugh in the face of any jury, no matter what the verdict or how many the years handed down from the bench. The things my mother could make a Mk.2 Jaguar do while wearing a stocking over her head were legendary.


  2. Coal on the roof! Come, come Sir. Standards, we must maintain Standards. This could be the first step on the slippery slope, and we all know where that ends – before you know it you could be coiling your hawsers clockwise, shunned by all decent mariners and condemned to drink alone in even the sleaziest of grog shops.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Couldn’t coil them at all this morning – frozen solid, had to wait for Mr Sunshine to loosen them up for me. The errant bag of coal is now off the roof and all is well again – provided that the stack on the well deck doesn’t slip…


  3. Can’t imagine anything worse than being rammed unless it is by Somalian Pirates! I hear they are a fierce lot and I’ve seen Captain Phillips! Surely if you have to moor up in the dark you’d have some light to search for the only boat along that length of canal?

    Liked by 1 person

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