Paddington’s Pool

Over the May day bank holiday the Canal Cavalcade is held and I am on my way there. It is held in what has become known as Little Venice, mainly in the Pool at Paddington. Now to me Paddington’s pool sounds rather what an unfortunate bear may have left behind after an accident while searching for the public conveniences at that great station. It is actually the junction between the Paddington arm of the Grand Union Canal, the Regents canal and the Paddington Basin. There is an island in the middle which the band occasionally share with breeding, noisy, wildfowl. There are main roads around and above the venue with emergency vehicles always on the move day and night. The train station backs onto the basin, it is a commuter route for pedestrians and cyclists and a tourist attraction. It is far from quiet and in a way reminds us that the canals originated as industrial and agricultural utilities.

But here be people, determined to enjoy and share what remains of this heritage with their friends and others. Do visit if you get the chance.

So far my run down towards Paddington has been pretty uneventful depending on what you may consider a significant event. To me it was significant that when, putting supplies on the boat, I dropped my car keys and they landed on a drain grating and didn’t drop through.


Picture for illustration purposes only and may be different to the actual one, as they say.

I met a set-building crew converting the outside of a lock cottage for use in the sequel to a popular tv series. There was the elderly couple on a hire boat trying to get it back for its due date with the husband declaring locks to be a mystery to him, as he was about to open the wrong paddles.Then when the weather turned cold and rainy my prop  must has decided it was too cold and found a pair of jogging bottoms to wrap around itself. The boat stopped and drifted side on to the canal and the wind started to blow her sideways up the cut. All minor events.

Then there was the stranger looking in through the window and asking first for brandy, then beer, then any alcohol. Not being successful he asked for money. His attire indicated that his religion forbade consumption of alcohol. I dealt with it, it was for me another minor event. But I am left wondering how he experienced that situation, I may never know.

But what is important, what is a significant “event”. Is it only what affects our own experiences, now or in the future? Is it how it effects others’ experiences? If it is then we do things to enjoy ourselves, we do good and creative things to help others have better experiences. And so life goes on based on having better experiences. Or is there something outside of this? Something that echos in the song of the sky lark, that is stirred by the faint perfume of the bluebell, by the knowing smile or sympathetic hand shake.

To me creation, the material universe, can be considered to be a bit like a clock. The clock has no purpose in isolation. The clock may be accurate or wrong,  ornate or plain, all parts working together like clockwork or worn out, but it has no purpose to itself. It only has purpose when there is an outsider who has an interest in the clock.

For me I think the purpose of creation is love, and the outsider is a loving God, at all events. What a great reason to enjoy sharing one’s enjoyment with others!

Back to the boat and  boating …


Reversing ducks and boats and war on the waters

If any of you are out there still, sorry it’s been a while since I updated this blog, I thought I better let you know what I and Gentle Breeze have been up to, and what the odd ones on the “cut” get up to at boat festivals.

First the reversing ducks. Well that is nothing to do with boats really. “Never mind the reversing ducks” is a light hearted, as the title may suggest, treatise of Mark’s account of Jesus, written by Adrian Plass. If any of you would like to read something that cuts through fanaticism or pomposity, then give him a try. I was reading it and chuckling to myself as I started to write this, hence the reference.

Anyway, now to reversing boats.

Little Venice (a name coined by the poet Robert Browning) is the junction of the Paddington arm and Regents canal.


It is a pool with an island and three branches of canal, in plan it looks a bit like a three-cornered hat. Our mission, which I accepted, was to get more than 100 boats into the right places around the pool and surrounding canal starting Friday 5pm to be all done by dusk with the residue boats turning up Saturday morning. Nothing happens quickly on the canals, and getting them all in was a bit like trying to empty a box of matches down a funnel. Occasionally I had to insist, to far more experienced boaters than I, that they were not allowed to begin to move into position. Sometimes their impatience nearly equalled my intolerance, but we had a good team leader who kept the peace, just. But it all came together without it turning into a multicoloured log-jam. It was a splendid sight in the morning with so many decorated boats, with bunting blowing in the breeze.


One of the activities, now I say activities, but that is sort of relative. Like I said nothing happens quickly and much of the weekend is spent chatting, drinking a little, exchanging tips and gossip, and imbibing, and a little maintenance, and some thirst quenching, before the main event of the day, a trip to the beer tent. Thus activity is a relative word.

