Lancaster is the beating heart of Lancashire – our county town; cathedral city (like the cheese); the historic seat of the British monarchy; the powder keg to the Wars of the Roses; Peake’s Gormenghast; Pratchett’s Lancre…etc. Which was why, for my fiftyfumftin birthday a couple of days ago, I thought I’d do something with my old friend Carol that I’d never done before (steady – Ed); that being to cross the Lune Aqueduct!
Carol – ditch pikey.
However, the best laid plans of Mouse Boats and men oft go awry. Especially middle-aged men with clapped-out narrowboats.
Carol gets cold easily, so on Thursday evening I put the electric blanket on for her, and drained the main batteries, forgetting that I’d also accidentally pulled the wires out of the solar panels last week and hadn’t replaced them. The result: on Friday morning, right on the outskirts of the great city itself, there wasn’t enough charge left to fire up the engine.
Lancaster Castle – it’s owned by the queen but she rarely visits.
We were stuck for two days, one of which was my birthday, Lancaster just out of reach, with no food (apart from tinned beans and sausage) and no television (which upset Carol, because she missed ‘Strictly’). Instead we spent the better part of the weekend watching a sheep and a pony who’d inexplicably started an inter-species romance beneath the oak tree on the opposite bank, and staring at an Italianate boathouse…
The ideal sort of boathouse to sell ice creams from…
…and a rather dilapidated old building that I’d gladly swap for the Mouse Boat any day.
The gatehouse to Aldcliffe Hall, every stone of which we now know intimately.
On Friday morning, fellow narrowboater Malcolm turned up with his jump leads (cheers Malcolm), unfortunately to no avail.
On Saturday, following a complicated mix up of bridge numbers and a lot of walking about shouting, my old man and his best mate, Pete (see previous blogs from some considerable time ago) turned up with a spare battery and a solar-panel reconnecting kit. After accidently cutting the water pipe with the alternator and filling the bilges with anti-freeze (out of the radiator into the frying pan) we were finally up and running again – my birthday long since gone, but the Lune Aqueduct still in potentia.
In the end we made it, chugging pleasantly through the ancient honey-coloured stone streets of Lancaster and over the towering John Rennie designed edifice – where the unexpected onslaught of a crosswind blew my specs and tobacco off the cabin roof, and Carol, holding on for grim death, managed to take the following photograph.
Lancre Gorge at an unusual angle.
Having achieved the pinnacle of my lifetime’s ambition, we took a 360 point turn in the winding hole, did battle with a tree in which my television aerial lost, and headed back into town, mooring up for the night outside the Water Witch public house.
The Water Witch – get drunk and drown.
The sun hadn’t quite set and I fancied a KFC (I was obviously confused after the high altitude of the aqueduct) so we took a wander round the town. Here are a couple of highlights…
This pub’s been around since 1638. (That’s about twenty to five in the evening.)
Round the castle again.
This pub, just off the quay, looked very warm and inviting.
Being it Saturday night and being Lancaster a university town, the place was turgid with drunk students all discussing Ovid and Kim Kardashian. I suddenly felt very old. We bought our KFCs, ate them in the dark beside the Thetford Station and crawled off to bed, replete in stomachs but sans the electric blanket.
This morning we were involved in a multi-boat pile up at Deep Cuttings bridge, where four odd fellows in a narrowboat that continually beeped because the oil-gauge was knackered, rescued us several times with barge poles.
We’re now berthed up back at Galgate. Or at least I am. Carol was last seen disappearing over the edge of the Cocker Aqueduct watching ‘Strictly’ on her I-player.