As one tow path rambler put it, “ it’s a grand day for it”. A sunny ride down the path, stopping to chat to boaters sitting out with mugs of builder’s tea and a cheery “OK?”, “yeah, you?” when passing the boater with a can of lager in his hand. An almost idyllic day to go and finish off fixing the leak on my boat.
Rolling up at the boat there was immediately something amiss, or rather missing, the chimney had gone. Instead of the black and, admittedly dirty, brass flue there was just a sooty hole in the roof.
Now vandalism and petty theft is pretty annoying but when a fellow boater takes an important part of the boat it leaves a feeling of being betrayed and even violated.
It is not that I often have things stolen, and most of the time it has been small things that I can hardly remember. There was the old bike when at uni. My Welsh grand mother declared “well I hope he falls off under a bus!”. Not very forgiving I thought, and it might wreck my bike spoiling any chance of getting it back. Then there was my maroon coloured Conway Stuart fountain pen, nicked by someone in the third year of secondary school. I liked that pen, not that I hold grudges for long, but come on! And my PE kit, Mum was not very happy that I “lost” that, nor was I.
But nicking someone’s chimney on what is going to be a cold night is a bit rich. Perhaps the perpetrator could not afford a new one, so if I consider it a charitable, albeit involuntary, donation then it does not hurt so much. And it gives me chance to get a new one.
I put it out of my mind and fixed the leak. I ate diner and when darkness crept in decided that the boat was too cold and damp to stay so decided to ride home. It is quite peaceful to ride in the quiet and dark along the tow path following the small pool of light. The owls were calling to each other, now and then a sudden rustle told of birds or small mammals moving away from the path. The rush of water through the leaky locks showed as dull grey waterfalls down the gates. This all somewhat redressed the balance of the low point of finding the chimney gone.
Cycling in the dark, alongside a barely visible drop into deep cold water raises the senses. Of those senses the ability to feel the precise track of the bike, each bump and stone on the path, the sound of the tyre on the grit is so important yet familiar. When that suddenly feels like riding over deep raw pastry it only takes seconds to realise something else is not so good. It’s dark, it’s cold, it’s two miles to home and yes the front tyre is flat. I had noticed this morning that the contractors had been out trimming the undergrowth. A thorn had gone through the side wall of the puncture resistant tyre.
Ahh well , worse things happen, a walk to a road to find better light, change the tube and pump it up and home again for a warm cuppa, and to order a new chimney. I think I will have chrome bands this time, save all that polishing, I might even lock it on.