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.
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.
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.
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.