Sunday, 22 May 2016

What's A Besom?

It's a lovely sunny Sunday here on the Aylesbury Arm. You may be able to guess from the name, its an offshoot of the main Grand Union which leads to Aylesbury. We weren't planning to visit the town by boat, although we were thinking of catching the bus in for shopping, but I'd been reading the old diary from our last trip in 2010 and we remembered how lovely it was, with narrow locks and peaceful countryside. I had read about a new secure mooring basin for visitors on a blog somewhere so we set off from Marsworth junction on Friday morning, to investigate. We were surprised to find the first staircase lock set for us – i.e. the top one full and the bottom one empty. 'That's lucky' I thought until I noticed the workboat moored by the junction. The crew had been sent ahead to prepare their passage but we came chugging up before they were ready. They had to wave us through and so we had free passage all the way down the first six locks - it was definitely my lucky day. Even so, I was ready to moor after lock 9 and we spent a sunny afternoon on the tow-path with book and crochet hook – a most delightful boating day, which was just as well as we weren't quite so fortunate on Saturday.
We got up early for once, intending to boat through the remaining 7 locks, tie up in Aylesbury and do what normal people do on a Saturday, go shopping and have lunch in town. It'd been a wet night and the grass was soaking as Tricky and I trudged to the first lock which was empty. All the locks in the next section are left empty, with a paddle up, to make sure the locks don't overflow and flood the cute little cottage further down. I wasn't in a happy mood if I'm honest, I wanted sunshine and sandals not grey clouds and wet feet. The workings of the human mind are marvellous don't you think? I was standing by the lock gates as Carl and the boat went down to the lower level and as usual I was day-dreaming. With my eyes I was observing a host of sights – the green algae growing in a marvellous pattern on the wood of the lock gates and the lilac blossoming opposite. My ears were tuned in to the bird song and a horse huffing in the field behind me. My nose picked up the cool green smell of rushing water with just a hint of lilac floating over on the breeze. My brain was working overtime to process all this information but I'm still not really thinking about anything as the boat floated out of the lock. Carl waited in the bridge 'ole below (that's boaters speak for 'under the bridge') for me to close the gates and climb aboard. Which is when I paid the price for ignoring my brain and got a very rude awakening. My eyes had noted the wet brickwork and the steepness of the angle from the top of the lock down to the boat – normally there are steps, but again, my eyes had searched and sent a message to my brain to say 'no steps'. This is where I feel the brain has a design malfunction – there should have been a siren going off in my head 'Danger – wet bricks, walking boots, steep incline'. Of course, as soon as my boots hit the wet bricks, my feet shot out from under me and I rolled to the bottom only prevented from falling into the canal by our boat being in the way. Then my brain is saying 'Oh dear-that was a silly thing to do, didn't you realise that would happen?' I wasn't hurt, but I gave Carl a bit of a fright and we had to have the Elf and Safety discussion about keeping your wits about you when working through locks and not taking stupid risks. The rest of the locks were completed without incident and by the time we reached the very smart new visitors mooring in Aylesbury, I was ready for the bright lights and some retail therapy. Of course, your idea of bright lights and mine might differ considerably – I was looking for Sainsburys and Wilkinsons where others might want 'fluffing' in a hairdressers or a beauty parlour. My only concession to a 'treat' was a leisurely shop in the large Waitrose which was right by the visitors mooring and offers free coffee when you present your loyalty card. I've stocked up on 'brain food' – I think I need all the help I can get! If you want to join in, then here's the list of things that are supposed to boost your brainpower:
Brown stuff (ie brown pasta,brown bread), Blue stuff (blueberries, blackcurrants, tomatoes – oh, sorry they're red) Green stuff(Broccoli,spinach, asparagus),Oily fish,nuts and sage. I won't be doing a dieting blog until I've thought of a few things to do with that list of goodies!
Did I mention the 'blog' word again? It seems to be taking a good deal of my attention these days, ever since I stumbled accidentally into the blogging world. I'm such a late starter that the 'Hedgerow Jottings' look like a primary school child designed it during playtime when compared with the blogs of my fellow boaters. They decorate their articles with spectacular photos and use proper grammar in their text, unlike the witterings wot I rote. If I ever learn how to upload photos then I will treat you to the 'view from my cratch'. Now, no giggling in the back there – you know very well by now that the cratch is the 'front door' of the boat, a kind of conservatory made from vinyl with perspex windows in it. Today we are moored in a very pretty spot between two locks with only one other boat for company. We know there is someone aboard as we heard the engine running a while ago, but so far we've not caught sight of our neighbour which is a pity because the boat is decorated with besoms and skulls. I would love to know who lives in a boat decorated with such an unusual array of artefacts and I wonder if there is any witchcraft going on behind the closed curtains.
I'm disappointed to learn that not everyone wants to share their life history with me. In spite of my best efforts, I couldn't find out a thing about a boater we shared the locks with last week – not even his name! He was a dog lover and made a big fuss of Tricky, who totally ignored him as he didn't have any food! I tried the usual questions 'Have you come far?' 'Are you going far today?' - I got a 'No' and a 'Don't know' which was enough to put me off any further questioning. I must admit to being a bit desperate for conversation this week, I had to resort to sulking until Carl asked me what was wrong, so I could get a conversation out of him and then I had to make do with the Referendum as the main topic – still needs must. I managed to get about three hundred words out of him which tided me over until today when I sat outside with my crochet, chatting to anyone passing by, whether they wanted to or not. I haven't given up on the besom boat – he has to come out sometime.
Love as Always
The Floating Chandlers
PS a Besom is a witches broomstick – a bundle of twigs tied to a pole, but I'm sure you all knew that.