Hello again. Now, I know what you're thinking “Oh, no, he's going to rant on and on about other boaters ramming him and narrow bridges on sharp bends and toilet rolls unrolling and so on”. Well, let me tell you right now that I'm not. Although the toilet roll did unroll itself again the other day, I won't rant on about it. There may be a few other incidents that will get a mention, but they'll be described in a nice, feel-good sort of way.
To begin, then. We left the Llangollen canal for the Shropshire Union canal last Monday morning, dressed in waterproofs against the drizzle and heavy showers that had been forecast. Drizzle did fall from the heavens, followed by heavy showers, so we were glad to have dressed appropriately.
Nantwich was our first port of call; we moored just beyond the aqueduct there around lunchtime, so we decided to have our usual cheese sandwich. Later, on leaving the boat, we saw a sign telling us that the towpath was closed, which left us in a bit of a quandary, as we needed to use it to get into town. Luckily, we didn't take any notice of the sign and found that the towpath was still open for business as usual. The sign was probably some form of Health and Safety exercise. Either that or the Department of Aggravation had been meddling.
There are two busy crossroads in Nantwich, both of which have a set of traffic signals and pelican crossings that synchronise in a rather unusual way. At regular intervals all the traffic signals on every junction and every approach change to red at the same time, regardless of whether or not there is any traffic around. Bizarrely, instead of changing to green, the lights for the pelican crossings also stay on red, warning pedestrians not to cross. Any traffic unfortunate enough to approach queues pointlessly at these crossroads, and crowds of unsuspecting people can find themselves aimlessly milling about waiting for a green light. The locals on foot ignore this bemusing arrangement altogether and just stroll across at will, with barely a glance at any traffic that may or may not be waiting. Maybe the Dept. of Aggravation designed the above system.
Our business in Nantwich concluded, we set off the next morning for Audlem, with it's flight of thirteen locks. The journey was pretty straight forward, except for a boater that we saw approaching in the distance. He was on the wrong side of the canal. I expected him to steer across at some point. He did seem to make an attempt, but aborted this. As he came closer he started to weave about a bit and then looked in our direction for a second or two. Against the accepted wisdom of travelling on the correct side of the canal, which seems to work pretty well most of the time, he aimed straight at us. At the point where I began to take evasive action, he suddenly veered off to his side of the canal and skimmed by us. As his stern shot by we caught a glimpse of the iPad on his hatch and the riveting film he was watching. From the little we saw it wasn't actually a film about riveting. It looked like some sort of Western, Linda said. Speaking of films, I must watch Zulu again soon. A brilliant film. I always think any film is best enjoyed sitting down, though, not when you're driving twenty tons of steel boat along a narrow waterway.
We only came up the first three locks at Audlem; there was a good mooring available outside the Shroppie Fly so we decided to call it a day. Linda promptly disappeared into the Craft Shop and was in there for some time, she said she was only chatting but I think another bag of wool came back with her.
The next morning, after negotiating the eleven remaining Audlem locks, Linda brought my attention to a field of sheep on our right. The sheep were all lying down under a hedge in a mathematically perfect straight line. They all faced the same direction, and wore a look of “don't ask” on their faces. The mooring that night was at a quiet spot, in the middle of nowhere, just below the Adderley flight of locks - the 'shooting star mooring' for those of you who read the jottings on a regular basis.
Part of the regular mooring routine is to mop the stern deck and gunwales (pronounced gunnells) with my sweeping brush. It's ideal for the job, nice soft bristles and a long handle to dip into the water. I shook the broom over my shoulder to dry it off, and the brush flew off and into the canal, where it sank without trace. Oh, dear, I thought. Another sacrifice to the canal gods!
Market Drayton was the next stop. We were both smiling when we got there. We'd just seen two dogs enjoying the fruits of gardening. Enjoying the vegetables, actually. There was a nice crop of runner beans growing up some canes, and the dogs were standing on their hind legs, reaching up and plucking the beans with their teeth. Once they'd got one, they would then run across the garden, looking ever so pleased with themselves, and sit and eat it with great relish.
I needed a new brush, so we headed into Market Drayton. As we were hungry we stopped at a cafe for some lunch. We were the only customers there, which should have told us something. We walked through the door and a waiter nodded to us from behind his paper. We went over to a table and, sitting down, looked through the menu. I decided to have the steak and ale pie, chips and veg; Linda wanted the scampi. After a minute or so the waiter slowly ambled over, somehow making it look like we should feel honoured at this great gesture of him going the extra mile. “You ready to, like, order?” he wondered, in a not particularly interested sort of way. Then he asked us what we wanted to drink. We told him two teas. “Two teas” he repeated distastefully, as if two coffees would have been the correct answer. “Yes please, two teas” I answered, displaying my amazing gift of being polite. Off he went to the lad in the kitchen. Just as we began to over-hear some rather interesting muttering, it was drowned out by Led Zeppelin on number 11, which is obviously their music of choice when preparing food. We both like a bit of Led Zep, but I would have preferred Deep Purple or Black Sabbath. They go so much better with pie. Still, you can't have everything. When they arrived, the meals were not very rock and roll. My pie was good, but the peas were tinned. The tea was hot and the white builder's mugs seemed genuine. One particular bonus was that when I poured the tea, the teapot poured straight into the mugs, and not all over the table and into my lap, as has happened in the past. As we were leaving, a very elderly couple made their way in. “'ello John”, said the elderly man to the waiter. “Like, 'allo George and Lofty. You sitting over there or what?” said John the waiter, falling over himself with joy at the appearance of these two regulars. “We've like got some nice pies today what Tony has done” he went on. As we passed out onto the street the last thing I heard was George saying “Not with my teeth”. We probably won't go back there again. We wandered back to the boat, forgetting all about my brush.
Linda here again - I couldn't let you go without telling you about our evening cruise on Saturday evening. It was sunny, pleasantly warm and still as we set off. We chugged under the first bridge, both of us on the stern deck, with Tricky in her usual place on the hatch. Carl said to me 'Have you got the microwave on?' Daft question really - we never use the microwave, so how could it be on. That's when I remembered that I HAD used it earlier that day and it was just possible I hadn't switched it off. In order to understand the full implications of this, I should first tell you that the microwave is my secret stash for 'treats' and I had recently stocked up with peanuts, penguin bars and a large block of milk chocolate - for emergencies you understand. Earlier that day I'd used the microwave and as soon as I'd finished, Carl switched off the power in the engine room and, without thinking, I put the plastic basket of goodies back inside and closed the door without returning the timer to zero. When we set off for our cruise, Carl switched on the power and the microwave hummed into life and started to cook the goodies - we were both happily chugging along, totally unaware of what was happening. Thankfully, Carl noticed that something was 'ON' and using a lot of power, that's when I realised what I'd done. I ran down to the galley and I could smell burning and there were flames flickering behind the microwave door. Luckily, there's a large amount of water outside the boat, so I opened the hatch and pulled the turntable out of the microwave and tipped the contents into the water. They sort of floated about for a while and then sank leaving just a sad Penguin wrapper floating, until it too gave up and disappeared. It was a sort of viking funeral for our guilty secret. It's hard to believe it, but there wasn't a single soul around to witness this drama and I'm sure you won't tell anyone will you?
So that's all for now, folks. We're going into Norbury for blacking this week and then we'll be on our way home. Have a lovely week everyone
The Floating Chandlers