An Unexploded Rat

Yonder peaceful, quiet, “full of wellness”, “life’s better by water” canals hereabouts are still ridiculously busy with manifold unaccustomed …persons… screaming up and down in search of lost waterskiers, and the season is changing so that first light is later and last light is earlier, bringing both well within the reach of the p*ssed-up “it’s a contact sport, innit” brigade. So, last time I moved, which was the last time that I felt like moving, the Cardinal and I upped anchor, set sail earlier than even we’d tried afore. In the complete dark. Most splendid fun it was. I’ve cruised ten minutes before the sun arose on earlier occasions, but this tripling afforded me a couple of miles in not just full darkth, but with some fristy mog, too. Moggy frist. Um – mist and fog.

Sometimes the tunnel light helped, at other times it simply illuminated the fog and it was easier to see without. The lead photomagraph is where I volte faced at the junction and was on the cusp of daylight. The canal there is lit one side by the lights of the A51 and the sky on t’other by, I think, the nuclear glow of Crewe. The cruise had two purposes: to go down to the junction to turn to allow us to return to the Services and thence back down towards the junction agin, this time for comestibles; and cruising for cruising’s sake. Six miles with a visit; it’s about three hours from oiking off the chains to lashing onto rings again.

The rat? Well, there were two, atcherly.

The first was dead, discoverable only in the light of my ten-trillion lumen red night-vision head-torch as we (the Cardinal and I) moved away. Bloated and about to blow, sending his little guts all over the countryside in a mushroom cloud of intestines, he had been tucked at the water’s edge, hidden betwixt the Cardinal and the magnificently overgrown towpath edge.

The second was very much alive, sleek and healthy and built like a Schwarzerat (in ‘I’ll be back’ and ‘I need your clodes, your boods, and your modorcycle’ cinematic terms). As I lifted the lid of the wheelie bin to put my little bag of self-composting eco-combustible household waste into same, this aforesaid rat, his gruntle thoroughly dissed by the intrusion, climbed out of the rubbish and paused on the wheelie bin edge to look back in anger. He locked eyes with me. Perhaps it was inter-species love at first sight, perhaps he wanted to memorise my features for his report to Rat HQ. I think it likely that he was indicating that while he’d given way on this occasion I should not expect automatic precedence in the future.

I rarely expect precedence, knowing as I do that after the Apocalypse humans will disappear and there will remain only rats and Cher. The rats will be singing in chorus, something about ‘If I could turn back time…’

There are often items of unexploded bloated wild – and sadly sometimes domestic, too – life floating past on the canals. Paddleboarders, canoeists… No, but seriously, a sheep that had quite clearly seen better days cruised slowly past during the week. It was on its side, and while I looked desperately for a snorkel and flippers indicating that it was merely trying watersports out as a hobby, there were none in evidence. They fall in and can’t get out again. I’ve seen two badgers go that way. Separately, I mean, they weren’t holding hands or anything in some watery suicide pact. The temptation, gruesome though it is, is to peer at them – and then forebrain finds voice and mutters about the stretch of intestines under internal gases and retreat is suddenly in order.

Rats arising we got serviced anyway, with main water tank full again, gazunders empty, rubbish donated to the Rat Food Bank. This being a down-up-down again cruise we then visited the second winding opportunity of the morning, a winding hole that seems to me to be getting ever so gradually but ever so inexorably smaller, giving even a 57′ pause on occasion.

Mr Sunshine was well up by then, although he’d done little to nothing in re the pressing matter of burning away the moggy frist or to warm up the day. For once there was no glassfibre cruiser or Albion-Cymru hire boat moored in the hole; this must have been some oversight on the part of The Universe. The last Albion-Cymru hire boat moored there gave me gob a-plenty for waking them up as I manoeuvred! Oh how I laughed. Guffaw, guffaw, guffaw. Since they were at the time bows pointing to base it seemed that they’d learned little in their holiday week or fortnight, and had completely forgotten the full and detailed and comprehensive hand-over tuition that I know this company gives to all of its customers before letting them loose.

The Canal Company Ltd workboats are massing at Calveley. Unless either we have troops in need once more of rescue at Dunkirk or perhaps we’re thinking of invading Belgium again then I suspect that these are in preparation for the coming “Winter stoppages”.

No, Madam, a ‘Winter stoppage’ is not the likely effect of a surfeit of ill-cooked potato but a planned repair to some item of canal infrastructure. Replacement of lock gates, the final “heavy lifting gear involved” removal of a Canal Company Ltd Director or Trustee’s misplaced wallet, in the considerable shade and lee of which we boaters have had to navigate extra-carefully all Summer, that sort of thing.

Gazunder emptying notwithstanding – and during which something flew back past my left ear while a wee splashette of unmentionables tried to invade my left eye but was thwarted by the lens of my spectacles – eek, I say and eek I say again – it was a most enjoyable cruiseling. I shall do more in the dark.

Cruising, I mean. My other activities in the dark (burglary, occasional contract murder*) take up quite enough of my beddy-byes time as it is.

