You have reached your (first) destination

First time we’ve ever managed to moor here – some obliging fellow was just moving off so we didn’t hesitate

So how did yesterday rate on my 1-10 Happy-ometer? I think a stonking big 11. A gentle pootle up to Brum central, a just vacated mooring on the Oozells Loop that I snuck into without demur, a bit of shopping, some overdue abluting, a simply wonderful meal at Lasan, and out like a light as soon as we crawled into the bed ‘ole. Simple pleasures, but the best ones.

Some extra notes. Wast Hill was remarkably clear for once; previous passages have always been through a ghoulish miasma, setting my imagination running and seeing Kit Crewbucket loom out of every brick. We didn’t meet any boats either, so no  mid-bore games of chicken. Shame.

Follow the trade – canal carrying lives

We also had a quick ‘stop and collect’ to do on behalf of the first mate. One of his customers lives a minute from the cut at Bourneville so arrangements were made for him to hand his busted synthesizer over for Andy to fix – long live canal carrying. It’s a heavy beast too, quite useful as compensatory ballast for the cack tank in fact.

Unfortunately this rendezvous meant that we were unable to avail ourselves of an enterprising canal-side facility, the Barge-Thru Cafe; it also meant I had to politely refuse a gentleman boater’s kind invitation for a coffee, a cappuccino no less. This was offered while Andy was below, but I think he was more enamoured of the boat than its captain; a strong gambit though, you can’t fault a man for trying.

My sort of cafe

While watering at Holliday Wharf, a lovely couple who had just come into the city to give notice of their marriage got some snaps of themselves and the boat, and they were very interested in the whole subject, citing Great Canal Journeys and confirming once again Tim and Pru’s PR value. They thought initially I was a trip boat and asked how much…now there’s a thought.

So nice not to have to park the car

Once we’d moored, I took a wander with the hounds, spotting FMC Bream and Barlows’ Gort opposite one another on the main line (both looking very fine, I might add). I hear from Sarah on Chertsey that a further historic flotilla is coalescing from the east along the bottom road and I know that the Finchers on Flamingo are coming up the North Stratford. The clans are gathering!

Bream and Gort pit-stopping in Brum before presumably heading for Brownhills

Final note a propos of nothing but encouraging all the same for the Challenge in May….not one thing on the prop yet. FLW.

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On we go

(With apologies to Dinah Washington) What a difference a day makes, 24 little hours…but the difference wasn’t you…or Andy..or Rosie and Buzz, which leaves me I guess. Definitely a brighter demeanour after a good night’s sleep and return of perspective that told me (as it does every time) that my mooring worries of the previous evening were just a tad over the top. Lo, tonight we had a repeat performance and I didn’t even blow my stack at Andy’s remark (always uttered on these occasions and remarkably unhelpful) that maybe I’d like to get a boat that would actually fit somewhere. Is it my fault that the water seems to have gone missing, as it’s not just me saying it, we’re all mithering about it?!

A more rounded view of the world this morning

Besides, tonight’s tarradiddle gave us another example of why boaty folk are so often the best…even though I was reversing Enc down the side of their very smart trad in an attempt to get back to a place where I could do a bit of spot dredging against some armco, out the owners popped, all smiles, lamenting the state of the cut and wanting to help. So in order, I think we had Mrs on the back rope, Mr on the front with Andy, me dredging and then Rosie decided she had had enough of staying inside with all the horrible noises and did a standing jump out of our small Northwich proportioned hold. Pretty good going for nine years old! Anyway, she ran to the nearest human for fuss, which happened to be Mrs, who promptly fell in love, while Mr was asking Andy if we wanted to borrow his plank. As we’d got tied in the interim in no worse a state than last night, we thought we’d be okay, so we bade them a good evening with hearty thanks on the side as they repaired to the pub.

The last thing I expected to see as I trudged around the corner

So my good spirits remained intact, result. The reason for said good spirits? Twofold I think. First, the rest of the North Stratford wasn’t half as bad as I was expecting. It’s been a few years since we last came through and a lot of decades since my seminal dead dog passage, and today the cut seems a lot cleaner with just a few hot grot spots. It’s also benefitted greatly, to my eyes, from some redevelopment and new housing which has lifted the tone of the environs; and also, the existing houses now seem to present a far friendlier face, appreciating the water, connecting rather than contemning. It still does go on a bit longer than I’d like – its passage is a tad too shrouded and closed in for my liking – but better, definitely better.

