Requiescat in pace… Are “burials in t’canal” becoming popular? #narrowboat #boating #boatsthattweet

‘In nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti, oy vey, Toothpick-Charlie, you squealed once too often and da boss can’t let dat go on no more, it’s huytin’ bizniss…’

As I stood in the deep, deep mud of the towpath early this morning dipping into the canal with one of Mr Cardinal’s selection of bargepoles, clearing away the nonsense that always collects twixt boat and bank, thoughts occurred to me. Thoughts of mortality.

Every two or three weeks I see the substantial remains of a bunch of flowers, either jammed at the Cardinal’s stern where the wind has blown them (as today), or floating past in the canal at a truly funereal pace.

Talking of Toothpick Charlie and Valentine’s Day, twice last year I saw red roses drift by. A neat bunch on one occasion and, possibly more tragically, a slow succession of discarded single roses passing over a period of perhaps two hours. Someone, somewhere “upstream” had obviously been weeping on the stern of their boat, tossing the blooms into the water as they sobbed ‘He loves me, He loves me not…’

Today’s floral tribute was a loose but sizeable bunch of mixed white Fluffypettalus-Maximii and yellow Filler-inii Cheapiata wrapped in green Foliagum Scrapedofftheflorestriumflorius, if you’ll pardon my resorting to the Latin nomenclature.

We’ve had winds up to circa 45 miles of the per hour here of late (and again today) so these might have been thrown into the canal as far away as Calais for all I know. The rate of drift is not constant and so distance remains an unkowable in the equation. ‘x’. Once I set them loose from the boat’s stern gear they pootled off on some mission and made it through the bridge and out of sight within, roughly, one minute and fourteen seconds. Once out of sight they probably stopped again, jammed on someone else’s hairy stern.

Soggy flowers and a single empty crisp packet. It must have been one hell of a funeral.

The Italians, I believe, do it with much more style than either the American gangsters or our own home-grown “Essex” thugs. Watch the whole of this video, it’s glorious, but flip to 4:15 to see what I mean about the flowers.

Then, having thunk these deep thoughts, I bunged the bargepole back in its rack and put some coffee on to brew. As an old hen once told me, it doesn’t do to brood on matters, only on eggs.

I need the coffee. A boat has moored nearby, and is, methinks, crewed by folk who would more properly, in my day, be cared for by the community and taxpayer in some secure asylum. Drunken shouts until at least 01:00hrs (when I gave up listening) and the boat’s engine running at all hours, then not, then being re-started, the last occasion I noticed being 04:00hrs.

Ooh – now that gives me an idea. A lonely, narrow, very dark and long canal tunnel, a CaRT workboat borrowed for the occasion, the noisy peasants cruising along… WALLOP… a moment’s reflection for a couple of lives spent being tw*ts, and then the wreath rolling down the embankment by the tunnel exit and into the foaming waters…


I wonder.

Isn’t “smudged” the current gangland vernacular?


‘Hello? Hello? Interflora? I’m on the telephone, it’s like a mobile but it has a cord, can you hear me? Yes? I would like to order two dozen yellow dandelions please, for delivery today…’

Much to do, much to organise.


Ian H.


  1. Wonderful! There’s a hint of rejection, unrequited love, betrayal, stalking hovering over the murky water – the garage bought bunch shredded in anger, the rose bouquet apology scattered in humiliation – or just that there’s more flower alergy about than you would believe!

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    1. Tis notable that the flowers that float past are not wilted discards, they’ve all looked quite fresh. I suspect that romance is afoot, and is being thwarted.


    1. Those little memorials to the unknown and un-named are all over the canalside too. Usually they relate to folk who loved the canals, rather than those who drove their Porsche into one or some such. I much prefer it (from a sitting down point of view) when they funnd benches with little notices on (“Fred and Wilma, they loved this winding hole” and so forth). 🙂

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      1. I agree, Ian. Flowers wilt and die, then, because no one comes to remove them, they end up looking like litter. A bench stays there for ever–or at least a long time, giving weary walkers of the canal towpaths a much needed resting place.

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        1. One thing that I might consider bequeathing along with a bench or three is a trolley and the services of a couple of large chaps – most benches are sites within easy reach of junctions and roads, when they’re most wanted in the in-between spaces – when you’ve walked far enough from civilisation to really need to collapse onto something comfortable! 😉

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