*You’ve heard perhaps of The Man With The Golden Gun? Well, I am the canal equivalent; The Unlikely-Looking Flat-Capped Chap Who Catches Victims Unwares With A Rusty Mooring Pin. Prices £50 and upwards, celebrities and corpse disposal extra.

Do any of my reader (sic) read sheet music? I could not for the life of my next contract fathom (and you so rarely see a fathom on the un-dredged canals these days) what these birds were trying to tell me.

With the benefit of hindsight it may have been along the lines of ‘Look out! ASDA are about to scare you senseless!’, for such indeed has been the case. These current being my favoured moorings for comestibles deliveries when in this area (while such luxuries last) and – suchlike – I bunged in an order for ship’s biscuit and rum and wotnot.

The fright?

The order was delivered on time, not just in full but with an extra item. All occurrences previously unheard of except in the Book of Revelation, and for the sake of not fomenting panic and disorder I must emphasise that the delivery was by IVECO van, not on horseback, pale or otherwise. No silly substitutions, no missing items, and while there was the usual frenzy of meaningless texts (your driver is on the way, your driver will be late, blah blah etc) which I, as I always do, ignored, even the bales of tobacco arrived just ten minutes into the appointed hour.

To add more mystery to the event, the day saw continuous monsoon rains – for all but the time that I was engaged in taking delivery. I didn’t even get wet.

This is suspicious, most suspicious indeed. I suspect that the unsettling hand of my enemies was involved. Perhaps the Canal Company Ltd’s God of Boating (he knows who he thinks that he is) seeks to put me off my stride?

There we am, tucked in in unaccustomed fashion behind the local landmarks. Comestibles, when they arrive, do so just beyond that wee building to the top left of frame, just over the bridge, and mooring thus here then necessitates their dragging along the minimum of towpath.

The only ordinary factor in the delivery was that the broccoli was on the turn even as the driver threw it at my hunched and retreating back, and so had to be cooked and eaten on the day. That, and I’d forgotten to ask for a crate of cabbage, so greens are now but a distant memory.

Still, mustn’t grumble.

We shall move again presently. I’m thinking wee small hours of the night. That would, if nought else, serve to confusticate the many Agents of the Canal Company Ltd who, generally spending their waiting nights in the arms of bawdy house wenches, would then have to breakfast hurriedly, wrap their cloaks about themselves and seek out my position afresh rather than following me along the towpath, iPiddlePads in hand.

If I were to move as a matter of habit only during the hours of darkness then the local canalside inns would see a flurry of especially-annoyed Canal Company Ltd employees and agents at each first light, dispersing like bleary-eyed, sexually-satiated, be-wigged, tricorne-hatted, soggy-booted, crumple-cloaked Company Bats out of Hell in my seeking.

Hmm. Confusion to Robespierre.

I could become entirely nocturnal…

No, Mother would never approve (we were brought up C of E).

Now, if you’ll excuse me please, I have to see a man about two coolie hats.

Chin-chin for the mo.

Ian H., and Cardinal W., Scourges of the High Cs*.

*Other notes for screaming are available, mention of high C does not imply endorsement. E&OE.


    1. Tis true, it might have been one of the new Canal Company Ltd “surveillance rats” that I’ve been hearing rumours about. It -was- wearing spectacles.


  1. It’s a random question: are there any officialdoms for the removal of the dead from the canals? Could get awfully blocked (like your stoppages) if wildlife or humans were given free rein to ‘all float down here’?
    I think the bird music is in keeping with everything else in the media or on the wire at the moment – The Natural Anthem for birds.
    The state of the nations vegetables are appalling these days and even the ripen at home nanas come ready turned! I guess it takes some hauliers a long time to fill in their 14 page paperwork whilst parked up in that huge car park formerly known as Kent. Roll on brussel fortnight I say.

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    1. None. All of the Canal Company Ltd’s effort is spent trying to eliminate the -living- from the canals…

      Suppliers – shops/supermarkets – perhaps closer to the source – must be doing something to veggies these days, they turn almost the moment they’re paid for. Ma used to buy her veggies from the little village shop – they were weighed and slipped, mud and all, loose into her shopping bag – and they used to last. The previous delivery of broccoli went overnight, and the carrots took two days to go bad. Onions seem to last slightly longer, and some varieties of spud. Cauliflower is gone in about three days generally (and are tiny to begin with) and cabbage seems undecided (although I do scoff cabbage rather eagerly, and possibly don’t give it time to go off like the rest)!

      Roll on the Brussels Sprout. Singular.


      1. I remember once having a savoy cabbage that lasted three weeks before it lost that squeaky freshness. Thought it was just my veggie order but things even come already mouldy (like lemons). I know you can’t, but I’m buying some frozen (like casserole mix which is staying reasonably cheap) and making a lot more veggie soup. I eat a lot of salad leaves but even they aren’t lasting these days and getting beyond expensive. Hope the Lincolnshire farmers are fattening up your brussel for Christmas (eek! that sounds rude, sorry!)


