I'm back at work, adjusting after a lovely, gentle couple of days in Cheshire with Carrie (and Milou) on Blackbird. I'd offered to come up and crew the next time she hit a flight, so with 'heartbreak hill' on the horizon, I got the train up.
Although Tortoise wasn't directly involved, Tortoise's new bike was - actually an old shopper bike, found in the car boot sale in Leek last summer, stripped, painted (badly) in the same paint as Tortoise's cabin and reassembled without the rattley mudguards. Useful for getting to and from stations as well as between locks. Here modelling (or being modelled by, I'm not sure) lock 63.
Further down, one of the pair was being refurbished; in the stonework above the top gate - which would therefore normally be permanently covered in water - a pentagram was to be spotted; who's to say how long it's been there, but if anyone ever felt the flight was cursed (or indeed especially blessed)...
We got through to Hardingswood Junction in a (admittedly long) day, went for a celebratory drink in the Red Bull and found a welcoming & varied folk session (2nd Tues of the month). In fact there was two - banjo-based nonsense in the back room, and a more UK orientated singaround upstairs. It didn't take much armstwisting (or indeed cider) to be talked into playing a few tunes on a borrowed mandolin, the last one, Neil Gow's lament for his second wife (a lovely slow fiddle tune) as being the only way they'd let me out of the door as I tried to sneak out.
Wednesday was a gentle ride up to Congleton (passing NB Cosmos) and a wander around town, and on Thursday I helped get Blackbird up Bosley locks, too. I ended up largely driving, which was interesting; largely, I found a 52' boat easier to control (certainly just as easy, anyway) than the shorter & lighter Tortoise, particularly, I suspect, in the winds that we had all three days. It doesn't help when a second boat insists on coming down into a small pound where there was already one boat patiently waiting for us to come up; apparently they'd been rushing them all the way down. I always got the impression that if one boat has plenty of people, if in rush their best bet was to assist the boat in front, but that might be a bit too much like common sense... Blackbird's a nice boat, not only to drive, but a nice fitout, and of course personalised with compost loo, pots of herbs and lots of interesting books. We've a lot in common, Carrie & I, we had lots of great chats over the time; a lovely, and inspiring few days.
Relevant link: Low Impact Life On Board. Some boats seem to be about cramming as many power gadgets in as possible; sometimes less is far, far more.
Speaking of being back at work - I was clicking down the stone floor corridor into the building this morning in my cycling shoes, rounded a corner to find a man holding the door open for me. He sees a bald bearded man with hairy knees & cycling shorts, and downfallen he blurts out 'sorry, I was expecting a lady'. Welcome to 2009 gender politics, not least in a well known broadcasting organisation...
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