Crowds and Clouds

Canal boats run like buses. This is nothing to worry about; I run like an arthritic orangutan that’s spotted a ripe banana on the other side of the Residents Only Day-Room. When I say that they run like buses I don’t mean late, to unfathomable timetables, and driven by psychopaths… although… no, I mean that boats generally appear in numbers, all at once, and in a cloud of confusion.

There are official hand-signals when afloat inland, but nobody knows them and even fewer use them. Most of the hand-signals that are used are indelicate in nature. Those that are given in good faith generally make the givee look as though they are either trying to lay an egg or have rented their bodies and aren’t quite used to the control mechanisms yet. Or both. On the canals nobody would blink an eye (not even sideways) if someone did actually lay an egg; the canal system is two-thousand miles of towpath-to-bank utter weirdos.

The best chandlery on the system is in distinct geographical juxtaposition to the second-busiest (single-width) lock on the system, the chandlery wharf being to one side, the lock landings to the other. Add to this the marina, fourteen-day moorings oposite the marina tagged on the end of the lower lock landing, a water-point above and a road-bridge to put the lower lock gates in disguisatory shadow, an’ it is that wot fings can get a bit similode innit at times to a Spainish Floating Bull-Fight.

Boats rush in where angels fear to tread, boats hover, boaters occasionally become incandescent, and the scene can quickly come to resemble that game with the sliding tiles (I won’t mention Tetris out loud because the “owners” of that name are somewhat litigious, having been breast-fed by their lawyers, or not breast-fed by their lawyers, or abandoned at birth, or something). Two boats back, three sideways, two out, one in and repeat.

Venetian Chandlery & Hire Boats, Middlewich Branch. August 2022.

Depending upon the Way of The Deek Venetian hire boats also come and also go, amid those civilians looking for boggery pump-outery, for diesel, for comestibles, for 3/8th inch tiger-skin tap washers, stainless-steel button-forceps, standard reinforced-rubber plasma conduit, and/or for the tactile and stress-relieving joys of the delicious dog-fest that is most days. Come up with some excuse to visit Venetian wharf and you can usually be handed a puppy to hug or an elderly Norwegian Frog-Hound to fuss.

The it of The Weather has changed sort of for the better, things being now less than Hell°F and instead cloudy, windy and – after the recent spells of nonsense – perhaps even (relatively, comparatively) cool to ye gods, where’s my cardigan, Doris. England doesn’t often do the middle-ground of perfection, with temperatures in the sid mixties, blue skies and a breeze that is kind to the candles on one’s picnic candelabrae. When we do get those sorts of days we’re also too busy enjoying them to lay down meteorological memories. No, England flip-flops from insane straight to wild and windy, from too-hot to too-cold. This is why we have accurately been described as a nation of people all carrying – or wearing – inappropriate items of clothing.

Which reminds me, I still can’t find my umbrella. Damn it.

Cardinal Wolsey 508533 on Windy Alley, Middlewich Branch, August 2022

In matters domestique I got a decent load of laundry dry under that sky shown above. All reasonably-tastefully mostly hidden on the semi-trad rear deck on my old-fashioned no-tech wooden clothes-whores.

Um – horse. Clothes-horse. If only there were a backspace button in WordPress.

The week that was has been filled with excitement.

Mr Heron fished for sardines off our bow. He knew that I knew that he knew that I knew that he knew I was there – and he didn’t care.

Farmer Gillespie, noddy-suit and air-conditioned, air-filtered cab on his Tonka Toy trackor notwithstanding, decided that it would be just lovely to spray the field-next-the-canal-boats with something sickly-sweet and decidely not animal-poop.

Oh what deeply agrarian arable joy. It may have been a totally innocuous substance, it may not, but nobody bothered to consult or advise either myself or the other twelve-thousand boating folk moored here first.

We enjoyed an 01:30hrs or thereabouts visit from the Night-Monster train…

The Night-Monster Train up on the embankment near Cholmondeston, Middlewuch Branch, August 2022

It crawls along making the most animalistic noises, lifting railway sleepers and re-aligning things and soaping up and re-distributing the stone ballast, or something. Details here. A most enjoyable watch from the side-hatch for ten minutes, before shuffling back to my still-warm pit for more shut-eye.

I discovered the cause of the growing numbers of deceased but un-eaten voles scattered along the towpath – the black cat from one of the houses up by the lock. I followed him early one morning after his labours. I was engaged in other tasks, I didn’t follow him just to follow him, if you understand me. Deliberate follower of felonious felines I am not. Nor is my name The Vole Avenger.

Do please try to not imagine me at 0530hrs on the towpath channelling the Ricky Martin version of that Italian classic Volare – with a worried cat looking over its shoulders and putting on extra speed to reach the safety of home and hearth. Cats never appreciate musical puns.

I tell you, it’s all go on England’s old canals. When it’s not all gone.

My god Miss Jones, I can still dance you know…

Volare, volare, volare, volare, volare, volare Volare, ooh Volare, oh, oh, oh, oh… she’s into superstitions black cats and voodoo dolls i feel a premonition that girl’s gonna make me fall she’s into new sensation new kicks in the candlelight she’s got a new addiction for every day and night she’ll make you take your clothes off and go dancing in the rain…

Bugger. I’ve lost it again, and I think that one of the bolts in my hip is working loose.

It’s probably just as well. Mr Martin’s probably litigious too. And we don’t really want any voodo-do dolls, do we. Doobedoobedo… volare…

Chin-chin for the mo, Muskies.

Ian H., & Cardinal W.


  1. I enjoyed that. As usual. It strikes me that the English would be good at dressing inappropriately even if the weather were a constant whatever. And thanks for the reminder about the 3/8th inch tiger-skin tap washers. It’s high time B&Q were given another shake-up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In hot weather it must be said that England does “ugly” better than all but one other Western nation! This recent overly-warm spell has seen more black-socks-and-leather-shoes-with-shorts and back-to-front “baseball” caps and – it must be said – more Factor 5 greased plucked-turkey flesh and builder’s bum-crack than is healthy for just one country.

      I have been attempting to comment on ABAB but keep being advised that I am in error and must complete all fields (which I think may be the error in and of itself). I will keep trying. It may be my Soviet VPN that is fooling the system… 😉

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      1. Your description is hideously accurate. Sorry you’ve had problems commenting – I’m not competent enough to know why that is. There are certainly some weird glitches with WordPress sometimes. If you find out it’s something I’m doing 9or not), please let me know!!

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    1. Arnie has been alerted to your approach. Please follow the goose to your allocated mooring and then remain aboard for Customs inspection.


  2. Our cats used to bring home voles – voles, shrews, rats, mice, frogs, moles, stoats, mink, a sausage-like creature with bulging eyeballs, half a sheep. You could always tell where we’d been moored after we’d gone, because of the slowly rotting mounds of corpses.

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  3. ‘no-tech wooden clothes-whores.’ I gather from this that the Cardfinal is hosting one of those luvvie events where half clothed women wear ill fitting borrowed garments.

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    1. If the Cardinal is hosting such an event then he’s on his own! As soon as the party noise from the engine room dies down a little I’ll ask him…

      Liked by 1 person

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