Yes that’s me in the phomatograph above. Not a trace of distortion caused by the plastic sheeting; that’s exactly the shape of things. By things I mean me.
This Canal Company Ltd intentionally left blank. Shiny, but definitely blank.
I was awoken in my lead-lined crib the other morning by the sound of the social tone of Barbridge being adjusted to take account of ego-inflation, or IQ-supply issues, or some such. Shouting, and in that all too familiar accent of Inebriata. It went on for not some little while, while I went on under my little magic duvet, only my fine Roman nose (twitching), my Swiss cuckoo-clock eyes (left – right – left – right), my donkey-ears (rotating independently of one another), and my best Spode sleeping-gazunder (praise be; empty) poking out into the fetid, mothball atmosphere of my wood-panelled cabin.
Effs were being thrown around with abandon and returned like some poor Wimbledon serve. There were thuds and crashes, and a few unggggs and one or two aaahhhhs. I swear that I heard a ‘thwack!’ or two too. Light-hearted banter was, as far as I may tell, being exchanged with the rudely-awoken occupant of a narrowboat moored on the offside. This banter indicated in not so many words that the accepted opinion in re the aforesaid sleepy gentleman was that he was excessively well-fed, of questionable parentage, and likely to be less than spectacular in his success should he take up the offers of fisticuffs being laid down.
In earlier times we might have been treated to the odd ‘have at thee, thou speckle-pated mould-warp’ or even ‘O you beast! O faithless coward! O dishonest wretch! Thou elvish-mark’d, abortive, rooting hog!’ – it was violent stuff. One so very rarely sees a good Shakespearean tussle these days, the “White Lightning” variant seems to have almost completely displaced them, much as with grey squirrels and red squirrels.
Come to think on it, I see damned few Shakespearean squirrels these days. Fighting or otherwise.
My RADAR indicated that the fun, games, and giant evolutionary step for Mankind involved the boats moored immediately to the Cardinal’s stern. While waiting for the sploosh of bodies landing in the cut I used my bedside blackboard and semi-edible chalk to compute the chances of my returning to sleep after such an awakening. The odds were not even. Not even close.
Absquatulation being the better part of valour I got up, got dressed, and pinned the Cardinal’s tiller bar on. Giving the contestants just enough time to disperse and to fall into their various urine-soaked pits before I started Mr Engine I then oiked in the Cardinal’s ropes and we cruised away as quietly as is possible, at 04:30 hundred hours o’clock.
[This is precisely the reason why I have never once been mentioned in dispatches during any of the major battles of my life: Hastings; Agincourt; Boyne; Trafalgar; Waterloo; Cleethorpes. I ran away from them all. My only medal is a Silver Star (with Blue Ribbon) for successfully completing potty training, and Nanny told me as she pinned it through my left nipple that she’d never known anyone not get one of those.]
It was a slow cruise, given that I was extra-especially creeping past snoring boats and, while I had formulated a plan, when it came down to it I naturally did the exact opposite – through Nantwich (via the services), up Hack Green locks and onwards to in-fin-it-ee.
Only in England will you find large signposts pointing out the location of Secret Nukular Bunkers – bunkers that H.M. Peasants may pay to walk around to see how the other half (the other 0.000001%) will survive. Only in England could “They” tell us with a straight face that there are only two floors, one above ground (and thus useless), the other some 40′ below, and that the establishment is de-commissioned, admission £13.80 (!) per extant adult please and the tea-rooms and gift shoppe this way.
I have thus far found three of the back doors into the place (connected via long tunnels but all breaking surface where there is adequate road access and convoy parking, the “They” not liking to walk far overland from their Government Jaguars & Range Rovers, especially in an Atomic Emergency). There will be more ways in, I’ll keep looking. Then it’s just a matter of obtaining duplicate keys.
Costs have further been defrayed by allowing the Phobile Moan Industry to bung a chuffing great aerial on the roof, the better for the Establishment’s establishment to blend in with the surrounding countryside. Can’t complain though; the thing gives me four of the internet Gs.
