As the season is really over, the weather changed and summer drifts into a distant memory it is time to wind up this brief travelogue. It could have finished rather more dramatically as I shall explain but nevertheless was a significant journey for Gentle Breeze and me.
Due to the recent drought conditions and consequential lock closures I chose to take the longer route back home, down the Trent and Mersey canal, Coventry and the (north) Oxford. This entailed a further 22 miles but 18 locks less making the total return journey 340 miles and 251 locks. I started on the first really wet day for weeks. I was prepared to get wet and intended to keep going until late. Mid afternoon the rain eased as I cruised into Burton Upon Trent. A cormorant had learnt that boats disturb the fish and detritus so it was following my boat. Diving in close behind it and surfacing after I had gone some distance. It would continue to duck dive for a while then fly after the boat again, landing with feet splayed making its own bow wash before diving again in the search for cormorant snacks.
So there I was, beginning to dry out and relax, minding my own business, contemplating the eight to ten days ahead of me when I noticed a policemen waving his arm. I looked about and could see no one else, no other boaters, no pedestrians, not even a police dog. Nor did he appear to be on the the phone, you know like those folk who walk down the street talking into their concealed head set, waving their arms about to assist in some explanation or otherwise express their feelings to the unseen, unseeing recipient on the other end of their phone call. At least I assume they are on the phone, they could just be schizophrenic.
Eventually the policemen and I made eye contact and he asked me, in a very polite policeman way, to pull over. I thought briefly of saying “no, just you try to stop me”, but it dawned on me that he would not need blue lights or even a push bike to keep up, so I reluctantly pulled over to find out what this out-of-place official had against me. Had I passed through a canal speed camera at 4.5 miles per hour, or inadvertently taken a lock from an oncoming boat, the equivalent of jumping a red light perhaps, maybe he thought I was drunk in charge and wanted to breathalyse me. Fat chance of that, if I had been trying to have a drink it would have been more than adequately diluted by the rain. All these seemed unlikely, but they turned out to be a bit more likely than reality.
“I can’t let you go any further. You will have to stop here, sir.” Oh no, I thought, there is that awful “sir”.
“There is unexploded ordinance under that bridge.” You what?. “There is a grenade on the tow path and the bomb squad are on their way. We don’t want any vibration to set it off.”
I suggested I could kill my engine and glide past.
“ Sorry sir, we don’t want anyone getting killed.” I don’t think he understood what I said.
So the canal was closed, the road was closed. The tow path was closed.
Another police officer turned up and tied a “Police keep out” tape between the fence and my boat. The police were the only ones who didn’t keep out, that tape needs a comma inserted.
Boats queued up behind me and I had to explain to each one what was happening. They went off to make tea.
Walkers turned up and I had to explain to each one what was happening. They had retrace their steps for a mile or so.
Sponsored canoeists turned up and clambered over gardens to by-pass the blockage.
Apparently cars and lorries turned up and Burton Upon Trent was gridlocked.
Eventually the bomb squad turned up, in their sumo wrestling suits, and put something in a shopping bag and blued and twoed it off to Lowestoft, where another neighbourhood was at standstill.
I made tea and turned in for the night. Oh well another early start tomorrow, maybe it won’t rain.