As I look out to the garden the London canal festival seems to have been ages ago. Now the weather has taken a turn for the worse. The lipstick red tulips are having their last petals torn off by the wind, the gorse bushes seem to have waves upon their thorny yellow tops and the green raspberry canes are waving in the wind, flashing the lighter under side of their new leaves. I call to mind the old rhyme, “March winds and April showers all come in May to wreck the flowers”.
But during the festival the winds were generally kindly and there was virtually no rain. I was again lucky to be moored in the pool of Little Venice with a ring side seat of the activities. In fact so ring side that the working boats were throwing water into the bow deck. It really is worth a visit, with activities for every one, from face painting to pottery painting, from tea and cake boats to the beer tent, from plant stalls to canalia stalls. I even met some work colleagues down for the day. Unfortunately numbers of boats were a little depleted, the Slough arm was closed due to an “unsafe structure” trapping the boats on the wrong side. The music events in the evening are fun, especially when there is impromptu turns by passing musicians, even tenlegbeezer recited his Water “poem”.
Two events stick in my mind, the parade of decorated boats and the illuminated boat parade. The parade of decorated boats was fun to take part in, it is a fantastic extravagance of nonsense. Some boats are carefully decked out, others rigged with as many flags and buntings as they can fit under the low bridges. Dancing on the boat roofs, load speakers and much banter are the order for the event. Chaos ensued after passing through the pool when a couple of dozen boats, some at 70 feet long, wanted to find turning places (winding hole) to get back. This year it was not helped by the gusty wind and boats getting mixed in with novice canoeists and a commercial punt at Camden locks. Well no one was hurt, that is if you discount the pride of some professional boaters, the little girl who fell in from her canoe, and the lady who really should not have been dancing on the roof of the boat having drunk so much. She did not fall in but her fall was broken by her face hitting the steel roof. I suspect she is OK now the “anaesthetic” has worn off.
I decided to take part in the illuminated boat parade on Sunday night. Most boats are decorated by hanging the house fairy lights on the outside. Some go to a lot of trouble and the boats really do look spectacular. I thought it would be fun to light the boat from inside using silhouettes on the windows and use candles on the outside. I was very much helped by Lynn and Phil who agreed to help light the candles and be the crew on what could have turned out to be a fire boat to rival Francis Drake’s, that would have resulted in wiping out most of the historic canal boats of Britain. However no disaster happened and the outcome was pleasing, although hardly spectacular.
What was moving were some of the comments of the hundreds, if not thousands, of spectators gathered all around Little Venice to watch the boats at night. Many remarked on the unusual approach, and there were pleasing moments when the suddenly noticed that some of the shapes were moving.
Of course the most significant event for me over the weekend did not take place in London. Sunday morning I caught the train home to take part in a service where Chris (our middle one) was baptised at his church in Park Street. This very public statement of his faith was prior to his return to Tanzania this week to continue his voluntary work with the local charities.
It was partly having been at that event, and partly having enjoyed the illuminated boat parade so much, that sets one memory firmly in my mind. After the parade we moored up alongside another partying boat. It was gone midnight as, by myself, I slowly motored down Paddington basin towards my mooring in the pool. The boat was still illuminated although some of the candles had gone out. The mobiles were still turning, casting shapes of swans, boats and fish on the windows. The rear windows had fixed shapes of the ichthys and cross. As the boat slipped quietly under a footbridge the voices of some young adults rang out above me, in a question that they knew the answer to, “do you love Jesus?”