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.

To White Horse Lane in sub-Arctic Conditions.

We’ve bought a new oak bedding-chest for the Spinney, from Duck Street. Or rather, we’ve bought a new ‘second hand’ oak bedding chest for the Spinney from Duck Street. And a bed, which is also second hand, because I’m getting too old to sleep on a mattress on the floor. That sort of thing was all very well when I was seventeen, but these days having to haul myself up on the doorknob in the middle of the night with a grumbling bladder, knees moaning and creaking like Mother Theresa in wellies, is just too much.

These concrete cows at Wallings near Cockerham have nothing to do with this blog either.

None of this is relevant to this blog, however, so let’s rewind and start again. It’s been windy over the last few weeks. Extremely windy! Mother Nature has been hitting the chilli beans and letting rip big time. Roofs have been torn from their moorings. Boats have sunk. Trees have belly-flopped into the cut. Cows have been goosed by icy fingers. (The latter of these has probably got more to do with the peculiar practises of some of the farmers round these parts than the weather.)

Michelle took the photographs. She found the sky particularly interesting.

On Saturday I stood on the stern, my eyes watering from the gale, my nostrils flaring dramatically in the wind, ‘umming’ and ‘arhing’ about moving the boat whilst eating a ham and Piccalilli butty.   Eventually I thought ‘bugger this!” given that several dodgems from the half-term fair at Guy’s Court had blown into Owd Nell’s thatch (it’s a pub!) This morning the gale had dropped to a far more moderate 150 m.p.h. and the Pennines were only vibrating slightly in the gusts. It was still far too boisterous to move the boat! Only an absolute idiot would have considered it. “So,” I thought. “I’d better go before the CRT send me a sarcastic e-mail.”

You can’t actually see the wind in this photograph, because wind is invisible. But it was there. Oh yes, it was there, by God!

The wind did its best to capsize us before we’d even set off. The pointed end hit the Thetford Station side of the canal before I’d untied the blunt end, leaving us wedged diagonally across th’ Owd Lanky, swearing and cursing like an irritated granny at a 1980’s wrestling match. But the truth is I’m great, or so I keep telling myself, and within forty-five minutes we were through the narrow sphincter of Bilsborrow and off to even windier climes darn sarf.

Leaving Bilsborrow behind in a wake of detritus.

We almost came a cropper round the next bend, when the wind got wise and changed its tactics by punching the stern rather than the bow, spinning us 180 degrees into a pyramid of acrobatic ducks. But, eventually, worn and haggard and with a hairdo of which Albert Einstein would have been proud, we arrived at White Horse Lane (roughly a whole 120 feet from where we’d started) and tied up tightly. Threading the painter through the pilings, I realised how cold the water was. Cold enough to get metallic monkeys trembling in their boots. Cold enough to freeze the flames on the gas hob. Cold enough to make my fingers feel as though the Accrington Over 60’s Glee Club had just tap-danced their fandango across my knuckles in steel-toed clogs. If the air wasn’t blue enough already, it was by the time I’d finished screaming.

The gale has blown a pylon onto our roof.

 

Between the Storms

Who needs an M&S sirloin garnished with blue cheese, followed by a bubble bath frothed up like the Andes, topped by a rose-petal sprinkled bed with the sort of mattress you could sink into up to your waist, when you can spend Valentine’s Day emptying bilges and battling winds, whilst the clouds snag their pendulous teats on skeletal treetops?

Not even grand weather for the ducks, frankly.

Storm Cedric (or whatever it was called) struck last week, unexpectedly bursting th’ Owd Lanky like an over-stuffed sausage in numerous breaches; tightening ropes; toppling oaks; goosing ducks, and generally making a nuisance of itself. That particular storm eased about thirty-seven minutes ago, looking slightly apologetic and leaving a tangle of destruction in its wake.