  2. Given the lack of repairs, do you think that at some point in the near future those living aboard will be forcibly removed – by new Ts and Cs only available to be read on the latest smart whatever it is – to make way for the hire boat brigade. Shortage of canals, you see…something had to give….
    And as for your nocturnal activities, I suggested to my lawyer here that in addition to having criminal law, family law and succession specialists he should also engage a hitman..a sicario. He could then explain to clients that in order to short cut the legal processes a one off payment would solve the problem in no time at all and usher them into the sicario’s office. The ‘time charged’ sheet of the latter might make good reading…
    And of course the WordPress icon does not work….send in a sicario…

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    1. I do think that you’ve hit the nail on the head there, I’ve long wondered if the Canal Company Ltd would be very happy indeed with [only] sufficient stretches of canal navigable to stop the hire companies and marina dwellers from revolting – no need for a tiresome connected system at all. Linear disconnected fishing ponds for the anglers. Certainly for those hardy fools who attempt such things the navigation of the whole is a difficult matter to plan and execute, with multiple and manifold random failures preventing progress or return. Mention ridding the system of we live-aboard boaters and the entire directorship, board of “trustees” and “senior” “management” of the Canal Company Ltd all as one produce some peculiar, gargling, half-repressed, animal-like, vaguely orgasmic noises… They would, in short, love to get rid of us.

      Do you by any chance know where all of the hitmen have gone? We’ve had dire and increasing need of them these past years, and they seem to have become an extinct breed. No-one rubbed out, not so much as a handful of up-market assassinations worldwide. The whole profession appears to have retired.

      Perhaps that is as well. I can only imagine the indecisive thrashing about in the board room should an offer drop onto the table at C&RT HQ – ‘and in consideration the sum of ten thousand guineas upon receipt of which we the undersigned do undertake the annihilation of 6,000 boat loads of nuisances, their children, their pets and such close acquaintances and associates as may disconvenience your good selves…’ Parry would be fingering his cheque book until it frayed, staring dreamily into the distance (or the Director’s Car Park).


  3. On the matter of “winter stoppages” I had a quick perusal of the aforementioned and was most surprised at how few repairs are being done in our region. Hack Green comes to mind, first lock is struggling to fill with both ground paddles up! Didn’t see any mention of repairs or gate changes at these locks.

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    1. Ye gods but Hack Green lower is just about on its last legs – when I came through there as you say it was a struggle to overcome the leaks. The locks in Middlewich aren’t exactly working as designed either. Without attention these are going to cause “interesting” problems very soon indeed. I must wonder how close the Canal Company Ltd might be to bankruptcy, and how much money has (had to be) allocated to The Failing Reservoirs Fund. Hack Green for one will not last much longer at all.

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  4. A nocturnal Ian and Cardinal? Then you could rescue bats (the winged mice, not the cast off cricket type) that had fallen into the canal and duck the odd owl. It’d be a change from dead sheep and angry rats.
    On the topic of British wildlife, a used baby’s nappy was on our lawn this morning, all soggy as it was raining. Dragged here from someone’s bin by one of the local foxes, that some misguided souls encourage by feeding!
    My poor husband had the disgusting job of removing it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I cannot conceive of an anti-fox crime that you may have committed that might be sufficiently heinous for them to leave you with a used nappy as threat. In my day (during a brief period of service in the Mafia; Mother insisted, something about a gambling debt) we used only horses heads, not nappies, and we slipped them onto your pillow as you slept. Leaving the nappy on the lawn seems to me to be somehow half-hearted, a dereliction of duty. Mind you, you just can’t get the foxes these days.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I am the voice of the Mysterons. You can have Hutson Minor back when the Underworld experiences weather conditions such that liquid water becomes solid and slippery underfoot. Also on payment of £8 or such near sum as may be made available by public subscription. Unmarked, non-consecutively numbered coins only.


  5. Perhaps, and this is just a thought, the canal company could provide a new set of navigators with snorkel and wetsuit to continue their long postponed work, I’ll leave you to fathom that out as it seems you have at some time passed on and the nasties are just memories as you cruise the final cut.

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    1. I do often wonder what exactly goes on under the canal water, some of the noises can be… disturbing. Small nuclear submarines perhaps, dolphin migrations, that manner of thing. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to discover that Marina and Troy Tempest are carrying on down there. Life itself? Life is a minestrone served up with parmesan cheese. Death? Nought but a cold lasagne, suspended in deep freeze…


  6. Instead of going full nocturnal (mothers wishes notwithstanding) why not go crepuscular. Two lots of sleep in the 24hrs seems like a nice idea, to one working 8hr a day. Only downside is the two lots of undergarments each day, and the laundering thereof.

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    1. That sounds like a plan to me. In re the underwear, the valets generally soak mine off me with methylated spirits and leave them soaking in neat Dettol weighted down under a small maid each night, it would be little to no extra effort (for me) to perform the process twice daily. As the years advance I do begin to appreciate the benefits of The Afternoon Nap, it simply needs slight adjustment for me to disappear from the public eye altogether…


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