The Return of the Back of Jeanie Mcintosh’s Head

The BBC journalist reporting from the epicentre of some dreadful, covid-19-dismissive swarm outside a pub summed it up for me: “They’re all drunk and some of them are jigging up and down.” After two and a half months of putting up with self-centred ‘celebrities’ playing to the television news through laptop Zooms like annoying ten year olds desperate for their parents’ attention, the herds are back, screaming for haircuts and alcohol in plastic beakers, no longer giving a fig for the elderly and the infirm because the need to escape their own personalities by losing themselves in the thick of the crowd is overwhelming. So much for our hopes for the future. This is our brave new world.

Sans bobble hat at Dimples Lane

Not that I’m complaining. They’ve left the towpaths now, following each other blindly in some mythical giant conga-line to the nearest grey beach; hattifatteners drawn to an electrical storm of Ambre Solaire and camera phones, leaving th’ Owd Lanky privately owned by the anglers and license payers once more.

You can tell that the lockdown’s over. It’s raining again. We moved through the mist beneath bruised skies this afternoon, past the Tithe Barn (surprisingly cattle-free), pausing briefly at Moss Lane Thetford Station to send our ‘so long‘ message to Anchorsholme beach, before continuing on to Bridge House; one end of Garstang to the other, not quite beyond the parish boundaries as ‘recommended’ by the CaRT continuous cruising regulations, but far enough not to matter.

Social distancing between the boats at the Tithe Barn

Somewhere in another universe the President of Brazil, known to thousands for his lackadaisical, ‘it’s never goin to happen‘ approach to the plague (much like the idiots outside the pub on the news) has tested positive. Out there in the urban jungle, the Covid Rebellion is regrouping in the corners of pubs.

Well, let the tsunami come. For now the cut is ours again; weed clogged, drizzled, grey, and peeling its paint, but familiarly abandoned; our own personal shielding against the infected masses.

Lockdown with gale-bent nappy pins at Bridge House

Zen and the Art of Narrowboat Maintenance

So there I was, at Catterall winding hole, painting over the rust on that final boat panel, when I noticed a troll in my living room staring out at me through the recently washed window. Even more horrifying was the fact that it turned out to be my own reflection in the glass.

You know that you’ve probably been up and down the canal too many times when the most original thing you can find to photograph are your recently used paint pots.

What the hell happened? I’ve become a caricature; a grotesque; a crinkle-jowled version of my former youth; muppetised – nothing short of a brown paper parcel full of liver tied with string and left for too long beneath the grill. It’s hard to play the romantic hero in your own life when you now resemble a cross between Albert Steptoe and the crow-man from Worzel Gummidge.

Catterall winding hole. There’s not much else to say about it, really.

Not that anybody else trampling the towpaths around Catterall seemed to care about their appearance. They’ve obviously never envisioned themselves as a Heathcliffe or a Rochester. Their apogee of romanticism appears to have been Mr Pipkin in some 1970’s sleazy sex-comedy, playing second fiddle to Robin Askwith. Most were content to display their mottled white and red duvets of flesh to the world without shame, flapping in their flip-flops and baseball caps amongst the rushes, their waistlines bound in shorts so tight and overhung with blemished stomachs that they looked more like thongs – Mr Blobbys dappled in sweat. There ought to be a law against it. At times, when the corona-virus crowds were gathering at the bottlenecks beneath the bridges, the towpath resembled a space-hoppers’ graveyard.

Don’t ask me. I haven’t got a clue.

This is what happens when winter ends suddenly in mid-June and the summer collapses onto the world like a badly secured circus tent. Last night it was so hot I could hear the fish around the hull gasping for breath. At half three in the morning, unable to sleep, I ventured out into the pitch-black bows, wearing nothing but my slippers and a very long granddad shirt. The chill on the edge of the breeze was sensually refreshing around my kneecaps. I watched the bats overhead for a while, making the most of the amputated midsummer night, but the sound of the post-lockdown traffic from somewhere not too distant seemed deafening now. I don’t remember it being so loud before, especially at half three in the morning. The lockdown has, unfortunately, destroyed my ability to block such unwelcome intrusions.

