It was a chilly start this morning as Tricky and I set off for our morning walk along the tow-path. If the sun came out later, as promised, it would be warm, but right now I needed 3 layers, and a coat on standby, even though I was urging Tricky along on at marching speed. We had moored overnight in the lovely village of Cosgrove, mainly to escape from the hordes of boaters that came haring out of Leighton Buzzard on Saturday afternoon. Our normal routine is to cast off as soon as my first cup of coffee has kicked in – say about 9 or 9.30 and be moored up again for Jeremy Vine at 12 'o' clock, that's a full days boating for us. Things haven't gone according to that plan lately, we had breakfast in Ikea one morning, which meant a very late start. On Saturday we set out at our usual time but then we met up with fellow boater Allan, who makes and mends cratch covers. There was a convenient mooring spot right behind him so we pulled in to ask him for a quote to repair the rip that has been stuck down twice and keeps curling up. Allan is a very sprightly 82 years old and still boating, working and inventing things. We had a nice long chat about the terrible state of the cover and just when we began to think it was beyond repair, he said he thought he could do something with it and offered to do the work there and then. I'm happy to say he did a great job and our cover will, hopefully, get us through another few years without disgracing us. Whilst we were waiting for the work to be done, there was a constant procession of hire boats coming by to keep us amused. The nearest hire base is at Leighton Buzzard so most of them had been running for a few hours and had lost that worried frown that goes with not knowing which way to swing the tiller. The majority of the boats dropped their speed as they passed us and I waved and smiled at the happy boaters. Of course, there's always a few who have set themselves the impossible task of getting to Birmingham before the pubs close. They came roaring by, hooter blasting to warn oncoming boaters of their intention to charge through the bridge ahead, taking no account of moored boats or fishermen along the way.
It's never a good idea to make snap judgements about the people you meet – not all hirers are clueless. I had nothing but admiration for the crew we met on Monday – all had whistles hanging around their necks, to blow if there was a problem. There was also a lady in the bows overseeing the operation and giving instructions to the crew. She spotted me with my windlass ready on the paddle gear and I heard the whistle blow – I was politely asked to wait for the signal, before raising the paddle. For a moment I was a little offended, I would never be so discourteous as to start without a signal from the Captain but of course, they didn't know that. How refreshing to meet up with such a professional team – I was so impressed that I asked Carl if he thought we should have whistles but he looked at me like I was from Mars and uttered a line from 'Ello 'Ello which I'm not allowed to repeat!
If ever there was a week to go boating then this is the one. The hawthorn is in full blossom and the canals are looking positively bridal as we chug along through clouds of tiny petals which cascade down on us like confetti. The birdsong is deafening and I try to identify each one as I hear it. Blackbirds and wrens I know, robins and chaffinch too but we hear one that neither of us have ever heard before and we've christened it the 'Banjo bird' until we can work out what it is. Swans and their cygnets are everywhere, some are so tame that they tap on the hatch to be fed. Geese swim busily by, always in a line with mother goose at the front, little goslings in the middle and goosey gander bringing up the rear. How did they work that formation out? I also wonder how the heron knows about waiting at the bottom of a lock for a boat to come out. The Grand Union herons are very bold, they perch on the bank and dare you to walk by and then flap limply away as if they can hardly be bothered to move. I'm feeling quite poetic as we chug along the sparkling water in the sunshine – the scenery is so beautiful and I feel very lucky to be a boater with this watery world on my doorstep.
This week we have travelled from Marsworth Junction back to this quiet mooring at the foot of the Stoke Bruerne locks. By mid morning, I had resorted to putting a coat on and was considering gloves and scarf. The sky remained stubbornly leaden and we passed a few of the hire boats from yesterday- they were moored up with the heating on and I don't blame them a bit. We were extremely happy to reach Stoke Bruerne and find a place to tie up and get inside out of the cold – really, I'm not exaggerating, it was really that cold. As soon as we lit the stove at about half past twelve, the sun came out and it went from Iceland to Thailand in just a few moments. Just as the logs were taking hold and throwing out enough heat to boil the kettle, the sun came pouring in through the cabin windows and within a few minutes we were at Regulo 5.
Twilight is setting in and the sun is sinking behind the locks – I'll be racing up there tomorrow and then onward through the Blisworth tunnel to Gayton. I wonder if the car is still in the hedge where I left it?
That's all for this week – more ramblings as usual next week
Love as Always
The Floating Chandlers