Thursday 3rd October 2013

Dawn does not so much break today as creeps in, garbed in its cloudy gown, out of the receding night. Rain has finally stopped and the sky is made of darker and lighter greys, a merest suggestion of better weather to come. Rain was constantly present last night and for an hour it drummed heavily on the roof of the boat. Miniature waterfalls could be heard all around the boat as the water poured off into the canal.

One scene from the previous day keeps coming back to me. There is a lock near an old bridge in the National Trust property of Shugborough Park. The grounds of the hall are extensive, the canal snaking between wooded slopes and open meadows. There are no other buildings other than the hall because the village was demolished in the 18th C to improve the view. I was coming down through the single narrow lock, another boat waiting behind me and one waiting below the lock and bridge. As the lock was emptying, the water rushing out below the lock gate, I noticed something on the tow path. Under the arch of the bridge was a cheap sleeping bag. A folded blue and white golf umbrella lay close by along with a mug and black bin bag. It seemed a strange place to leave this rubbish, pretty much in the way of us boaters.

The lock gates were opened and I motored slowly out under the bridge. It was then that I was able to see clearly what was under the arch. The black bag, possibly containing some worldly possessions, was shielding the top of the sleeping bag from the wind and rain. Just visible was the face of the occupant of the sleeping bag. It was a young face, relaxed in sleep, a youth not yet showing signs of rough living. But a face that looked incredibly vulnerable.

It does not matter if the mug had been left out a a canny way to beg for money. It does not matter if he was just pretending to sleep, although I think he was asleep. What matters is what has brought him to this point?

As my boat slipped passed the up-coming boat began to move towards the bridge. I called to the helmsman telling him that there was someone sleeping rough under the bridge, “Oh, is there?” was the reply, as we all just carried on past.

So as the rain dies down this morning I wonder what sort of night that youth had. Was he still out under that bridge, staying in a park where a whole village of homes had been destroyed to improve the view for one family. Did anyone give him a bacon butty or a cup of tea as they passed by?

Was it a begging scam? What if it was? What brought him to the point where lying on a cold damp muddy tow path was a way of scratching a living? Meanwhile boaters, most of whom have brick houses and their boats with extra berths and cash and time on their hands, pass by with barely a “Oh, is there?”.


Meanwhile I still see his face.

Weekend of 17th to 19th Feb Much better weather this week end and in two days (with help from Lynn and Phil, see vistiors page) the boat was moved down to Packet boat Marina. that’s about 10 hours cruising,17 locks and a couple of fine lunches. Although there was not much in unsuual willdlife it great to see cormarants close up. They swim really low in the water, peering over the surface as a small child may peer over the top of their duvet when tucked up in bed. Also I has the privilage of a head on view of a mute swan coming in to land on the water. So graceful in flight and on water yet incredible activity of change of angle of flight and feet fast running on the surface as they gradually loose speed and land, creating a magnificent bow wave.

Saturday Feb 11th. What a beautiful sunny day to work on the boat! The each branch was out lined in snow and bark. So wheather you saw them against the snowy fields or against the darknest of the canal they contrasted and stood outlined as if drawn in charcoal. I wanted to work on the boat but the batteries were low and the cut ice seemed to be free of ice in the middle.

It was so cold (minus 5, that the ropes were solid and every know had to be forced undone. After ten minutes off I went, very slowly, even more slowly when I cam e across the first patch of ice. What a racket! I guessed this wasn’t doign the prop any good nor the blacking.

Too much ice

As for steering well that was a matter of trying to keep her in the middle, as soon as there was more ice on one side than the other she would veer off. In the end it was too thick (I was beginning to think so was I  to even try it).  Well I had a go. Getting her going, cutting through the ice and finding a mororing place deep enough and reasonably ice free  took me nearly and hour to go the 400 yards!.

I still got some repair work done, check out the other pages later.

Wednesday 8th Feb 2012

Now there’s a thing, I was planning on moving her further south last week end because she is going to be painted in Hayes at the biginning of March. Well, what with snow on the ground and not felling too fit I left it for a week and … they have had to close Denham lock, yes between me and Hayes. Also I can not go back to the marina because there is a closure behind me at Nash Mills. Well I will have to just see how far I can get next week end. Never mind, nothing happens fast on the canal (other than discovering you need to spend more of fixing something) .

Friday 2nd Feb 2012. Very cold, sub zero in fact. Decided to check to make sure the water on the boat had not frozen after 5 days of sub zero temperatures. What a surprise, it had!.Kettle frozen , taps with icicles and pipes that crackled when bent. Most sorted within the hour once fire and stove lit. The last pipe was still blocked so had bright idea of disconnecting it and pumping the ice out. The ice came out like long clear sausages, slowly dropping into the bucket… until I turned my back. Then they decided to all come out at once and the pump was running full bore! How long can you keep your thumb on a pressurised pipe whilst it is squirting ice cold water in your face and up your sleeves and anywhere else it can get to? By the time all was reconnected the carpets was wet and I was literally steaming in the cold air. But the ice had all gone. So time to drain it all down, turn the fire down low and off home.

The canal was just freezing over. The static crystal surface reflected the moon and nearby lights with strange static pattern.  In the dark the swans and ducks could be seen drifting under the bridge where the surface was still free of ice. Like the world had almost, but not quite, come to a standstill.

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