One of the activities is the boat handling competition. The experts manoeuvre their 70 foot monsters

around the pool and this year the judges wanted far more reversing, because that is hard to do. Sometimes it seems, to the helmsman at least, to go a lot better after he has “had a few”, that’s probably only his/her opinion. And I can say “her” from experience of last year, but that’s another story.

Well we ran out of willing contestants once the wind got up on Monday thus Gentle Breeze nudged me into volunteering to have a go. Well I made a fairly ragged job of it, reversing, getting to the island, backing around it and trying to get to the second judge under the bridge where I had to get off and shake his hand. The wind was blowing us away from the bank. I think it was in the middle of struggling with GB I noticed that the second judge was the boater who I had told flatly, over the coarse of more than two hours, that he was not to move his boat into the pool. He’s a nice chap, but I am sure I had just added a degree of certainty of his opinion of me. Apart from getting rubbish around my prop during the last part of the 360 degree turn, I think it went OK. Mind, GB is only 41 foot long, and for whatever reason I am not surprised that I did not get the novice prize. Is a lady novice termed a novicess? Whatever, nicer boat, younger, French, hadn’t wound up one or more judges and, yes, handled her boat better.


Just don’t volunteer, in haste.


And so to boat wars.

Tug of war is a weekend game played at the Ricky festival. So I’ll give you time to digest this post before I flood you with more episodes of high activity.

Talking of floods, when we were travelling down to Paddington, coming out of a lock I noticed that my carpets were dark, yet sparkling. It took a little while to work out that they were just under water. For a moment I mused to myself that the water was supposed to be outside, with dappled light and reflections of trees, you know, with ducks bobbing up and down. It seemed odd to consider that any moment I might see a moor hen paddle out from under one of my shelves, or a coot bang its head as it tried to dive down through the carpet.

I suddenly came to and put the boat to the bank. My travelling companions in Persephone looked puzzled so I drew my finger across my throat which I think they understood. For a few moments there was panic and loads of questions, was I sinking? was I leaking? why was the outside of the boat inside? Or was it the water tank? Perhaps I was dreaming? I switched off all electrics and eventually found the source.

In hindsight it is not only obvious but horribly predictable. I give you four relevant facts:

  1. I had recently fitted a new kitchen mixer tap.

  2. The fitting supplied was wrong and had to be changed after installation

  3. I had no really means of pressure testing the system on completion

  4. That morning I found a pipe retaining “washer” and thought to myself that I should ensure these spares are put away not left around as though they had not been fitted.


Once the plastic pipe gets hot under the pressure it can move unless retained by the special washer. Once blown off the pump will continue pumping until all 900 litres of freshwater is inside the boat. Fortunately the tide had not reached anything essential, but for 3 days passers by did wonder why my roof was carpet tiled.





Venice and back

What a spectacle is the Little Venice canal cavalcade!

smallest boat i nthe show

It was my trip last year to Little Venice that got me thinking seriously about getting a narrow boat. So this year I just had to go back with my own boat (albeit not painted as I had hoped).

Sandra and Gordon helped me take it from Ricky down to Packet Lane on a drizzly Saturday, nevertheless we had an enjoyable day.

sunset at Litle Venice

The following Friday evening I completed the five hour leg  down to Paddington and was very glad of the help given by Phil in finding my mooring in the pool, Lynn for cooking a hot meal and the real ale tent for a decent pint! You can  not say canal festivals are exciting, but then if exciting is what you are after then canals are not for you. But  for striking up friendships, getting advice and watching really skilled helmsmanship there is no beating it.

boat handling competition

There is something for all who are interested. I needed solid fuel, I just hailed a passing 70 foot working boat and it was delivered to my bow, entertainment, just sit on the roof, supping mulled wine and watch the illuminated boat parade pass within feet,

always something happening, slowly

lighter boat

or listen to the band on the island.

takes all sorts

For artistic skill the decoration of the many of boats varies from intricate to ostentatious, often with a deal of traditional Roses and Castles painting and the inevitable brass work and laced plates. And Sunday there were the church services in the tent or on the classroom boat, with live music throughout the weekend.

I have to say that the trip down and back was pretty uneventful, apart from a diesel dripping from an injector, (fixed with advice from Ralph, thanks) and a rubble bag getting wrapped around the prop, which did not take too much cutting away. I must upgrade my prop clearing tools.

However many of us are lucky to have our boats as potential holiday homes, along the canals you sometimes see signs of those not so fortunate.

home under the flyover

So next its up to Ricky festival, enjoy some of the photos.

spot GB in the thick of it