Have BW key, will travel

Secondly, I’m happy because we have the thing we did need – a new BW key – and no longer have the thing we didn’t – oil leaks. Paul came over at lunchtime to relieve Mafeking on both fronts, for which we are truly grateful; plus we’ve also arranged for a bit of investigatory poking about after the Braunston show to tackle the mucky exhaust issue.

Because we have a concert to go to on Wednesday we didn’t want to head into the city today and spend two days and three nights tied up in Brum central. So we turned left at King’s Norton and beetled down to Hopwood for the night. We usually like to give it a bit of welly through tunnels, as you do, but the HR2 is so thunkingly loud and painfully percussive that my brain started to hurt, so we took it steadily through Wast Hill with a few bursts of extra speed now and again. The Napton Narrowboats boat behind was doing a good job of playing catch but a very loud clang as bow struck wall ended his pursuit, and even though he resumed his charge once outside, he was foiled by my unexpected (to me, I didn’t have a map!) winding pirouette, which proceeded the aforementioned tarradiddle.

I can’t wait to find out what tomorrow is like!

PS. I realise now that while I thought I was being very clever in turning this evening when I suddenly espied the opportunity, the joke is on me rather. If we’d carried on just a smidge further, we’d have found the formal VMs with rings (I shall never go mapless again) and while levels are such that we might still have struggled to lie straight alongside, I reckon my consequent tarradiddle might have been downgraded to a tarradoddle.

Another little spirit lifter

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Should have stuck to the GU

What can I say about yesterday? It started so brightly but ended as a bit of an angst fest…for ridiculous reasons really as it’s not exactly as if we’re on the high seas here, no mild peril involved. It’s just that since acquiring Henry a few years ago, another boat whose proportions underwater are quite generous, and who only has access from the stern to boot, I have developed high anxiety about getting moored up. It is strange and I do worry about why I get worried, and I do try and counsel myself against it, but still the anxiety lingers. But let me come back to the evening after having talked about the morning.

And off we go again!

Lapworth was a delight, an easy ascent in glorious sunshine and thanks to the phalanx of towpath walkers I was able to politely pressgang a few into closing top gates for me. Yes, I had to ask, when so often people are all too willing to set to and lend a hand. And it struck me as we progressed upwards that I’d rarely witnessed so little engagement from the public – there was no obvious interest in the canal, the locks, the boat, us, and that is so unusual for a popular lock flight. As we were the only boat around you would have thought we’d have been a magnet for questions, I even had my happy face on…maybe that was the problem!

More new territory

After an uphill morning the afternoon went steadily downhill. I don’t think I have ever really clicked with the North Stratford, probably a legacy from one of my trips with dad when we came through on a miserable day and the cut looked like a midden, all dead dogs and discarded divans, the locals obviously content to crap on their own doorstep. There are not many things that elicit massively strong feelings in my generally equanimitous disposition but flytipping and litter get me off the scale. So we were already in negative territory, and we plunged further when we realized the level was off by about six inches and things all got porridgey. And of course it started my mooring alarm bells ringing, which quickly turned to a loud clanging when we tried to do a doggie pit stop. No chance and so began a three mile crawl with repeated attempts to get in to the side, my anxiety levels creeping steadily up, not helped at all by the fact that the HR2 decided to have an absolute smoke-a-thon in the heat, adding to its oil dripping woes. I really should have taken a leaf out of the dogs’ book as they weren’t bothered in the slightest and just kept snoozing. Eventually we got moored up…well, tied reasonably close at the front and a bit of a Grand Canyon going on at the back, but there was enough room for all the returning day-trippers to go past. And I know it’s a stupid thing to get het up about, really silly…maybe if we didn’t have big dogs to heave off I’d be less concerned but…

It was enormous and we ate it all and we don’t care

I decided to restore my equilibrium by cooking up one of my legendary spag bols (a talent I appear to have acquired from dad through DNA osmosis as I never learnt at his knee, just knew instinctively how to do it, though without the decorating the ceiling with spaghetti facet). It was bloody good, washed down with a couple of episodes of Designated Survivor and key lime pie, and we finally went off to bed just before midnight – a remarkable fact in itself as usually when we’re out on the boats, we’re yawning by nine and asleep by one minute past.

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Oil take the high road

So we are finally underway on what feels like our first journey of real purpose on Enceladus. Up to now, it’s been all little out and back bimbles which, while always very pleasant, lack the intent and interest of an A to B. We’re en route to the HNBC’s historic boat gathering at Brownhills on the Wyrley and Essington, going via Brum central to catch a concert. The first mate and I have been joined by canine crew Rosie and Buzz, who are already feeling the pace and it’s only day three.

