Sunday, 17 March 2019

rough winds do shake

Cruising with Jim (photo by Carol Payne, who happened to be passing)

Spring had been coming on nicely. Moored up at Widcombe top lock, looking out across the city of Bath, we watched the peregrine falcons toi-ng and fro-ing to the steeple of St John's church, where there's a nesting box. Sometimes one would appear with a dead pigeon, and then patiently dismember it on top of a corbel. Mind you, this was a long way off even through the binoculars (though you can cheat and look on the webcam), and peregrines generally seem to lead quite dull lives in the main, just perched there with an air of lofty disdain. Like war, their lives are long periods of boredom punctuated by short bursts of absolute terror, although the terror is usually some other creature's. 

And in the warm sunny weather we boaters came out and socialised on the towpath, and I laid out my stall and sold lots of poetry books and pictures, and met lots of nice folk. And the trees alongside the boat were busy with fossicking goldcrests, which are always a small joy to see.

And one day all the boaters woke or came home to find bunches of daffodils waiting for them on their decks. Ding Dong had brought in a great load from the flower market, and he and Sherry Jim had a busy day delivering them from Bradford on Avon to Bath.

And then the storms came along, one after the other, and we all retired into our boats and huddled round the stove. I got on with my drawing, and did a quick trip to Bristol to pick up prints of the latest one, this picture of Dartmoor (which you will find in my Etsy shop, cough cough)

Honestly, I've not known weather like this before; gale after gale after gale. No sensible person was moving their boat. A few daft people, of course. But at the peak of the storms, when it was gusting up to Force 8 and more, wise folk who like their boats stay put. I did get a phone call from a CRT person while I was alongside in Bathampton on the 48 hour moorings; "You've overstayed on the visitor moorings" "Yes, and I'm very sorry, but it's blowing a hooley, and it's not safe to move.." The moorings at Bathampton are policed by some local residents; it's a stark contrast there between the net curtain brigade, in their neat houses where the plasticine factory used to be, and the ramshackle floating homes of Eli's Navy and other ditch gypsies. Two nations... 

But I don't like folk who take the piss either way, and I took advantage of a lull to slip away eastwards.

Then there came another storm, and with it loads of hireboats, because if you're on a hireboat you don't want to just sit and stay put. Someone said there was a Groupon deal going on, which might explain it. Anyway, as I'm now moored close to the swingbridge in Bathampton, I watched them approach the landing, and as often as not goof, and end up broadside across the canal, fending off from the moored boats with bargepoles. Ouch. I did go and help, when it was possible. I don't just watch and snark, honest.

Trees have been coming down in the wind, too. A beech and oak came down together at Murhill, and a shout went out for help. But my chainsaw is acting up, so I couldn't do very much about it. Then Jim came along and so we took his boat down there. Stephen, a boater and tree surgeon, had already got there and cleared the way through for the convoy of hireboats that had been held up. They'd tipped him generously too, and in the case of the stag boats, they'd mustered and heaved the trunks across the canal and out of the way. 

So we filled up the boat with timber and went to the pub.


  1. You have reminded me, writing about the rental boats, of the nuisance folks who rented houseboats became on the Trent Canal in Ontario in the 1990s. I will assume it hasn't changed. Because they could moor just about anywhere, cottagers along the canals and lakes, and town folk where the locks are located, found themselves inundated by noise from dusk to dawn from these party boats with drunks yelling and nasty music blaring to all hours.

    There was fun watching these same revellers trying to pilot boxes on pontoons in and out of the locks as currents swirled and the slightest wind would catch and spin them about.

    It surprises me that anyone would complain that you overstayed some arbitrary limit; you were very unlikely to have been making a nuisance of yourself!

    I am not surprised to hear there are more frequent high winds there. It is an effect of global climate change that nobody seems to be talking about.

  2. To be fair, there are increasing numbers of marginalised folk on the canal, and they often come with mental health problems that make them difficult neighbours.
    And some of them are just plain selfish shits too...
    Yes, as effects of global warming go, a few days of sustained high winds are pretty mild (as yet) compared with what's happening elsewhere, and what is yet to come. Harbingers, eh?