I think the heat’s done something weird to my brain.

This morning I span the boat around and headed for Dimples Lane on the outskirts of Garstang. En route I saw squirrels in their first nut-enthused throes of youth, dangerously leaping through the branches above, rabbits chasing each other between herons’ legs, and a cow on a bridge. I don’t know why, but I always enjoy seeing a cow on a bridge, behaving as though said bridge was built for its own personal access. For a short while it seemed as though the world was just about acceptable. Then another Jabba the Hutt emerged from the shadows, excessive and purulent, and the chip fat of humanity broke the illusion of isolation once more.

Moo.

 

 

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be…

There’s been a lot of politics about lately; statues being torn down making pigeons homeless; angry protests about black lives mattering by people willing to rekindle a plague which disproportionately claims the lives of black minorities; people calling other people racists, with those being accused of being called racist calling their accusers racist back, because they’re calling them racists; it’s all getting a bit much.

As far as I can work out a large portion of the protesters filling the streets of London and Manchester and Birmingham didn’t really care what they were protesting about. They just wanted to illegally herd. After three months in lockdown the need to gather in large groups and chant is overwhelming for some people, I suspect. Possibly.

Somebody’s been garroting a tree at Guy’s Court.

There were thousands of people in Manchester and Liverpool attended raves yesterday. Presumably they don’t think any lives matter at all, regardless of colour. And thousands more were queuing for the reopening of Pri-Mart this morning. (I don’t even know what Pri-Mart is. I don’t care either.)

You watch…I’m going to be accused of being an ignorant so and so now. Perhaps I am. At least I’m still following the two-metre distancing rule. My preferred personal airspace is about half a mile, to be honest…with a sixteen-foot bramble hedge in the middle.

My flask has ambitions to be a chimney pot when it grows up.

The BBC is eager to show us how the world is slowly returning to normal, as if somehow that’s a good thing – slowly returning to its normal never-ending path of self-destruction.

The traffic’s back.

The contrails are back.

Brexit’s back.

All the screaming and shouting and arguing is back.

And the herons are back.

I don’t know where they go in the winter. (I’ve never seen a baby heron. It’s a bit of a puzzle.) But the full-sized ones are back by the dozen, haunting the towpath like grey tent poles and casting their shadows across the cut like gloomy cloaks.

This boat is called ‘Spider’s Web’. Our boat is just covered by them.

I picked up two kids shortly after I set off from White Horse Lane today. Not literally. I’m not Fred Talbot. I mean they ran along the towpath beside the boat, whooping and shrieking and screaming, all the way to Bilsborrow, where I took a sharp right to the Thetford Station and picked up two drinkers on a bench instead. (I’ve no idea what the beer garden at the White Bull is like, but it doesn’t bode well if the customers feel the need to stray to the Thetford Station.)

Thetford emptied – tick.

Water tank filled – tick.

Three months’ worth of bin bags chucked – tick.

Large mounds of spiders’ webs and rotten leaves uncovered by the aforementioned bin bags being moved from the bows, brushed and cleared away – well, not tick actually. I travelled down to Skull Bridge once I’d finished with Bilsborrow, planning to sort the mess out after I’d moored up, but the glorious sunshine that had brought the mouth-breathers and towpath shriekers out suddenly broke with an ominous crack and the heavens’ poured through.

There’s always some silly cow wants a paddle.

So, everything’s more or less back to normal it seems. Except that it isn’t, really. I have one last panel to paint on the boat, before I start on the interior. Then it’s back to repainting the roof. It’s like the Forth Bridge, except it’s not red, and it’s a boat.

Back at Skull Bridge, just before the storm belched.

 

 

Back to the Same Old, Same Old…

It rained this morning.

Of course it did! It rained and then the wind just smeared it all over the place.

The sky was one enormous monochrome blood clot as I stood there on the stern with my hood flapping noisily round my ears, struggling to reverse the boat into the winding hole at Moon’s Bridge (it’s impossible to steer backwards at the best of times, let alone when there’s a gale rising); juxtaposed against yesterday’s endless blue horizon and yesterday’s short-sighted weather forecast (sunshine with occasional showers).