How far do we have to walk?

Thus far, it’s been a super couple of days, helped in no small part by the stunning weather. We dropped down Stockton on our own and then picked up a couple of Kate Boats hirers to accompany us down through the rest, including a delightful family from Frankfurt who never stopped smiling and who had obviously fallen completely head over heels in love with the canals. That they will be back I have no doubt. Indeed, judging from both the emptiness of the UCC, Calcutt and Kate bases, the hiring season is obviously off to a cracking start, buoyed no doubt by all the recent telly PR. This is another very good thing…how many of us started by hiring? How vital is it for our collective future to have a successful – and influential – hire boat industry? And yet some people can be very funny about hirers. Now I’m not a sanctimonious cow, I’ve been known to have a tut and a tsk when a hirer does a silly, but I am quick to chide myself. I still cock up even now so most of the time I try to help, to smile and encourage and get a quick discourse in on why the Llangollen isn’t the only game in town.

Someone had the cheek to say I had the easy job – the important job, I think

Yesterday was a game of two halves, a decent ascent up Hatton with the assistance of the lovely Lesley off Yarwood. She undertook the chief baby minding role and in her company Andy was quite transformed from the begrudging lockwheeler into a happy little camper – she can come again. Indeed, it sounds as if during their little lock beam tete a tetes he had lined her up for any flight with more than 10 locks. After a quick pit stop for bacon rolls Lesley headed off on her trusty Brampton while we headed on to the Tom o the Wood moorings. It reminded me yet again of how beautiful, but how unheralded, this stretch of the GU is. Okay, the weather was a bonus especially as the blossom is just coming into bloom, but it is scintillating. Maybe people are just too focused on the big descent/ascents coming up to savour the in-between stretch but savour it I did yesterday. Along with more cake.

Baby minding

The only other thing of note is a running battle with the Lister, which wants to chuck its oil out while we’d much prefer that it kept it in. The finger of suspicion is on one of the copper washes on the oil filter but no amount of nipping up is helping and it’s simply ruining my engine room housekeeping! It has rather caught us on the hop as Andy prefers to stick to his areas of expertise and not fiddle as an enthusiastic amateur (he’s seen the damage that can do in his day job) so we may seek some professional assistance in the week. Failing that, I’ll be doing the rounds of owners at Brownhills!

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Yesterday served as the perfect reminder – as if I needed one – of why we do this boating lark. We’d come up to Enceladus the night before so were able to make an early start, and after trotting the dogs out for morning necessities, we set to. Winter took six hours to erase, the fettling mixed in with plenty of banter, coffee and metal polish down the T-shirt.

Quick water stop turned into a long water stop, as they do

But as the clock ticked just past three, we were finally done; lobbing a small Eiger of dirty cloths into the nearest cupboard, remembering to actually put the tiller on, having a senior moment about which way to hang the chimney chain and we were off.

Thank you Ryan for your smiley efficient service earlier.

 Three hours of glorious cruising into the setting sun, with the countryside just starting to hint of its sukebind promise to come, everyone in splendid spirits and plenty of boats actually on the move, which is a very good thing…not quite sure why they felt the need to drive up the bank when they saw me though, a girl could get a complex.

One for the album, perfect day

Finally tied up, without even a murmur of a domestic, and then I toddled off with the dogs for an hour while Andy tightened some nuts and took the top off a beer. Perfect, I tell you, just perfect.

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The Valiant Years – Part 1

Now if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that Enceladus has had multiple names and iterations across her eight decades or so. When entering the BW hire fleet at the beginning of the 60s, she was Water Valiant. When entering her private ownership years, she became simply Valiant. I knew very little about this phase of her life apart from a reference that she once ran as a trip boat on the Staffs and Worcs and was moored around the Bratch, but I think this refers more to the decade that preceded her move onto the bank at Stretton in the early 2000s. As regards the 70s and 80s, it was all a bit of a blank..until a chap called Tony Shearwood got in touch.

