In the bleak mud-winter #narrowboat #boating #boatsthattweet

England, what’s left of it, has always hosted some weather types better than it can host others. A fine spring day, f’rexample, is nowhere on Earth better than in H.M.Q.E.II’s land. Ditto a decent autumn. Winter though? Well, that’s always a bit hit and miss. At the moment, and for the past few days, we’ve had the green-and-greys. Dull and oppressive is something that England can do at Olympic-Gold standard.

Rain, wind, totally-overcast skies and just enough cold to remind a chap that the most “fun” winter months – January and February – are yet to come.

Cholmondeston Lock (pronounced “Chumston” or “Churmston”, but never “Chol-mond-est-on”) above Venetian Marina. Yes, that is what passes for “daylight” around here at the moment.

Trolling around the countryside is an activity currently a tad on the limited side. Mud may be good for the complexion but it just makes my knees creak, and the towpaths are so very, very muddy at the moment – rain upon more rain before the first rain has had a chance to drain through to Middle Earth.

Mr Squelchibode-Slipalotte may love it, but I do not.

Nor do Gongoozlers favour these conditions, the locks are deserted, free from any and all gosh good gollying from zivilians.

Lock paddle gear, Cholmondeston Lock. Reputed to be the inspiration for Richard Dawkins’ classic ‘The Blind Watchmaker’.

The only reason that I was there was to blow away some cobwebs, wriggle out of any incipient cabin-fever and remind my legs that I haven’t forgotten how to walk. Nor have I forgotten how to climb up lock ladders, centre-line in one hand, windlass in the other and hanging on to the green-slime laden rungs with my teeth as I ascend or descend. Half of these ladders have only sufficient room behind the rungs for human feet to poke through for proper purchase, we of the “Size 11 Footsies Tribe” have to make do with tip-toes (if barefoot), tip (if booted)…

Cholmondeston Lock, one of the two swimming-pool ladders to allow solo twerps and Billy Gnomaytes such as myself to clamber into and out of its 11′ 3″ rise and fall.

There’s little to beat the sudden realisation half-way up the ladder that it’s all going wrong, and your boat is drifting to the other end of the lock in a stray current and/or breeze, you’re holding fingertips at arm’s length onto the last of the rope and about to have to let that go, the windlass is slipping from your teeth and there’s nowt but a lock of dark water below you.

Up aloft at such reflective moments there will always be a line of gongoozlers, all with cameras and facial expressions indicating that they aren’t convinced that this is really how the “experts” do it.

‘He’s not very Ted Heath, is he?’ they will mutter to one another.

Cholmondeston Lock is one of the “upper-middling” depth locks, with a canal-level change of 11′ 3″ in real money or 3.429 of the new electric metres if you’re that way inclined. It’s actually best to not be inclined when around locks.

Cholmondeston Lock – thoroughly restored and cared-for, but my goodness me, that top gate beam is ruddy heavy since things have been improved. Only muscle-bound studs and/or those who eat three Shredded Wheat for breakfast need apply. Fortunately, I qualify on both criteria.

There’s only one thing to be done when the weather is as Scottish as this (“Gloomy McGloom”).

Nay – two things to be done when the weather is like this.

Yesterday I baked a ginger cake.

Today I’m baking fresh bread.

The ginger cake’s almost gone. The bread will disappear in two ways. The first manner of its disappearance will be in a couple of hot-from-the-oven slices, guaranteed to give me burnt fingers and crippling-but-entirely-worthwhile indigestion. The second manner of its disposal will be toasted and lashed with Marmite.

There may be no gongoozlers about, but there are towpath walkers* abounding – there always is in the post-feast “resolution” days – and they are passing the Cardinal in the manner of the Bisto Kid, buoyed up and floating ever so slightly off the ground on the strength of the aroma.

Back! Back! I cry! Have at thee, thou speckle-pated mouldwarp-kissing puke-stockings, tis mine, all mine and thou canst but kiss my crumbs.

It’s almost two in the afternoon now. It’ll be as dark as a politician’s soul in about another hour. Mind you, we’re on the up and up, the winter solstice having spent itself a couple of days past. The days, if the planet has behaved, ought to be getting longer and more humane.

*Walkers. Yes, “walkers” in the sense of superannuated but still overly-mobile folk with all of the gear, very little idea, high-pressure incontinence pads from Millets’ Cairngorms range and always, always, always two “Swiss” walking poles as though they more usually stroll up and down the Matterhorn. Yes, “walkers” in the sense of the ‘Merican television series, The Walking Dead. Grrrr. Aargh. “Walkers” also in the sense of wandering and itinerant anglers, the local and current fad being for uncomfortably skinny-jeaned “Millennial” types in hoodies with a sufficiency of smaller-and-less-impressive-than-usual rods and wotnot, dipping some unfortunate non-swimmer worm in the cut as they stroll along, the other hand busy with a vital mobile telephone call, innit, yeah?

What lies beneath ahead, according to Her Maj’s Meteorological Office? More of the same, they say, just perhaps in a slightly different mix sometimes, or perhaps not. My poor solar panels are starving. I forgot (deliberately) to see if they would eat some ginger cake yesterday, but I’ll take a plate of Marmite-on-toast to them later.

It’ll be pitch-dark, no-one will see me.

To end on a WHEEEEEEE BOING BOING BOING note, I spotted online with a certain large global retailer a boxed set of the complete Star Trek Voyager series. Prices currently range secundus-hand from £50 to £153.83. A certain listing appeared at £11.98… so I clicked “BUY BUY BUY” on it and held my breath that the price wasn’t some mis-pricing that would be corrected (and the order cancelled). Just received the standard email to say that it has been dispatched.

Bar-r-r-r-gain!  Been looking out for that for a while. 😉

The oven ought to be finished with its decision by now, too.

Will it be bread or will it be brick?



Ian H.


  1. For a mere £10,000 I can sell you a remote control device which will allow you to dispense with that centre-line and control the Cardinal from the lockside. Alternatively you could clip the windlass to your belt .oO( Picture of Ian attempting to climb the lock ladder with breeches around his ankles after his belt breaks)

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    1. A clothing malfunction halfway up (or down) the ladder would add a certain “eek” to the “aarg” and probably result in my being in two places at once – Page Three of The Sun, and Police Custody.



    1. Please don’t mention anglers – yesterday the Cardinal was the only boat in half a mile of towpath. Where did Mr Angler set up camp? Alongisde the bow. He and family and two YAPPY dogs all day up and down, up and down, fishing at the bow and at the stern… “Share the space” CaRT say! Well, it’s not me that can’t comprehend the concept… 😉

      I killed them all of course, and have hidden the bodies in one of the usual places.

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  2. Looks blissfully quiet in stealth mode everyone must be moored up somewhere or else away for more lively festivities – make the most of it! Happy New Year!

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    1. Ah, my pheromones have done their trick and my boating groupies are moored up three-in-a-row ahead of me now! I feel in the mood for music this evening, so I hope that they do too…

      We do seem to have enjoyed a few minutes of extra (overcast, dull) “daylight” today – I wonder if the trend has begun in earnest.

      Poor old Earnest.


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