It rained this morning. And it blew. But I kind of figured it would. The CaRT (despite the evidence to the contrary) seem to think that the plague has upped its mooring pins and gone off to explore alternative possibilities somewhere, and that, by way of consequence, us continuous cruisers must now do the same.

Travel as normal.

Weather likewise.

Back to the same old, same old.

I’m using the rubbish camera again – rubbish camera, rubbish weather.

There are several months’ worth of swollen bin-bags in the bows; there’s a Thetford cassette creaking with internal pressure tucked under the bench, and a water tank beneath the floor that’s almost down to its last skein of bilge rust. The boat is sick, rolling despondently – emptily buoyant yet leaden with garbage, both at once.

Our rear end is stuck right out. You can’t really see it in the photograph, but it is.

It’s all very well, I thought, but there’s going to be a second spike, I’m sure of it. You could see the lack of hope in the doleful eyes of the cows sliding past in the gloom. Only it won’t be a second wave, I thought, so much as a tsunami. I saw the crowds at Southend on the news yesterday; the ‘tomb-stoning’ lemmings plummeting from the heights of Durdle Door, having ‘fun in the sun’; the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests in London. I’m all for showing solidarity in such matters, but given the circumstances perhaps they could have organised a more ‘socially distanced’ rally.

Yes, I thought, Covid-20’s on its way (in Britain, at any rate, where Boris’s optimism for the common man runs deeper than Dominic Cummings’s spin drier); bigger; more explosive; more deadly than ever before! It’s the franchise that just keeps giving!

Or am I being pessimistic?

We’ll find out in a couple of weeks, I guess. You watch – the sun’ll come out and the wind will drop when it returns, just as the CaRT are reintroducing lockdown. And rather than the pleasant, pastoral surroundings of Moon’s Bridge, the boat’ll be stuck beneath a pylon in some scrubby, un-dredged mire somewhere…nowhere…next to an overflowing midden, surrounded by angry, hissing swans.

You wait and see, I thought.

Cheese pie and chips at Moon’s Bridge

The boat has been in lockdown beneath the trees near the Hollowforth Aqueduct for the last month. It took me ages to find it, because it was buried beneath an improvised bonfire. Last week’s gale had shaken the local woods to their bark. The bows were full of dead leaves, resembling some bargain basement ball pit. I could barely see over the top of them when I climbed aboard. The roof was worse, lost beneath a spongy moss of damp blossom.

It took me even more ages to clear everything out, the canal blanketed in the debris like some mouldy patchwork quilt by the time I’d done. I scrubbed the roof where the mulched-down confetti had stained it, but only succeeded in moving the smears around. You could be forgiven for thinking that a herd of diuretic buffalo had held a party up there. I turfed the six-legged occupants out of the nooks inside, moved the boat closer to the swing bridge outside Moon’s Farm and dug out my paint pot.

Just behind the swing bridge waiting for mink.

Jeanie McIntosh turned up as I was pimping my stern. She’d brought tea with her, which consisted of a bag of boiled potatoes and another bag of cherry tomatoes. (Don’t ask. I’d mentioned something about bringing some sausage rolls along the week before, and had then forgotten to bring them, so it was a bit of a paltry meal on the whole.)

The CaRT have lifted the lockdown. Us boat owners are now allowed to visit our boats, even take them out for a quick spin, but we’re not allowed to sleep onboard. So I slept on the towpath. This got me to thinking just how ridiculous some of these anti-plague regulations are. I’m not sure how sleeping next to the boat rather than in it could possibly help stop the spread of Covid-19, but then again I’m not sure how parcelling your wife and child into a car and driving sixty miles when you’re going blind is supposed to protect them either.