Singing: “Through the bleak midwinter…”

There was barely chance to put the stuff back on the mantelpiece when Storm Dennis appeared on the southern horizon, growling menacingly and drawing its unpleasant breath. That’s why, this afternoon, during the short but opportune lull, a week earlier than usual, we braved the elements, took the plunge, bailed the bilges and moved, at full throttle against the winter, from the Kenlis Arms to Bilsborrow.

Somewhere at the rear of Barton Grange that everyone’s forgotten about.

This is Fylde country, where the mountains to the north subjugate themselves to the eternal floodplain and, unrestricted by geographical features, the ice-cold gales rip through your skin. By gum, it was cold out there – the endless landscape punctuated only by the ghosts of pylons with their shrieking wires, flattened mercilessly by the darkly bruised heavens; a monochrome version of the opening scene from Great Expectations, without Magwitch or Pip, but with the occasional duck.

On the upside, thanks to my brother-in-law, Jim, we now have gas once again. (It must have been the pork pies he gave us.) And the boat is secure (four ropes and the painter all tightly bound to the pilings) opposite the Thetford Station.

Berthing close to Bilsborrow Thetford Station in case of extra strong winds.

There’s a funfair at Guy’s Court, optimistically playing eighties’ classics as the rain falls and the wind rips the thatch off Owd Nell’s piecemeal. Good luck with that, folks. Having seen tomorrow’s forecast, I suspect it’s going to take more than the usual fistful of Great British pluck to fill those dodgems.

The Maiden Voyage of Staffordshire E. Potteries.

This is a photograph of Staffordshire E. Potteries enjoying the mediocre sunshine on our Houdini hatch this afternoon. He was hand-knitted and sent to me by the generous (if not slightly insane) Sue Preston. Today he accompanied me on the latest ‘CRT Rules Apply’ journey of the Mouse Boat, a treacherous voyage from Dimples Lane, Garstang into the ominous maw of the oncoming, Ciara. (Whatever berk at the Met Office it is who names storms, is almost as stupid as I am, apparently.)

Well, it makes a change from the back of Jeanie MacIntosh’s head.

The sun was shining (after a fashion) for once as we chugged serenely out of Garstang by the back entrance, ducks and moorhens surfing our wake.

I can’t see any ducks or moorhens!

There was a hint of rain in the air, however, by the time we rounded Greenhalgh Castle; enough for a rainbow to arc itself across the broken-toothed battlements like the tail of one of Oliver Cromwell’s more badly aimed cannonballs on psychedelic drugs.

Up above the trees and the ruins…

Th’ Owd Lanky was quiet, except for the occasional narrowboater, baffled by the sudden appearance of the fireball in the heavens. Staffordshire E. Potteries took the helm for a while, his scarf wrapped tightly around his knitted throat in protection against the strengthening wind. (Er…what? Ed.)

“I say, Cyril…what the blazes is going on?”

When we reached the Kenlis Arms the weather was turning inclement, so Staffordshire retired below decks to make his acquaintance with the rest of our rodent crew. (That’s enough of that! It’s getting annoying now, you pathetic imbecile! Ed.)

The crew of the Mouse Boat eagerly await the arrival of their demonic overlord, Bagpuss.

Whilst the mice chatted over tea and scones, I greased the stern gland (the boat’s that is, not the mice’s), emptied the bilges, scrubbed some algae off the roof (not enough so’s you’d notice, to be honest), ate my ham and coleslaw butty, tried in desperation to remove the nut holding the gas pipe to the empty container and failed, took the obligatory CRT photograph of the boat parked up, and offered Staffordshire E. Potteries a mug of Vimto with chocolate chip cookies to fo(Right! I warned you. That’s the end of this blog until you grow up! Ed.)

There’s a storm brewing. A storm with a stupid name.

The Café at Moorhen’s End

I had Jeanie McIntosh with me again this afternoon. A fortnight ago she complained because I posted a photograph of the back of her head. So today I took another one. No doubt she’ll complain about this one too, but I still consider back-of-the-head photographs not to be portraits. Soon the rear of Jeanie McIntosh’s cranium will be known and celebrated all over Britain’s Inland Waterways.

