Rough Notes on Rugby to Fenny Compton Canal Cruise 5th to 8th October 2015


Moored at five o’clock near the village of Willoughby, stared at by several milk (Jerseys?) cows. I hope they do not moo in the night. Do cows moo at night?  We had got underway on the Hooded Grebe at about 1 p.m. from the marina. It was also the first long run in the new Prius of about an hour up the M1, then country roads in the lovely Northants countryside. We have became re-acquainted with bizarre canal-life of gypsy-type boats which did not seem to have moved in years, many with their own canal-side gardens, some carefully grown with manicured lawns, kids’ bicycles stacked atop. One boat boasted a black skull as a figurehead, and most of the denizens were long-haired and bearded, some of the men, too.

Suzanne managed the locks very well, although as usual she pushed herself too much and ended up knackered. Me too. She did, however manage to take the tiller quite well for half a mile or so, but I fear that I am to steer for all time.

It has showered heavily most of the day, with a dire forecast of donner und blitzen for tomorrow when we head for Braunston, but not the mile-long tunnel which we did with Jane and Michael a couple of years ago. That was the week when the tree fell over the canal shortly before the Foxton staircase locks, and over the day’s wait for it to be cleared, time slowed down and down and down: ‘canal time’ I heard it called by several boat people on the towpath nattering about the not so unwelcome hold-up.

Tuesday Morning

A few minutes before eight we are up after poor sleep: only a mile or two away, the A45 manages to intrude; rather too much wine in the evening so you are ready for bed by nine; for me, no blackout curtains so that the dawn light makes me put my eye shades on. At least there was no rocking, no scraping against the banks.

A policeman has been run down in Liverpool, Turkey complains about Russians encroaching on their airspace, Theresa May and Boris Johnson, rivals to succeed Cameron, will speak at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester today. One of the delegate MPs said on Today that he can’t wait to use their majority to change Britain forever; I’d like to lock him in a room with Jeremy Corbyn for a week.

I type this on the kitchen table under which Suzanne slept, it is mild enough to have the stern doors open to the peace of the canal, rosy in the light, belying the imminent bad weather.

Wednesday Evening

Yesterday was a partly a disaster. Suzanne was whipped off her windlass and fell to the ground and is badly bruised, especially her crook knee (her own one). She had her iPhone in the Dryazabone which wasn’t, and her phone is kaput. It was a bastard of a day, torrential rain as we did lock after lock (‘just one more’), didn’t don our proper wet-weather gear. I mean, it tipped down. Had a pretty good night in a quiet place a hundred yards just after Spurfoot Bridge near Priors Hardwick.

Turned round at Fenny Compton (pop. 797), did the nine Hillmorton locks on the trot, amazingly with Suzanne hobbling with her walking stick and windlass, and we are now moored half a mile after Folly Bridge, the sky clearing a little for a better day tomorrow, It’s twenty to seven, Suzanne preparing dinner and we are both buggered.

There is something of a savage quid pro quo about all this aggro because the Warwickshire countryside is beautiful, mile after mile of early autumn colours, abundant birdlife. You don’t see much built-up for hours.

Thursday Morning

Yesterday wasn’t too bad, returning down the Hillmorton locks, and we spent a relatively content evening playing rummy until the time came to disassemble the kitchen table, ready for S. to sleep in. Well, not a pretty sight or sound as two wine-sodden adults puzzled incompetently over the disassembly and re-assembly of wood panelling, steel tubes and close-fitting steel connections. This glorious morning was heralded by a passing boat at six, but doing it nice and slow. An irritating thing is the battery beeper that we have to endure each morning when you put on the engine for the hot water; this appears to be a fault that the previous users hadn’t reported (not so, as the lady at the boatyard explained, all you have to do is fang the throttle in neutral and the noise disappears). Ensure that it is in neutral.

Why do we do this, or better why do I do all this since I complain the most? Boat life is strangely compelling, as if the good bits are rewards for the hard bits. And who really remembers the bad bits more than the good bits unless you are in a very bad position in life? So it won’t work for Syrian refugees, for instance, or might it if you use those cop-out, tired and overworked not-so-bon mots: ‘relatively speaking’?


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