Dominic Cummings has certainly upset a lot of people recently. To play devil’s advocate, I suspect that most of us have bent the rules to some extent. But the anger out there is palpable right now. I don’t think it’s that Cummings acted irresponsibly so much as we just can’t stand the bloke. There are forty-eight per cent of us who haven’t forgotten his Brexit campaign, and in particular, his ‘Taking Back Control’ slogan; something, ironically, that he’s having major difficulty with himself at the moment.

In the morning two swans proudly paddled past with five noisy cygnets. One of them had convinced his mother to give him a piggyback. I threw them half a cherry tomato and a slice of ham with a bite taken out of it, and carried on painting.

Not the greatest photograph ever. Michelle’s got the ‘good’ camera. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking by it.

I’d covered about half of the boat with mottled green Hammerite, when the strimmer-men from the CaRT turned up; their mowers shrieking like banshees in a maelstrom of decapitated grass and daisies. Fortunately they were decent enough to leave a goatee of un-defoliated growth around the boat for me.

Men wearing protective gear, giving the towpath a short back and sides.

That evening Jeannie McIntosh turned up again, this time with her future potential daughter-in-law and some cheese pie and chips. (I’ve known Jeanie McIntosh for, what? Fifty, sixty years? It seems longer.)

We took the boat for a potter up White Horse Lane way, respecting proper social distancing (as unrecognised by Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson) by towing the two of them behind in the dinghy. They must have grown bored at some point or other, because when I arrived back at Moon’s Bridge the dinghy was empty.

 

 

In Lockdown at Moon’s Bridge

Some almost spherical bloke shouted across at me from the reeds that ran along the towpath, as I chugged along: “Have they lifted the restrictions then.” There wasn’t a question mark. The statement just hung there among the midges, dangling rhetorically, accusingly. There’s been a lot this lately – angry people; cabin cruiser owners mainly, whose boats have been locked into the marinas out of their reach – even more divisive over the unwritten rules of quarantine than they were over Brexit. If Covid-19 was a nazi-occupation, then a great many of them would be sympathisers; collaborators; fifth columnists – not the best metaphor, perhaps, but it’s V.E. Day and all the bunting’s gone to my head.

One of the chickens at Moon’s Farm contemplating having a bath.

Inskip was stupidly busy. As a rule few people take afternoon strolls beneath the motorway flyover, because it’s not very pleasant. But in recent times the towpath’s been bulging, because the CaRT forgot to post one of their ‘This stretch of the canal is for the use of locals only!’ notices on the gate. So I moved the boat to Moon’s Bridge, in the hopes of some improved social distancing. (I don’t want to catch the bloody thing!) There’s the usual plague notice on the gate there. Not that anybody was paying attention.

More Moon’s Farm chickens in self isolation…

As I was painting the side panels (a job that the winter rainstorms have delayed to the point that the sills were weeping rust) an old chap ambled by, closely followed by a goose. An hour or so later he returned, this time with his wife. The goose was still in tow. I had to ask: “Are you taking your goose for a walk?” “What goose?” he said.

There were bikers (one of whom inhaled a midge, closed one nostril with his thumb and emptied the contents of the other all down my fresh paintwork with a snort), families experiencing the canal for the first time, now lost (“Can you tell me where this goes?”), joggers with their arses poured into lycra like overfilled icing bags, urban explorers, dimwits, halfwits and chuff-nuts who clearly needed educating as far as metric measurements went (the towpath’s only one metre wide at Moon’s Bridge; if you don’t want to break social distancing guidelines, then you’d better make sure you can swim) and the world and his wife out there. At one point I looked up from the book I was reading to discover an old gentleman with his purple nose pressed against my window, staring in at me as though I was some sort of fairground attraction. After about five minutes, I drew the curtains and went to bed.

One of the very few moments where the towpath wasn’t teeming with idiots.

One of the myriad couples overloading the towpath had travelled from Germany for the occasion. They gave me the third degree as I sat in the bows with a brew, having presumably never witnessed a narrowboat before. “How do you go shopping? Vot do you do about da shitzenhausen? You must be very lonely!” (Again, not a question but a statement, as though I was some political prisoner in exile.) “Far from it. I crave solitude more than ever these days,” I told them.

