So now the ice has thawed, and there’s the promise of better times to come in the shape of occasional daffodils and lambs sprinkled randomly like yellow and white freckles across the yawning landscape. (Was that a bit over the top? Mnh! Who cares?)
Not that today started off particularly well. I’m without crew at the moment, which always complicates matters, so when I didn’t tie the stern stays tight enough and the wind caught the boat, pushing it out into the canal without me onboard, it was panic stations.
This was at Ratcliffe Wharf, me on the bank, watching as our life savings, engine purring, drifted sideways, too far to jump the ever-widening gap without severe consequences.
I had two options – go for an unscheduled, heart-stopping swim in the all-too-recently ice-covered cut, or do something else.
I opted for the ‘do something else’.
I ran over the bridge, and started searching desperately for a way into the garden towards which the boat was, hopefully, heading.
I couldn’t find one, so I sprinted on down the lane, panic rising, the boat now out of sight, to the front gates of the house. They were big and barred and most definitely locked.
Then I noticed a stile, which I leapt in a single bound, sprinting wheezing down a narrow lane to a rickety set of steps up the side of the old lime kiln, struggled over a fence to the area containing the stand-pipe used for filling tanks, half clambered, half collapsed over another fence separating said stand pipe from the aforementioned garden, and finally edged along the tree-root riddled embankment until the boat’s stern was just within jumping distance.
Where upon I leapt, in slow motion, for the tiller.
It was like James Bond, only without the tuxedo, or the Walther PPK, or the toupee. Actually, it was nothing like James Bond. It was like a fat, middle-aged man who smokes too much, screaming loudly and throwing an eppy.
After that, once firmly back on board, it was simply a case of disentangling the prow from the trees and bumping the boat back round beneath the bridge in numerous tiller-straining fits and starts.
About one hundred yards beyond the bridge I realised that I needed to moor up again and head back to Ratcliffe Wharf, along the towpath, to retrieve the nappy pin and the loosely-knotted rope that had caused the misadventure in the first place.
So that was my morning. I ended up eventually at Forton, as planned, and saw a woodpecker en route. (I’ve heard woodpeckers in the past, usually in the blue-grey distance forming harmonies with cuckoos and what-have-you, but this was the first time, as far as I can remember, I’d ever actually seen one.)
Later I scrubbed some of the winter’s algae from the roof (only some…it’s still a bit cold for cosmetic jobs involving soapy water), swept the carpets, pulled several tufts of grass from between the planks on the deck, topped up the diesel, and made an extraordinarily anti-climactic brew.