Sunday, 10 July 2016

Idle Women

Morning All
You may recall that when I wrote to you last week we were moored at the bottom of the elegantly named Boggs Lock and our friends, Pat and Malc, were moored in a sunny spot at the top. On Monday morning we woke early and crept quietly through the lock and sneaked by them. Malc had warned us that our mooring spot would be in the shade in the morning and he was right. We decided to chase the sun up the locks and once we came out 'up top' it was a beautiful morning. Tricky and I skipped up the tow-path towards Gailey Top Lock and I was already anticipating the smell of my morning coffee and wondering what to have for breakfast when a big blue 'something' hove into view. In fact it was several 'somethings' completely blocking the canal - work boats, barges and men in Hi-Viz jackets, watching a floating digger bucket loading a barge. I called out to the fluorescent jacket hoping that we'd be allowed to squeeze through, but no such luck – we're told to moor up and wait. We're not in a hurry but the boat coming up behind us is a hire boat, due back in the boatyard beyond the lock at 9am. They were panicking in case they incurred a fine for being late back so when the coast was finally clear, we let them go first. I watched them inching carefully around the digger boat that was sitting fairly and squarely in the middle of the canal. I wondered how he managed to control his boat and why he wasn't being swept away by the fierce wash from the lock. It was still early in the morning and I hadn't properly got my brain in gear so I was daft enough to ask him the question. He smiled that supercilious smile that men use when dealing with female members of the public and informed me he had his 'legs' down. Well, of course he did, how stupid of me not to know that boats have legs. I walked off up to the lock, swinging my windlass and resolving not to bother my pretty little head with any more daft questions.
On Monday evening, we set off down the tow-path to the Fox and Anchor to watch a performance entitled 'Idle Women'. The story of a young woman 'doing her bit' on the working boats during war-time England was cleverly told with a tea chest, imagination and humour. There was poetry and a sing song accompanied by a piano accordion which we enjoyed immensely although it was a struggle to hear them at times over the noise of rattling cutlery and braying laughter from the bar area. Well done to the 'Idle Woman' Kate and Heather – I'm glad that, for once, we were in the right place at the right time to catch this show.
The Shroppie is dressed for summer and we've chugged along through deeply wooded cuttings with beautiful old bridges soaring high above the narrow waterway - this canal is famous for those bridges as well as the peaceful, rural scenery. I caught a glimpse of a Kingfisher this week, streaking along the sun dappled water, a breathtaking splash of turquoise against the dark green foliage. Foxgloves, Scabious and Ox-Eye Daisies flourish along the tow-path and in the fields that stretch away towards the Wreakin in the distance.
We moored in Brewood and wandered up to the butchers for one of their famous pies for tea. On the counter is a sign saying 'Gray Peas' together with bags of what look like pepper corns. The young butcher is grinning delightedly as Pat and I muse over what they could be used for and tells us that it's a 'Black Country Delicacy' and he pronounced it with a broad accent as 'gry pays n bercun' - apparently you soak them overnight and cook them up with bacon, onion and pearl barley and serve them up like mushy peas. I wasn't tempted to buy any and I doubt any of you will be either (except maybe Ruth, the original Lady Aberlour, who I believe is a Black Country girl.)
Most days we have managed to stay dry - there has been rain, sometimes heavy but also prolonged periods of sunshine. Today has been another such day, damp and cool when the clouds roll in and hot and sunny when the sky clears. Carl has been battling a leaky porthole armed with a substance called 'Creeping Crack Cure' which probably won't win any awards for subtlety but is one name you're likely to remember should you ever need to fix a leaky porthole.
The tow-paths are soggy and my summer shoes get soaked every morning as I follow Pat and Tricky up the tow-path for our morning amble. The boats chug along behind us in case of a mud alert – today we had to have an emergency pick up because the path suddenly became a bog which would have done credit to a 'Tough Mudder' course (you might need to Google that one Mum!)
I'd just made a pretty salad for our Sunday tea when Carl says 'shall we have an evening cruise?' It was a lovely sunny evening and I thought I would still have plenty of time to do the jottings even though we had 13 locks between us and any hope of getting a mooring space. This time, our luck was in, we met a stream of boats coming up the flight as we set off and by half past eight we were moored in a prime spot on the aqueduct with the most spectacular view over the Weaver Valley below. Maybe the early bird doesn't always catch the worm!
It's almost tomorrow as I type this, Tricky and Carl have gone to bed and I'm running out of battery as usual so I'll end by sending a hug a usual and I'll write again next week
Love as Always
The Floating Chandlers

The distance covered this week is 41 miles, 5 ¼ furlongs and 29 locks.