On Thursday night at eight o’clock, Woodplumpton exploded in the distance. For a few brief minutes the air was filled with fireworks, shouts of “Bravo” and “Well done!” and pots and pans being smashed together. Even the peacocks joined in. Then the weekly ovation for the NHS dropped away, leaving only the screams of toddlers woken from their sleep.

Don’t ask. I honestly don’t know.

So the boat is now half painted. The other half can wait until I’ve turned it around. I’ve no intention of wading out into the cut. The panels are white, mostly – a patchwork of shiny and matt blotches with the outline of the rose-shaped stickers that adorned them previously (which I just painted over) still clearly visible. But at least it’s not covered in rusty measles any more.

Watch out for Coughing Ducklings…

These are the plague days; the dark hours of self isolation (I heard it sends you blind); feckless television poorly constructed from stuttering SKYPEs and even more feckless I-phone-powered celebrities eager to jump on the NHS bandwagon. The Corona virus (the jokes about cheap brands of pop have long since dried up) spread its fingers around the globe like some dodgy g.p. ostensibly checking for hernias, and then tightened its grip.

A burned out wreck at Salwick…the perfect metaphor for the current global situation, really.

These are the days when only politicians refusing to follow their own orders, zealous policemen carrying flame-throwers and Mancunian tossers who couldn’t give a stuff about other people’s lives, stalk the otherwise empty streets.

Another burned-out, sunken boat at Salwick…there must be something going around.

Each day the death toll grows. Each day our government’s excuses grow along with it. That lovable, thatch-headed teddy bear we call our prime minister pulled a ‘Princess Diana Aids’ style PR stunt several weeks ago, shaking hands dismissively with his local Covid-19 patients. Unsurprisingly he ended up in hospital, where we were informed he was “absolutely fine”, it was “only a precaution”, “no need to worry”. (As far as the latter went, I wasn’t.) Until he was released into the restorative hands of Chequers, where apparently it turned out he’d been at death’s door for a fortnight after all – “touch and go, don’t-cha-know? Bit of a hero, really”.

Nowadays the cabinet are keeping him under lock and key until his foot-in-mouth clears up. I think Priti Patel’s been locked in the same fridge.

Salwick Hall – self isolation is possibly easier for some than for others.

After years of cuts to the NHS, of rejected nurses’ pay rises (when the Tories jeered and clapped and taunted those inferior workers openly in parliament), of Brexit frightening huge swathes of NHS staff back to Europe, leaving hospitals understaffed and on the brink or collapse, Boris and the Kryptkickers appear to have had a change of heart. Nowadays, as part of the obligatory rituals implemented by Oceania, we have to stand on our doorsteps (a bit difficult in terraced streets where the front gardens are less than two metres wide) every Thursday night on the stroke of thirteen eight and clap for the nurses. Or Boris. Or both.
It strikes me that anybody who voted for Brexit, and/or the Tories, shouldn’t be clapping. They should be apologising.
As for ‘clapping for Boris’, I’m sure he’s had enough clap off his mistresses already.

Random tree shot at Salwick winding hole.

But I’m not doing politics. Online politics just encourages angry bigots to exercise their hostility in the comments boxes. So, taking a leaf from Boris’s own book, anybody who disagrees with me and wants to voice their own opinion will just be deleted and subsequently blocked. You have been warned.

Got to have a swan shot. I can’t visit the boat without photographing a swan. Well…actually, Michelle took it.

I’m in lock-down in the Spinney, being one of the worthless ‘at risk’ people. I haven’t visited the boat in over a month…apart from today. Bilges still need checking. Most narrowboat bilges fill over time, because of the dripping nature of stern glands and stuff. A couple of years ago my engine flooded because of this, and the boat nearly sank. In normal times, whatever they were…it all seems so long ago now, that boat is/was/will be again officially my home. Therefore, I considered today’s trip a ‘necessary journey’ and the government can lump it.

I didn’t need to take the usually obligatory ‘boat’ shot this afternoon. I only turned the boat around. So you’ll have to make do with this instead.

