From Forton to Ratcliffe Wharf in under three minutes.

This week I’ve been extremely busy, trundling up and down th’owd Lanky Cut in the Mouse Boat, selling mouse maps and prints and greetings cards to unsuspecting dog walkers. (Well, attempting to sell them, at any rate.)

So, by way of a change, I thought I’d make a video to demonstrate the frantic pace of life as a narrowboat trader. The original video should have been longer, capturing my four hour trip from Forton to the Wyre Aqueduct; featuring herons swooping at the camera and two swans in pitched battle with a gaggle of ducks.

Unfortunately, true to form, the battery ran out.

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Introducing the Mouse Map

By way of an extra posting this week, on the very slim chance that somebody out there might actually read it, the mice from the Mouse Boat have, apparently, produced a map of the Lancaster Canal. We’ve reproduced it here. And we’re also selling them, from the Mouse Boat, for a tenner. All proceeds go towards feeding the cats, otherwise the mice will end up as their dinner.

The Fabulous Mouse Map!

There and almost Back Again

Misty Morning at Potter’s Brook

 

We went to Galgate, Carol and me, for the guaranteed bank holiday crowds that never happened. (Everyone was down the beach posing for the BBC News, it would appear.)

The weather happened though. The sun came out and buckled the cobbles beneath the bridges. Hairy torsos suddenly became the norm for passing boaters, shirts tied proudly to masts with purulent bodies on display wearing nothing but flip flops and shorts. (There ought to be a law against it.)

The men were even worse.

Galgate Marina

 

Galgate looks a bit like a Hornby Railway set constructed by an enthusiast with not enough time on his hands. (I’m not saying ‘his-stroke-her hands’. People who build model railways are always ‘his’.)

Three parallel worlds operate cheek-by-jowl here;  the canal, the A6 and the railway line, the latter of which criss-crosses the middle of which, via an enormous skewed bridge that dominates the village. The place is full of stone-built terraced cottages that deserve to have brass band music playing over the top of them.

We bought some chips and gravy with the day’s takings from a flustered gent who seemed to only have one joke stuck on repeat – “Are you taking you grand-daughter out for a treat, sir?”

Just before Galgate the canal branches off to Glasson under a bridge and through a lock.

It’s a bridge with a lock in front of it.

 

We went to have a look, as you’ve probably gathered from the photograph. I can’t really think of much else to add to that.

Later we found ourselves (and the Mouse Boat) wedged in the winding hole behind a small group of bungalows. In the end we had to use the boat hook on somebody’s garden gnome to work ourselves free. Then we headed back to Potter’s Brook.

Carol had a go at steering and didn’t sink the boat, which I thought was rather impressive.

Mouse work at Potter’s Brook.

 

Everybody seems to have broken down this weekend. I’ve heard of props snarled up on mooring ropes, engines leaking diesel, rudders snapping on underwater dangers and shooting through the air like deadly Frisbees.

For once the Mouse Boat didn’t break down. We just sizzled for several days in the exhausting heat, until we ran out of decent coffee and Carol made her excuses and left.

The Mouse Boat is now back in Forton and, for the next few days at least, I’m not.

I remember Forton well.

And that, folks, was summer…

This weekend has been a roaring success!

Our current berth, opposite the bogs at Ratcliffe Wharf.

Despite the rain, despite the gales, despite the fact that my lift to the boat didn’t happen and it cost me thirty-five quid in taxi fares, this weekend has been a success. I sold three framed, signed mouse prints (thanks to Malcolm, Carol and Sandra for buying them), which just about covered the taxi-fare up to Garstang and the bus fare back again, and means that, for once, we’ve broken even.

Incredible artwork for sale!

Admittedly that might not seem like much of a success, but it’s better than usual and at least we’re moving in the right direction.

Which, incidentally, is Ratcliffe Wharf up at Forton, where I’m moored up at the moment. I was supposed to be heading for Nateby but the gale force winds (which the BBC failed to mention on their increasingly foreshortened weather forecast) blew me off course.

Nonetheless, the sun came out for forty-three minutes on Saturday and I painted half the roof (I’ll paint the other half when I turn the boat around, because I’ve no intention of falling in the cut off the gunwale…again).

Now I no longer have to Photoshop the port side of the roof clean.

And I painted the benches in the bows (cream, like the roof) and various other bits (mostly cream. I have a large tin of cream exterior emulsion).

And I’ve evicted some of the larger spiders from their various lurking holes (i.e. the ones with fangs).

And I’ve covered half of a second hanging table with plastic, in contravention to the current anti-plastic trend. (Sometimes I get this urge to be annoying.)

So, all in all, I’ve done quite well. I’m even starting to believe that, at some distant point in the future, we might turn a profit. If we keep at it hard enough. One day perhaps.

