Coal Frost Mist Squirrels Aliens Diesel Wind Rain Ice Sunshine & UnFire

Yes, the walk through the image above was as cold as it looks. The towpath was frozen, the canal was frozen and the mist was frozen. Lovely stuff.

Messrs BARGUS, the magnificent fuel boat, called a few days ago. I was their first customer of the day. Ice was of necessity crunched and cracked and eight bags of combustibles oiked from boat to boat, thank’ee most kindly.

Given that this winter I have swapped all of my blood for distilled water [so it would seem from the complaints my Extremities have been forwarding to Brain], Mr Stove is on an “all he can eat” deal, and a sack of the black stuff lasts three days and three, ish, nights.

The black-clad item between the coal is not boathold rubbish (that’s like “household” rubbish but afloat), but logs. Logs are useful for a quick blast of warmth particles*.

Fuel Boat BARGUS cruising away from bunkering the Cardinal Wolsey, January 2021, Middlewich Branch. Photomagraph borried, very cheekily, from Four Counties Fuels Ltd. 🙂

*My world-changing, stunning discovery of the Warmth Particle and its concomitant polar opposite; the Coolth Particle, remains unrecognised by both the Nobel Foundation and by all of my colleagues in the world of Science. My PhD Treatise; On Postulating the Existence of UnCombustion, the Active Process of Not Burning, remains the least-read thesis in the Open University Library. I continue my research and, something between 700,000 and 120,000 years after the discovery by mankind of Fire I hope, one day, to discover Unfire. Early experiments involving not rubbing two sticks together until there is no friction between them seem promising.

The previous moorings were most pleasant indeed, having mooring rings and plenty of interwebnetting signal, but suffered from an outbreak of highly-contagious Boating Meerkatitis.

This mooring affliction is akin to Supermarket Car Parking, but involves boats – in especially narrowboats – and, rather than forcing any heavy metallic object to lay at rest side by side, door-ding by door-ding, compels all living things afloat to moor up stem to stern with ne’ery room for a gnat’s flatulence between them.

This is in fact Recommended Practice in busy areas during the summer months, but in January in a middle of a “pandemic” “lockdown” when no-one is, under pain of hefty fine, allowed to poke their noses out farther than half an inch from under the duvet, one wonders. One really wonders.

The Cardinal and I are flattered, of course, by the attraction, but of much puzzled brain-gland.

The “Visitor” moorings of Cholmondeston Lock, January 2021 in The Year of Our “Pandemic”; Two.

In view of the fact that I snore like a T-Rex after a night on curry washed down with rum (and then jiggled about by a six-hour bop at the Dino-Disco) – and that doubtless the Cardinal’s steel hull amplifies such – don’t these other boaters lose sleep, and become thus annoyed (and perhaps learn that I am not a Podgy Pink Papal Peepulpersun)?

I must, there’s no way that my nasal passages could possibly not, annoy the hell out of them…

Oh well, and ho et le hum. Maybe they all wear earplugs as well as

There’s a wee pond thereabouts (filled with water, not with wee) and encircled by old and gnarled trees. It is home to (at least) two very large, very plump, very fluffed-up (grey) squirrels. I gave photographing them my best efforts in spite of the frost and I present for you here below one of my finest photographs of the spot where a squirrel had been just some scant moments before.

A superb photograph of the spot where a plump grey squirrel had been moments before I clicked the shutter. Right there, centre of frame, on the cross-beam.

Squirrels or no, the final straw for those moorings, for the time being, came when I discovered an alien life-form living under my barge-pole.

Alien life on my barge-pole.

Once this alien foot develops fully I wonder if it will release my barge-pole, or whether it will carry it off as food, or mate, or some such. What might happen if I dug out my old Descant recorder and played it five particular tones? What aside from strange looks from passers by, that is.

Anyway, Alien and I decided to take advantage of the ice-breaking endeavours of not one not two but some three other narrowboats, and to mooch on down – an “essential trip” sanctioned by Das Local Authorities – through the lock and to the Venetian Hire Boats & Chandlery chandlery to take on diesel. Sixty-seven litres topped the Cardinal’s tank up nicely, and then we mooched farther on and out into Windy Alley, winding, oddly, in the winding hole near Syke’s Hollow. Winding thus gives me a good – lazy – view with a railway line attached, as opposed to merely a good view without railway line attached.

With both boilers boiling and with the ship’s Sailing Master rowing we made it the one and one tenth total trip miles before dark, and were nicely moored up again (chains on armco, my favourite) before the meteorological winds of last night set in.

It’s all wonderfully black & white down there – here – for the moment.

Cardinal Wolsey, back on some fave moorings after an essentially essential minimal-movement service, January 2021.

Life on a boat is most atmospheric during winter nights of 30-40mph winds and torrential rain. Life aboard the Cardinal last night was most atmospheric indeed. Almost atmospherical. Meeting a big structure such as the Cardinal in the middle of wide-open fairly flat countryside amplifies the whistles, whines and howls of the wind, the rain (and hail) splatters on the steelwork and the boat – and my bed – rocks ever so gently. It’s all a chap can do to get a full chapter of a good book under his wing before Nod calls.