After a mostly damp and miserable month, the boat has gone mouldy inside. The paintwork is flaking and rusting outside. All that will have to wait, though. Quarantine continues…at least it does for some of us. We still have to pay our CaRT licence, however. The CaRT say that the cut needs maintaining – nothing to do with the executives’ massive wages being kept up at all, honest. Judging by the state of the canal today, with fallen trees, burned out boats and assorted debris everywhere, most of the CaRT staff must be ‘high risk’ as well.

Cloak and Dagger, more like!

But I’m not doing politics! There are too many blame-shifting sour-faced Priti Patel’s out there on the internet. I’m going back into self-imposed quarantine now, until those bilges require my attention again.

 

The Plague Ship!

This is our obligatory, once fortnightly, CaRT recommended continuous cruising ‘Here’s where we’re parked at the moment’ shot of the boat.

Warning: Self isolation can send you blind!

You might be thinking, “That looks more like your parking space at the Spinney to me.” And you’d be right, because this is as close as we can get in these difficult times.

The whole world has gone into lock down (if you hadn’t noticed already) because of Corvid 19. (Not as good as the original Corvid 1, but the franchise is attempting to reboot itself for the twenties.)

As one of the high risk, vulnerable people (I have asthma and countless other stupid hang-ups and I’m also allergic to people) I’m now in quarantine, living off chocolate rations and Homes Under the Hammer whilst hoping that, thousands of miles away, my bilges aren’t filling up.

I don’t do politics much these days. It’s not my intention to upset and anger people, and everyone gets upset and angry so easily nowadays. After Brexit happened I realised that some people will find any excuse to disguise their bigotries, and that reasonable debate just leads to patriotic, ill-informed conjectural diatribes exercised with limited vocabulary (except for the four letter words and clichéd insults) and even more limited grammar. But it strikes me that the current crisis and the government’s attempts not to overburden the NHS wouldn’t be quite so drastic if Brexit hadn’t scared eighty per cent of the nurses back to Europe and the government had put more money into the already over-strained NHS ages ago instead of giving it away in tax cuts to their billionaire mates.

Perhaps the most offensive part of this whole, deadly shebang are the memes of Boris doing the rounds, calling him a latter-day Churchill (which, to some extent, I have to agree with, because he’s racist, misogynist and right-wing) and somebody who deserves a medal.

Enough!

Here are some alpacas to relieve the tension. Everybody, no matter which side of the political divide we’re on, likes alpacas.

We don’t get Corona virus, so we’re having an alpaca picnic.

Fifty-two per cent of my audience (which doesn’t amount to much, I must admit) have probably just ‘unfollowed’ me and gone for a ‘we couldn’t care less if the old people die’ group ramble up Snowdon instead. Politics is a dangerous and tricky road to traverse (even with social distancing measures in place) when you’re self-employed.

My takings are about to drop from £1.00 last month to £0.00 this month.

Yesterday Michelle went shopping early to avoid the inevitable ‘bog roll panic buying’ rush. Morrisons (nee Sainsburies) wouldn’t let anyone in at seven in the morning. Dozens of vulnerable old biddies were kettled in the car park, under Morrisons’ new rules that NHS staff should be given first priority.

By the time the doors opened proper, the shelves had been stripped. Bloody nurses! We live in upside down times.

I don’t know when I’ll get back to the boat. For once the sun is out and it isn’t blowing a gale, ideal cruising/painting/de-mildewing weather. And I’m stuck indoors with Phillip bloody Schofield!

Still, it could be worse. I’m not dead yet, no matter how much some people wish I was.

 

To Hell on a One Way Ticket…

Grotty! That’s the only word I can think of to describe this afternoon’s journey from Moon’s Bridge to whatever God-forsaken backwater we’ve ended up in. (Editor: That’s two dangling prepositions at the end of one sentence!) Grotty and miserable – two words that sum the experience up. Everything about the trip – the skeletal trees propping up the surreal, stained quilt of the sky; the shivering ducks; the all-pervading skin of algae smothering the landscape; the mushrooms sprouting from the engine room floor – it was just altogether horribly grotty and miserable – three words…three words that quantify…that…why have I got the Spanish Inquisition going through my head?