Closed for between Forty and Forty-five Winks

We drove the Mouse Boat through grey curtains of drizzle this afternoon, from Dimples Lane to Bridge House Marina, calling in at the Thetford Station en route to tank-up, power-down and empty the Thetfords; a journey we’ve made countless times before, except that this time Michelle stood bravely on the stern and, for one, albeit extremely brief, moment, even held the juddering tiller.

The Mouse Boat berthed outside Bridge House Marina this afternoon.

Now, I don’t want to sound patronising, but…well done Michelle!

Actually, now that I’ve come to read it back, that sounded really patronising. Condescending even. I’d better stop now.

Right, to business…or the lack of it. The Mouse Boat won’t be open this weekend. It’s Michelle’s birthday, you see, and to be honest if she’s having the weekend off, then so am I.

So, if you need your Mouse Boat fix – or you desperately require some Mouse Print related activity – then Bridge 64 Café, just inside Bridge House Marina, has several new framed, mounted and signed Mouse Prints for sale on our behalf, along with a number of unframed but mounted and signed other Mouse Prints and some more generalised, vanilla-flavoured Mouse Boat greetings cards.

And food and coffee, of course.

Here’s one of our latest prints.

That Sinking Feeling…

Wake me up in a week’s time, or when the sun comes out, whichever happens last.

More Rain and Rejection…

Michelle tried her hand at selling from the boat this weekend, while I looked after cats at Ingleway. (Ingleway does exist, incidentally, even if it is my somewhat cryptic obfuscation for our alternative non-address.)

Neither of us had a very successful weekend.

It rained, and then it rained some more. But while it rained Michelle busied herself covering our display tables with shabby-chic fabric, whilst I had to deal with a stressed-out Ghostie who refused to eat until Michelle came home again.

A random photograph taken by Michelle when it had stopped raining.

I also sent an email and a couple of ‘mouse prints’ to an agency that deals exclusively with thousands of greetings cards companies. After three days of waiting they got back in touch to tell me that, in their opinion, there wasn’t a market for my work.

Which is odd, because Michelle managed to sell a number of Mouse Boat greetings cards and prints over the weekend, and she didn’t even open the shop. Not enough to retire on, of course…or even to cover the minimum wage once the initial set-up costs had been taken out…but they were genuine sales, in the rain, with the shop closed, nonetheless.

Another random photograph taken by Michelle this weekend.

We’ve been here before. Years ago we wrote a local history book, which all the local history book publishers rejected, because – in their own words – ‘there’s no market for this sort thing’.

Fortunately, some of our local historian friends believed differently and, in the end we got sponsorship from James Parr at Wyrefield Farm. Our unmarketable book sold several thousand copies.

It stings though. The galleries have rejected my work. The agencies are now rejecting my work. I’m starting to wonder if there’s some massive conspiracy against me or something.

A third random photograph taken by Michelle once it had stopped raining.

Anyhow, I’m going to have to face my demons and the general public once more, if only to prevent Ghostie from going into a major panic brought about by Michelle’s absence. One way or another we struggle forwards – or possibly sideways.

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Idiots

Bilsborrow – Easter, 2018. It wasn’t a complete disaster.

Guy’s Hamlet – based on Blackpool Pleasure Beach

Actually, that’s not true. When I come to think about it, the whole experience was an unqualified, out-and-out mess. After last week’s equally disastrous trial run behind the aqueduct in Garstang, I probably should have learned some lessons – such as not to run off and hide from potential customers; not attempting to put the stock out in the rain; letting Michelle run the shop instead of me, while I keep myself hidden until the selling is over.

We learn. Possibly.

We could probably do with employing some designers for our display.

At least I made the cost of the diesel to and from Garstang back, even if it was by selling four cards to somebody who’d seen me proudly promoting our enterprise on Facebook and had only come down for a brew and a natter. When the towpath actually started to fill up with potential customers – real ones with dogs and kids – I went into my customary panic and dismantled our shabby stall, hit the nearest winding hole and escaped into the depths of the Lancashire countryside.

My escape route…

I consider the experience a minor setback, which, once again, proves that I never let a valuable lesson stand in the way of my ignorance. Michelle’s going to have a go at selling next time, as soon as the weather allows us. She’s bound to make a better fist of it than I did. And we need to work on our display, in so much as we need one that doesn’t look like a tramp’s temporary bivouac.

On the plus side, I met a few friendly people with whom I’ve only ever spoken online before now. And I can only apologise to anybody else who turned up on Saturday at Michelle’s insistance I’d be there, only to discover I’d buggered off.

Owd Nell’s has nothing to fear from our impromptu trading, if nowt else.

Like Monty Python’s Swamp Castle, we will regroup, rethink, rebuild and end up the strongest bloody castle in all the land. Or narrowboat shop. Or something.