Not Tony’s pic, probably from 90s, but still looking very tidy

You may already have clocked his comment but if not, I’m going to share it here (all this is being done with Tony’s happy consent, by the way). I am not going to edit any of Tony’s words here, or what’s to come – yes, there’s more but you’ll have to wait – because I want you to experience what I did, the very real affection, enduring love and unalloyed, undimmed enthusiasm that just shines forth from what he has to say. This is what boating and boat ownership is all about. Over to you, Tony
“Hi, we owned ‘Valiant’ as she was then known throughout the 70s and well into the 80s. She was our family boat based in the North West of England in Lymm. We loved the old girl and spent very many holidays on the Bridgewater, Trent and Mersey, Leeds – Liverpool, The Peak Forest, The Shropshire Union, Macclesfield, Staffs Worcester etc. Her beating heart was the ever reliable Lister 2 cylinder diesel. When we bought Valiant, she had the flat-cut stern, which was typical of the British Waterways tug conversion, the flat stern continued below the water line, which made reversing almost impossible. We had the underwater tapering done which did improve the handling but she always needed the whole stern re-shaping. Incidentally, when we bought her she still had a central cockpit with steering wheel, again this was typical of the British Waterways approach to converting working boats into rental pleasure boats. Over the years she had ‘relaxed’ and gained a little girth, making some locks very scary, several times she was pinned by the lock walls as the water rose, you always has to be on guard. In her British Waterways hire fleet days, she featured on Blue Peter navigating the Anderton Boat Lift in Northwich. We also used the lift to venture onto the River Weaver, that region being her spiritual home. That said, she was a lovely old girl and I’m happy she’s found a new lease of life. We’ll never forget our old girl.”

The Valiant Years part 2 coming soon, featuring ‘Chocolate Charlie’…

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Not to be sniffed at

There’ll be plenty of Brum action in the early part of the season so I’ll have my Waterways Routes maps handy on my iPad (Paul does a wonderful job with these IMHO). Not so much for checking where we’re going but for seeing where we could have gone…the maps show all the lost routes, those that have sadly been obliterated for all time and those which, rather more encouragingly, have restoration either in progress or being planned and lobbied for. Gosh, how I’d like to turn the clock back so we could run over the full extent of the BCN as it was in its heyday…there are some absolutely cracking link routes and so many watery arms and fingers creeping into every city nook.

Mind you, I bet the smell and the noise would come as a bit of a seismic shock to the senses. It’s all so sanitised these days (and that’s an observation, not a nostalgic moan) that you have to really concentrate the mind to imagine the endless clamour, the commingled stench of competing industries, and of course the boats, everywhere the boats. I suspect that even in our wildest imaginings we’d still fall well short of what it was really like. All that said, I’m a boater of today with a bad coffee habit so I’d be a total hypocrite if I longed for an old tannery instead of the Costa at the end of the Walsall arm. Legendary as the town’s saddlery and leather output was, tanneries exude a gut-heaving, mephitic miasma that is only surpassed by that malodorous acme, the bone rendering plant. I prefer my first lungfuls with a hint of Arabica, thanks all the same.

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Here, there and everywhere

When we got into boat ownership back at the start of the millennium, one of the first things we were told was to find a mooring as a priority – and then hold on to it like your life depended on it. Nonsense, of course, as we actually found a mooring – and then moved moorings – with relative ease for the first two to three years. Yes, it needed some effort and planning, and yes, it needed the old spondoolicks, but it wasn’t difficult. And then the wave of new marinas came and simplified things even further, massively reducing the need for adroit orchestration of our boat movements, and instead leaving us with the headache of ‘Well, we can go and cruise/stay anywhere now, there’s a marina. Where do you fancy?’

That liberation has seen our boats pushed around the system, up and over the Pennines all three ways, up the Trent, round almost every ring, in and out of the BCN labyrinth, down the Severn, up the Avon, setting our furthermost corners – as it currently stands – as Gloucester, Liverpool, Keadby and London. Still plenty to go at, mind, but it’s not a competition, we just enjoy the A to B and the thrill of actually ‘going’, using the boats as they were intended.

Putting into a new marina for two to three months or sometimes longer, and then using that as a base to explore the area with ‘out and backs’ before moving to a new destination, that suits us very well. Of course, such a strategy also means a fair bit of time on the road to get to whichever marina is in play, but as we live in Suffolk and want to be based on the canal system rather than the Fens, there’s a minimum two hour drive anyway. So what if sometimes that is three or four? As long as there’s a Costa on route, it’s not a problem (says she who was kicking off something rotten at the six hours it took us to get to Shropshire – well, it should only have taken three and a half!). And as long as there is boating at the end of it, when that first touch of the tiller makes it all better, well, a car journey is a small price to pay.