As it happened, even with six and a half miles at 2.19 mph (average), one services visit and two (civilised) locks notwithstanding – not even sitting – I moored up again only just in the nick of time. A Summer rain came on, all blue sky and warm wet splashes, and then not thirty minutes later came the most almighty (in canal terms) rush hour and traffic jam. In two hours I stopped bothering to count at forty boats – thirty-seven heading north, just three heading south. At one stage the queue for the top lock – the locks that I’d just worked the Cardinal up through – extended to fifteen boats, with several moored on the restricted “visitor” moorings and the rest overflowing beyond the bridge.
Re-discovering the Spirit of The Blitz they all largely kept themselves to themselves, put individual kettles on and were fooled by none of that “helping one another out” nonsense one so often encounters in The Abroad or Overseas. Oh, folk sashayed discreet expeditionary forces up to the locks to “see what the matter was” and “assess the situation” but none fell into the Devilish trap of speeding the process for everyone by working other folks’ boats through. Ye gods no! To do so would be to risk non-return of a pennyworth of quid pro quo – and how awkward would that be?
No, they decided, they were none of them in a situation where practical interaction would have improved the collective lot, no no no – they were in a queue. A queue – you know – where one nods if one must, perhaps mutters Air Hair Lair if it’s not possible to get away with not doing so, maybe even – in extremis – acknowledges someone else’s incorrect assessment of the current weather conditions – but in which one never, never, not never ever makes full eye-contact or – Roman god Windlassicus forbid – wind a paddle for someone “not quite we”. A lot of the few words used related to folk not roping their boats along in a tight enough formation and/or swiftly enough in the assessment of others.
This behaviour is in direct and full contrast to that exhibited during mooring, when they’d all like as not moor right on top of your boat if the view were improved two percent by doing so.
Indeed I am as proud as Punch to say that at one point, with one the rare boats approaching to come up the locks, a certain boat closed the gates on them and proceeded to re-fill it for their own downward journey. A hundred trillion gallons of (increasingly rare) water thus wasted without lifting a boat for want of sixty seconds and a minor giveash-it. Etiquette
lives on is dead, as dead as a decidedly deceased dodo in hot do-do.
Still, fresh coffee in hand, it all made such a change from early-morning punch-ups and effery blindery.
Then suddenly (after a few hours) it all went away.
Today – with the unusual exception of the day-boat from the nearby marina (which is generally much better
behaved trained) – has been as quiet as the proverbial grave, with perhaps half a dozen boats all day.
Aforesaid day-boat, polupated by three modern “laydeez” yeah? (rising inflection), forced an overly-polite oncoming boat into the offside shallows where he promptly grounded, laughed at him like gin-soaked twopenny trollops, and then hoofed it past the Cardinal at flank speed and damn the torpedoes. Being a day-boat they’ll be on their return journey soon, when I hope to see in their faces that a few hundred other boaters have really helped them to enjoy their day out. 😉
There are a thousand geese in these parts, and they’re all grumpy about something, or possibly under the influence of hormones. Imagine Fight Club, but on a canal, with over-grown hens, and a lot of noise and splashing. They’re all jostling for the best little patch of water. They get especially upset when the local heron overflies. The heron seems to know this, to give not a damn, and to take small diversions simply to get them all gabbling instead of dabbling.
Captain Kirk never moored up like this.
The Borg would never have let him get away with it.
Whatever. In space no-one can hear you tie a granny-knot.
So, there we have it. A v.pleasant v.early-morning cruise, a chance to find Nantwich Services unoccupied and available, two civilised locks just in the Old Nick of time, a thousand geese and a human pantomime.
What more might one ask for?*
*Actually, I have a
small list of wishes, and despite decades of disappointment, I still live in hope. Some of the things on my wish-list are illegal, others merely immoral (in one case possibly amoral), some haven’t aged well (but then neither have I), and some free but many very expensive but, well – if you don’t have a dream then how you gonna havva dweam come twue?
Happy happy talk when next I have some.
I knew that I should not have headed south. Is this the Pacific?
Ian H., yawning, covered in goose-poop, and thinking of a second evening of DVD-based binge-watching. Thanks J.