There’s a sense of springtime in the air, along with a renewed sense of optimism.

Even my travelling companion doesn’t want to be identified. I can’t say as I blame him/her. There are crowds stripping the supermarket shelves of bog rolls out there whilst the U-bends themselves, metaphorically speaking, are about to be blocked by the economy; Americans queuing round their shopping blocks to buy guns like the prelude to some apocalyptic zombie movie, and in Britain old people entombed in their homes without human contact for twelve years…or something.

A splash of colour in an otherwise monochrome landscape. I’d almost forgotten what colour was.

I’ve been trying to avoid this subject, because, well frankly, it’s dark and unpleasant and it’s actually happening and everybody’s sick to the back teeth about it now. However, Corvid 19 (this time it’s personal) has hit th’ Owd Lanky! (Not that you’d notice, because the place is permanently deserted anyhow.) Or rather it hasn’t hit th’ Owd Lanky. If it had we’d have been in quarantine this afternoon like everybody else, upgraded to ninety-four quid statutory sick pay (on my wages that’s an increase of several thousand per cent). We certainly wouldn’t have been moving the boat. But the government’s position on whether we ought to self-isolate (which might send you blind) and/or avoid travel is both ambiguous and buck-passing, whereas the CRT’s “continuous cruisers must obey the rules and continue shifting their boats every fortnight” isn’t.

Something’s happened to the canal bank. It’s started to peel back like a set of diseased gums.

Not that you can get much more self-isolating than the cut, but gale force winds, frozen pellets of rain, sub-arctic temperatures, clouds so dark and lowering that it feels as though you’re about to tear through them…it’s just horribly grotty and miserable. And to cap it off, we’re down the south end of the cut, where rational boaters fear to cruise, manacled to the pilings, watching the terminally bustling motorway through the eye-wateringly constant winds.

Today’s travelling companion refuses to be associated with, as she put it, “Such a bloody miserable old bastard!”

Mice in the Attic

My attempts to introduce Jeanie McIntosh (the back of whose head is now trending on Twitter) to the joys of narrow boating continued today, with the fast-becoming-traditional unavoidable gales ripping across an all-too-familiar winter’s landscape riddled with saw-toothed pylons, sandwiched between ink-blotched skies above and partially frozen mud beneath.

What’s pink and resembles a tulip? A tulip, of course…

The only other boat traversing the blasted hinterlands of Lancashire this afternoon – piloted by possibly the only other humans alive in the county – was Tranquility. I took the following photograph as she returned from the diesel pump at Moon’s Bridge.

Ahoy Tranquility – the mice, the mice are calling…

Now, at this point, I can only apologise. The owners of Tranquility recognised me, but I didn’t recognise them. Blame it on my glasses being older and more knackered than even I am. So, if the two of you are reading this, please remind me who you are, so that I can feel properly introduced and, hopefully, remember next time.

Bleak, isn’t it?

Unsteadily onwards, me and Jeanie fought our way against the wind, and mostly lost, becoming almost wedged diagonally across th’ Owd Lanky before abandoning ship with it’s arse half-hanging out across the cut. (I gave up struggling in the end. I had better things to do than pinioning myself into the mudflats and putting my back out of joint at an angle of 60 degrees.)

Moored up at Moon’s Bridge.

We returned to Garstang for a butter pie and to deliver our latest consignment of pictures for sale (both signed prints and originals) to the Vintage Attic down St Thomas’ Weind.

Obviously it’s not all our stuff. They’re going to sort it out tomorrow.

Bit by bit our tucked-away corner in what I like to think of as ‘The Ginger and Pickles’ shop, is evolving into a full-blown Mouse Boat Gallery. Please pay it a visit, and possibly even buy something. (Seriously…we’ve got prints, originals, framed and unframed, mouse maps and greetings cards! And I’ve got a boat licence to pay and four greedy cats to feed.)

This is our flyer. Several of them flew away of their own accord in the gales this afternoon.