Obviously this isn’t something that suits everyone. I’ve seen boats in the same marina for years presumably because it’s convenient for home but if you’re one of these unlucky people who still has to work and only has holiday time to play in, doesn’t going over the same old ground start to pall after a while? And some don’t even make use of what is available to them…I was chatting to a lovely couple a few years ago in Diglis and I was asking them questions about the Severn down to Gloucester ahead of our trip. They assured me I had nothing to worry about, they were based on the G&S and had been coming up and down to Worcester and Stourport for years and years in their diddy 30 footer without a problem. I then ventured a question about the Avon, as we would be going up it on our return from Gloucester. They looked blankly at me – “Oh no dear, we’ve never done the Avon”. Well we did, and if I see that couple again, I’m going to tell them that they’ve been missing out big time! Of course, should incriminating and embarrassing webcam footage of a boat that looks like ours in Wyre lock ever come to light, I shall deny I was ever there…

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Pirates ahoy!

To the Medway with Heather Boyce and her trusty NB Bleasdale – No tolls to pay for passing under the Dartford Bridge

Friends will attest to my occasional piratical tendencies, to wit the inviting of self on board other people’s boats, shoving them off the tiller and occasionally even sending them off for an alternative weekend while I abscond with their property. This smiling assassin strategy has resulted in some excellent larks including the Queen’s Jubilee Flotilla, trips from Limehouse to Gravesend and to the Medway, a crossing of the Wash, and a number of up and down tootles on the Thames Tideway.

The Queen’s Jubilee Pageant with NB Indigo Dream – Couldn’t have got wetter if we’d sunk

Yes, folks, never use your own boat where there’s the risk of mild peril…I am particularly indebted to my best chum Sue Cook who was so trusting with her boat Indigo Dream, which for a period a few years back was essentially our southern fleet member…Adventures chronicled here.

Crossing The Wash with NB Yarwood – Sadly the ladder in shot drowned shortly after, taken from his owners far too soon

We’re off shortly for some more continental piracy as we simply couldn’t leave our friends Jill and Graham and their gorgeous Dutch barge Francoise unmolested any longer. I mean, it’s been at least nine months since their Tibetan terriers Baxter and Mutley attempted to repel boarders – even though we brought gifts! – so more than enough time has lapsed to lull them into a false sense of security.

It’s a wonderful long weekend in prospect because a) we love Jill and Graham to bits and miss them from the UK canals, b) it’s France, what’s not to love, and c) I get to hog the wheel and play big boats (including surprise packages, see the PS)! I will confess that on our first visit last summer, my Jolly Roger spirit went a bit AWOL as this was a bit of an unknown, steering by wheel, in a much bigger boat than I was used to, on unfamiliar waters. Wimp!

DB Françoise – Bigger than I’m used to, as the actress said to the bishop

However, after a morning’s patient tutelage by Graham, the piratical urge returned full throttle and no-one else got a go, basically. It was fab! And, a la Michelle of the Resistance, I’m only going to say this once…but bow thrusters rock! Well, they do on a barge and yes, I know that for centuries skippers have manoeuvred huge boats around without the need for girly buttons but… I thought that as compensatory aids for my nascent talent at the wheel (and as preservers of good relations seeing as I didn’t want to dent a pal’s precious property) they were very cool and much appreciated. It was a totally top trip along a portion of the Canal lateral a la Loire, the sort of hols that has you googling ‘life change’ and looking up the A Vendre signs in boat windows and postulating ridiculous ideas to your increasingly vexed husband. No, I don’t exactly know what I’d do with a 40m peniche either but that’s just details, details, I tell you!

So we’re back off there shortly, somewhere on the river Marne…there’ll no doubt be scurrilous things written later on their super blog but for now it’s au revoir to the UK and hoist that Jolly Roger up the car aerial!

P.S. Jill sweet-talked a young capitaine into letting me have a go on this – most terrifying five minutes of my life!

The professionals make it look so easy…I’m pretty sure I wet myself

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Thanks for the memory

I was having a ponder the other day as to when narrowboating transitioned from ‘family holiday pastime’ to ‘serious religion’ status. I think it coincided with the time my brother decided he wanted to bugger off with his mates and my mother declared for a luxury spa, readily forsaking those all too familiar pleasures of tea brewing and sarnie making but with the added allure of a dump through toilet and bum-clinging shower curtain. I ask you, who in their right mind would prefer a guest slot at Champneys to being chief cook and bottle washer on a 60ft narrowboat of 80s vintage?

Jumped ship!