One day all bobblehats will be pink.

We crawled through the murk of the grismal mid-January greyness from Bridge House to Dimples Lane, via the Thetford Station (where I was supposed to drop off the rubbish bags still filling my bows, but didn’t, because, as always, the Thetford Station was too busy) and the Wyre Aqueduct (where I was originally planning to moor up, but didn’t, again, because it was also too busy).

Crossing the aqueduct…or thereabouts.

I needed to change the gas bottle. I have a spare. It should have been a simple case of swapping the gas pipes over. But I couldn’t get the nut undone. So we disembarked and went in search of a café instead.

At Dimples Lane…the cut through suburbia.

I remembered that there used to be one in Pilling village. But it had gone. And Pilling was closed. So we headed on into deepest, darkest Stalmine where Jeannie McIntosh was reminded that her great, great, great, great grandfather had once lived at Moorhen Farm (or something…I didn’t get much sleep last night because Kitten was bored and kept biting my nose). So we took a gander.

Knob End Farm…or somewhere.

The farm had an organic café. In public service parlance ‘organic’ means ‘expensive and unpleasant’. But nobody seemed to be around.

Where the ghosts of waitresses past haunt the coffee percolator.

There was a sign that read: “If nobody seems to be around please knock at the farmhouse.” So I did. After about twenty minutes a little old lady emerged with two extremely noisy sausage dogs.

“Can I help you?” she asked.

“Is there any chance of a brew?” I said.

“Not really,” she replied.

“When will you be open then?” I enquired further.

“Easter,” she said.

“I can’t really wait that long,” I told her. “My throat’s a bit parched already.”

There’s Wally…reading Harry Potter and the Temple of Doom to a rabbit.

So we went home instead, where I read an email from the CRT complaining that I hadn’t moved the boat, and then fell asleep.

 

Haec Olim Meminisse Iuvabit

Here’s a bit of friendly, maritime advice: When you arrange to introduce an old friend to the joys of exploring th’ Owd Lanky by narrowboat, try not to ignore the advice of the Met Office with regards to forty mile-an-hour winds and torrential rain; it might take the edge of the adventure a touch.

A completely grotty day with some dramatically grotty clouds.

This is Jeanie McIntosh. Or, rather, this is the back of Jeanie McIntosh’s head. Like most people she doesn’t want to be photographed/publicly-associated with me. I regard the backs of people’s heads as fair game though, and not really photographs.

Beware the pink bobbleless bobble hat.

I had some difficulty steering the boat away from the bank this afternoon. You see, the trouble with narrowboats is that they have pointed ends and they have heavy, blunted ends weighted down by big, fat engines, which effectively makes them giant weather vanes. The boat just wants to point into the wind, no matter which way you push/pull the tiller. So here’s another bit of friendly maritime advice: When you can’t steer the pointed end away from the bank, reverse the boat to the nearest bridge, allow it to swing/scrape around the jutting-out bit of the towpath under said bridge and, hey-presto, you’re pointing into the centre of the cut.

Not that that stops the boat swinging back into the wind once you’ve set off, which can be a problem when the boat’s pointing south-west and the canal’s pointing due south…but I’m insured, so who’s worrying?

It’s the middle of January, what did you expect?

It probably wasn’t a good idea to set off under such adverse conditions in the first place, but I’d seen another narrowboat crawling past at an angle of seventy-five degrees and decided to risk it. The fact that I passed said boat stuck in the uppermost branches of a sycamore tree about a quarter of a mile further on didn’t bother me in the slightest.

You try taking a decent photograph when you’re also trying to steer a sixteen ton boat in a forty-odd mph wind!

I’m not sure if Jeanie enjoyed the trip or not. She was last seen being blown off the stern during a violent sneeze and disappearing beneath a gaggle of hungry moorhens.