The winds then were blowing from the south, holding us firmly onto the towpath. Today of course, this being Ing-ger-lund, the winds are from the north-west, trying to ease us off our mooring ropes. There are three ropes out, this being an “I will sleep better with more than two” but not quite a “four ropes and close the gun ports” situation. The wind has to get up to 60-70mph before the Cardinal and I resort to four ropes (and it has, on several occasions).

The towpath here is, as it was above the lock, quite quiet. The lack of towpath traffic is, methunkth, down to the season and the weather, since very few folk will do anything if it means the mildest botheration or discomfort. So far today there’s been a couple of dog-walkers (nice dogs, he remarked), a couple of stout young gells ramblering, a couple of ugly lycra bags of sweat, fat & SUSTRANS-encouraged self-entitlement* and that’s all, although it’s more than enough.

* “Keen” “Cyclists”, the Watery Wellness Trust Ltd’s favourite people. “People”.

Oh well, perhaps the alien on the roof will decide that they all look tasty and nutritious?

Stranger things have happened.

Stranger things are happening, all about, and getting stranger by the day.


I wonder how long it will be before Boating Meerkatitis consumes the area once again, and we are back to being stem to stern? Guesses on a postcard please, in increments of half-day.

We had a spot of sunshine earlier, but the clouds are in the ascendant again now. That said, the view from my desk is still wonderfully, entirely, deliciously “Not Hackney”, even if it is black & white only.

It’s NOT Hackney.

Photograph is cr*ap because it was taken through the glass of the window, and if you think that I’m going outdoors again today you’ve got another thunk coming! The cratch cover is zipped and toggled, Mr Stove is eating his nom-noms and there’s a rinky-dinky wee Dutch oven atop, baking me an enormous baked spud for tiffin.

I hope.

A million boaters every day pick up a tin of Beanz and say ‘yep, these’ll do nicely, with a chuffing great baked spud and a dollop of HP sauce’.

Before I set the thing to be baked alive I soused it in virginal olive oil, rubbed it with a sufficiency of garlic and gave it a sprinkly sprunkling of sea-salt.

It’ll be fantastic, or it’ll be horrid. The galley of Cardinal Wolsey produces nought that is betwixt and between.

Chin-chin for the moment, Muskies.

Ian H., &etc.


  1. Even your worst (self-declared) photography is someone else’s award winning effort. Your declarations of Cardinal Wolsey’s magnetic attraction has now been set in print and nearing puplication lol – stolen and immortalised – this blog post comes very close to one of the chapters in The Day After, we must share the same ‘spirit guide’. Finger’s crossed for the use of the cover photo.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Both most excellent and slightly spooky at one and the same time! Much looking forward to the book coming out. 🙂

      Don’t forget that the image I sent you was a chopped down version (to make it smaller, easier to send) – full-size one can be on the way at a momentary’s notice. 🙂


  2. Would you consider putting a notice on the flanks of the Cardinal ‘No Followers’ in the sense of Edwardian ladies forbidding their maids to have ‘attachments’? Or would a small cannon be more effective?
    I wanted one of these while living in France…our house ran down to the river…more exactly a mill leet on our side then the islands, which went with out land, then the river. The mill leet was private, the river not, but every so ofteh we would have the kayak brigade disporting themselves in the leet and having to be beaten off by our gallant alsatian who could not only swim, but also climb aboard said kayaks while displaying teeth. I felt that a cannon on the weir would have been very effective and would have been down there lighting the blue touch paper with alacrity.

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    1. I think that the item we (both) need(ed) is known as a Raytheon Phallanx installation – one of those insane blip guns that deals with close-quarters “incoming”. I have been in touch with the manufacturers, Raytheon, and they assure me that an Alsatian would have no trouble at all with the controls. I’ve put two on order.

      Have to love the images of your hound seeing off the kayakers. Hound’s name wasn’t Rambo by any chance, was it?

      The canoeisters and kayakerites hereabouts do seem to leave their notions of space and respect for property in the seat of their wetsuits. Often have them banging on the Cardinal’s hull with paddles, just because they think it convenient. Damned Watery Wellness Trust Ltd now – incredibly – allows them through canal tunnels! How the heck a boater eight foot in the air and with sixty feet of narrowboat ahead is supposed to see and avoid a kayaky-cashnoo, ill-lit if at all, in a tight and long tunnel is beyond me. It’ll end in tears (but they won’t be mine). 😉 The WWT Ltd really don’t have the real-world intelligence of a rainbow-haired Gonk.

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    1. It could well be for warmth, as you say. In some areas I am quite glad of company close by, it depends upon the nature of the district… Hereabouts though, tis more likely that I shall meet my end at the hands (paws?) of some towpath badger. These current moorings are where I came nose to nose with just such a badger in the middle of one night. Most splendid.


  3. It does look very cold. You are a better man than me gunga din. I would no more leave the warmth of my bed to tromp that frozen wasteland than I would throw myself off a bridge. Seems suicidal.

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    1. There is a certain pathology about pulling on my boots and walking off into the cold. In the sixties (and even seventies) being on some unspoken quest to find meaning in space and time was so much easier – a paisley kaftan, sandals, some Beatles records and the occasional lost weekend followed by Monday in A&E. These days I feel that Sense and Order and Meaning are all merely concepts on roller-skates, always just beyond the horizon…


      p.s., I was far too young to take part in even the real nineteen-sixties, let alone the Sixties of History.

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