So that left my dad and I as last boaters standing but I don’t think we ever thought about calling time on our watery fact, having got rid of the lightweights we went hard core and booked a fortnight. Dad only had one stipulation – he didn’t care how brutal the route, how many lockmiles, how early he’d have to get up or how long he’d have to go, as long as there was a pub at the end of each day he’d happily sign off on whatever I proposed. How trusting! Cue meticulous planning which in those days involved no internet aids, just my well-thumbed and jam-stained Nicholsons, a piece of paper and a pencil. God, I loved this bit, indulging so many voyaging fantasies…I got carried away one year only realising belatedly we couldn’t do the K&A because it wasn’t actually restored yet.

My favourite read

Sadly, because I didn’t keep a diary and photos seem to have gone AWOL, the trips we did no longer sit in my memory as discrete journeys, but have become somewhat conflated and confused. To the best of my knowledge, we completed three ‘epics’, each time hiring with Weltonfield just up from Long Buckby; together they gave us an amalgam of experience that took in the East Midlands Ring, the Four Counties, the Cheshire and the Stourport Rings, with the odd sidebar. In lieu of a clear chronology I have episodic vignettes, and in these some of my favourite memories of my late dad. Like the time he went on holiday with one of the first ‘mobile’ phones (his poor old driver had to come down with new battery packs every other day). Funny how he’d only ever ring the office when a boat was coming the other way, and really funny how he always needed to stand in the bow to make his call. Ostentatious or what! I also seem to have a hazy recollection of him descending in a lock with the tiller in one hand, the brick phone to his ear in the other, trying to make himself understood to the Italian receptionist of the pensione that my mother had taken herself off to that year. I think there was a fair bit of ‘pronto’-ing going on as the signal faded…Ridiculous really.

Martyr to the cause

And then there was that glorious sunny evening on the Peak Forest when he was sitting back on the stern, with his whiskey in one hand and his glasses about to drop off his head. I was just about to warn him when the glasses fell, he made to grab them, he missed, and in they plopped followed by his tumbler, collateral damage of his clumsy save. Or when he stepped aboard the boat being steered by me at a very gentle speed (it was, m’ lud ) after he’d closed up a lock, only to fluff it and end up sitting in the canal, complete with bright yellow sou’wester hood atop his bonce like a distress beacon. Complete and utter sense of humour failure! Didn’t talk to me for hours… And I know I shouldn’t but I can’t help it…the time he was telephoning mum from a red booth with not those teensy panes of glass in but with those large single panes on each side. He dialled, popped his 10p in, leant back and promptly fell out of the box as there was no glass in it. Dad wasn’t hurt but I think I may have bust a rib laughing…

There was also stuff that was almost ritual for us…me eating thick slabs of home-made fruitcake for breakfast – because I could! Him frying up spam for doorstep butties – because he could! (And it was banned at home). Us both stumbling along towpaths on our return from the pub in tunnel black darkness – we didn’t ever have a torch because mum didn’t trust dad not to lose it. (This was the man that lost three mallets in one holiday so maybe she had a point.) The mandated evening at the pub, with chips the dish du jour, followed by lengthy sessions taking on the trivia machine. Standing so long in one place gave me horrendous leg cramps in the wee hours…but going home with a swag bag of pound coins (nearly 80 quid one year!) was sufficient compensation.

We somehow managed to lose reverse gear, twice in successive years, almost to the day. The first time we only found out as we sallied forth into Boggs Lock – I never knew a lock gate could open that far against a head of water. We also changed role over those years….while I did most of the on the level steering (dad had a low boredom threshold and was prone to tacking) locks were originally divied up with me on the wheels, dad at the helm. Over time though his eyes went and it was after clattering another wing wall and damaging our canal cred, that I suggested we swap. I’ve never really left the tiller since. I do remember dad coming back to the boat after a lock once with a big smile on his face..on asking him the cause of his amusement he pointed to a chap who he’d been deep in conversation with and told me he’d been asked ‘So how are you enjoying your holiday with your…er…partner?’, obviously fixed on the notion that the young piece he could see on the tiller was my dad’s floozy. After he’d stopped snorting, dad informed the bloke that I was in fact his daughter; the guy was simply amazed that a father and daughter could spend two weeks happily together doing what we were doing, given that he and his own daughter apparently couldn’t even spend 30 minutes in the same room together without arguing.

Those particular trips, though I probably didn’t know it at the time, led me to worship at the canal altar, I’m sure of it. And while occasionally the odd brainfade makes me wish I had a neat documented record of what we did so I could remember where the hell a certain thing happened, I know I’m extraordinarily lucky to have had the experience so I can have the memory. Thanks, dad.

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