Thursday, 24 August 2006

I'm still fond of the name Tortoise - it is nicely appropriate without being too cheesy (I think, anyway). For those of you who don't know the tortoise was once humourously suggested as being my pagan 'power animal'; it's also of course a post rock band who I should have gone to see recently, but didn't. On Monday I did spot another Tortoise, a white GRP boat lurking in a harbour, with the owners around - we exchanged a few shouted words in some kind of bonding ceremony.

Tortoise has her fair share of names in the past - originally 'Salad Days', of course, as the previous owners met in an am-dram production of same. Previously she was Lyndon - owners Lyn, and Don. I hope Tortoise is generic enough not to be immediately changed, should she leave my hands in a floating condition...

Meanwhile though I've been amused by the choices of names of other boats - yes, you can call a boat whatever you like (on the Thames need to be unique, on the canal they don't). Here are a few of other people's choices, completely non-judgementally... ;-)

Still nothing to beat the sadly unphotographed at the time 'Jolly Todger'.

Edit - in attempt to find a photo of the Jolly Todger (I'm at home today, it may be foolish to google at work) I did find a list of boat names with basic details this. Tortoise is in there listed as one of the 'Salad Days' boats; There's three other boats called Tortoise listed, the plastic one I saw, and two other narrowboats. Not as many as there are called 'Toad Hall', mind...

Wednesday, 23 August 2006

Cheddington to Cropredy

Not much to say about Part 2; from Cheddington to a pub just north of Leighton Buzzard, local of Carol-on-grams, then to a pub just north of Milton Keynes, then a short hop to Cosgrove, mostly in the company of Glenys. I remember the unrelenting tedium of the canal around Milton Keynes whilst cycling, and minor excitements as leaving my debit card in a boatyard, and going to Tescos were just that. We did discover though that having your own kitchen with you when the pub is fully booked for food is good, as your party can then sit on the boat with the pub's beer.

I dropped G at Wolverton station and meandered on to Cosgrove, where I ended up spending ages chatting with another boat owner over tea & shared music (bands from 1971: I had the CDs, she'd seen them); that's the good bit about canals; everyone's great, more or less.

Part 3; then - due to disorganisation more than cancellation, I was on my own last weekend - a worthwhile experiment, as it's good to have space occasionally. I was persuaded that a party in Kings Langley on the Saturday night was on my way back up to Cosgrove (well, to be fair, it was exactly that) and was well the diversion (and missing gigs in London, sorry) - nice people, a bonfire in a field and lots of veggie sausages (although something did take exception to my bowels later, but you can't have everything). I headed north on the 11pm train full of drunk arsenal fans; I put my headphones in and stared into the blackness outside.

In the morning I found a gothic canal bridge to go under:


and followed all traffic signs:


had to put up with the view - one guy said 'it's like having 4,000 miles of garden':


I then went through Blisworth and Braunston tunnels. Extraordinary things - a brick lined structure with barely space for two boats to pass, each about a mile and a half long. It should be more akin to Hades than I felt it to be, although the build up of fumes wasn't great (despite regular vent shafts) - when the far portal came into view in Blisworth, it looked orange - and my brain knew it couldn't just be a colour temperature trick.


The canal was busy enough to have queues at locks; we managed to squeeze two short-arse ones in as well as a long hire boat (don't get me started on the hire boats) down the Braunston flight:


It's always nice to see boats smaller than mine; this one can actually be trailed like a caravan:


I carried on through Braunston, bit of a canal Mecca, and on to the Oxford canal heading south. The single locks are quicker overall, although can't be shared - well, not without any more short boats around. Working them on my own is fine, but slower than boats with crews; there's help and there's help, but most of it was useful.

I made it all the way down to Cropredy, just a few days late for the festival, not that I'd been aiming for it anyway. I'm not sure I'm moored where I should be, but she'll be OK until Saturday...

Wednesday, 2 August 2006

Iver to Cheddington

Well, that was a lovely few days away. Forgive me for gloating, but it was. We left Langley late Friday afternoon, old friend Jo and I, tackled our first lock happily enough, and did a few more before mooring just above the fabled Denham Deep lock. Saturday we got as far as Hunton Bridge (bridge 162), slightly short of our intended target of a front garden in Kings Langley. Lots of adventures along the way, various boaters doing trips on their own, and one bunch of four lads in what's known as a 'tupperware' boat they'd 'found' (ahem). Our first encounter with them was when we were in the lock and they were above - they opened all four gates, which would have flooded a full length boat. We found out later they'd been charging along leaving sluices & gates open all the way along, and generally being antisocial. Everyone else though was great, though, friendly & chatty, and mostly about twenty years older than me. ;-)

Sunday we picked up Gary & Giulietta - owners of the aforementioned front garden - who stayed for most of the day; we dropped Jo off as she had to go to Canada (via Hastings), and later in Hemel Hempstead picked up victim able seaman Bec, who proved to be an excellent crew member, although I must admit I did take some pleasure from watching a young purple-haired american woman bounding up to people at locks (often already occupied by boats in the opposite direction, or occasionally the same one as us). She did seem to enjoy herself though. Most people seem to be understandably reluctant at takening the controls of the boat, especially into locks, so the other person did ended up doing most of the heavy lock work - most locks I climbed out and helped, but a note for the future is that it can be quite exhausting, and frequent stops for tea are a sensible thing.

Sunday night we moored at Cow Roast lock, presumably named after the pub and not the other way around. The swing bridge there need a special key to open which I hadn't thought to get (looks like I did have one anyway, just didn't know what it did). Sadly the first guy I asked to help out was a classic know it all who took great pleasure in criticising me in every possible way. He seemed to be running some kind of harem of women in their 70s though, so he must have something going for him.

Monday included a pleasant stroll around Berkhamstead and a decent charity shop haul. We also went to the ruined castle, at the insistance of a certain 'history student'.. it features a sweet country cottage plonked in the middle of it, too.

That night we painted the town red in Winkwell - in the Borough of Dacorum, no less, where Bec and a guy called Chris who grew up in Brentford proceded to drink me under the table. ;-)

Tues - a gentle wander down the Tring locks, and seeing the best boat name ever - 'The Jolly Todger'. It was small and red, make your own jokes. It's stunning countryside around there, so the tourist boats and aged couples on the towpath were kind of inevitable. I'd been looking out for a good spot to leave the boat for a couple of weeks, and I found a neat Tortoise-sized space close to lots of other boats, a boat yard and the railway just before Cheddington.

We wandered up to the station via the village, a big commuter town seemingly devoid of shops until we found one tucked around the back of a housing estate. We ate bananas on the village green before depositing a tired 1st mate (promoted) at the station. I wander back the long way to the boat & missed the Archers, but had a lovely peaceful pottering evening, mainly spent removing more of the dreadful tongue & groove painted in white emulsion, and fixing in the filing cabinet which serves as (very useful) kitchen drawers. I've a feeling I'm going to end up refitting the kitchen as I go at this rate. I must sort out a decent telly aerial for the boat; we'd sat outside to watch TOTP (well, you had to, really, albeit odd on a 5" bw set) and 'Lost' is even more perplexing in the same mode, especially when balanced on the front of the boat to get reception. But I'm not there to watch telly, am I?

I made my own way home this morning, after locking up, turning off stuff and generally trusting that my little green boat will get along without me for a couple of weeks. London was just as much a culture shock as ever, but it is where I live & work, after all. I do feel very lucky to be able to have done this, I really do. I get back to find I've left the completed roll of film on the boat, but we'll just have to wait for those...

Forgive the apparently random detail - posts like this will be for me as much as you...