As usual, when we get back aboard after a spell away, I spent the first hour unpacking and saying hello to the boat we love. The first job is to make up the bed and as the clean sheets waft their scent through the cabin, I'm almost tempted to climb in for a nap. We always feel exhausted after a few weeks ashore and I'm looking forward to winding down to 4 miles an hour again. Captain Carl is busy with the outside jobs – settling the gangplank and life-ring in their usual places and fondling his beloved solar panels. I'm checking for spiders and stowing essentials in their rightful places, the fridge is humming and the kettle is coming to boil for a much needed cuppa. It's good to be home.
Anyone who saw us trying to load the car on Friday morning might have worried that a murder was about to be committed. We had several goes at trying to get the freshly painted top-box into the back of the car before Carl got the screwdriver out and removed the feet. It was still a struggle and I'm afraid some of the new grey paint was removed in the loading process and angry words exchanged before it finally slid into place. It was worth all the effort to get it back to the boat, once we'd prised it out of the car and got it up on the roof, it looked very smart. Carl has already spent several hours filling it with spares ropes, fenders, mooring pins and the wheelbarrow tyres which are essential if you want to get a good night's sleep on a shallow mooring. In our early boating days, before we knew better, we didn't always get the boat tied up tightly and you don't notice that there's anything wrong until you get into bed. That's when you realise that the tapping noise that you could hardly hear earlier, sounds like a gong striking as soon as you put your head on the pillow. Or the water level has dropped and the bottom of the boat has grounded and every movement causes the bottom to shift slightly, which makes a sound like one of those rain sticks. We're much better at mooring these days – Carl ties the ropes and I go in and make a cup of tea and occasionally stick my head out of the hatch with helpful advice. 'We're still banging about' I say and Carl rearranges the ropes and fenders again until everyone is happy.
It seemed like a good idea to bring the tiller arm home when we left the boat in August. We'd had a slight 'hang up' at a lock on the Weaver and the tiller arm got caught in the lock gate. The articulated hinge was stretched out of shape – nothing serious, it just needed a good bashing with a hammer to straighten it out. Carl did a temporary repair but thought he could do a better job at home, where he had more tools and a vice. Unfortunately, the tiller arm is still under the chest of drawers at home and it wasn't until we wanted to cast off that Carl realised it was missing. We really didn't want to drive all the way home to collect the forgotten arm so we put our thinking caps on and tried a variety of solutions. First we dismantled the sweeping brush and tried the handle but it was too thin. Then we found an old chair leg that we'd picked up for firewood – it was too fat. Finally, Carl whittled a bit of stick and it was just right and so we set off on our Autumn Cruise with Tricky in her usual place on the roof and the sun on our backs. Perfick!
September can be a glorious month – our first narrow-boat holiday was in September and when I look back through the boating diaries, we've often had lovely, sunny days with long spells of dry weather in September. We made the best of the sunshine on Friday and chugged through Willington and dropped down through Stenson Lock arriving at our Swarkestone mooring before the rain set in. I love a rainy evening when we're moored up and cosy. I'm also enjoying my morning walks along the tow-path with Tricky, although she doesn't seem to be perking up like she normally does. Anyone know why my pampered pooch might be so depressed? The hedgerows are dripping with blackberries and the trees are just thinking about changing into their autumn finery. This morning, there was a heavy dew clinging to the boat and my summer sandals were soaked as soon as I stepped ashore. I reluctantly dusted off my walking boots and clopped off down to the lock feeling like a newly-shod shire horse. My sandals have been drying on the roof all day – the forecast for this week is 'Scorchio' – I'll need them for at least one more week before they retire to a dustbin. I've had to mend them with string and I don't expect the temporary lash up to last long, I just hope they don't fail as I'm crossing a lock.
I've downloaded a book that I've been meaning to read for a long time, it's called 'Eats, Shoots and Leaves'. The author writes about the apostrophe in a very humorous way but I'm sorry to say that I sometimes don't get the joke, so abysmal is my grasp of punctuation. I thought I'd better pay more attention to my grammar, now that 'The Jottings' are in print. Perhaps I should rename them to attract a wider audience – maybe I could call them 'Hedgerow Floggings' or '57 feet of Grey Paint' and change my name to Saucy Sally. Well, now that you're all laughing, I'll leave you to your Monday morning chores while I get back to wielding my windlass. Next week we'll be heading for the delights of Loughborough and Barrow on Soar and I'll write more then. I hope you're enjoying this last burst of summer as much as we are.
Love as Always
The Floating Chandlers