Friday, 28 September 2012

Here for the beer... and a few other things

So many people that we encounter, on the tow path, and around locks, often sigh and say how envious they are of our adopted lifestyle. Well, here’s how we normally spend our Sundays folks – in the local launderette. It often means a walk of a couple of miles there and back, normally in the rain, where we spend two to three hours as drums whirr, and my glasses steam up, in some run-down establishment, normally on the wrong side of the tracks.

Another Sunday....another launderette
Glamorous or what! And who wouldn’t want to empty the contents of your loo down a smelly hole, in a wooden hut, every couple of days. Corr, this is the life!
Most folks also think that cruising in the rain would be a problem and uncomfortable, but I say “bring it on”. After spending several years commuting into central London every day on a motorbike, getting wet presents no problem for me.  It’s the wind that I, and most boaters, do not like. Having little or no control over your pride and joy is no fun, especially when a big gust catches you sideways on, and sends you careering towards the bank, or inevitably, another boat.

The trusty fold-up Brompton delivers "The French Bread Express"
Listen to me, sounding like some sort of expert. It was only a year ago this week that the boat was lifted into the water and I got the chance to cruise on her, albeit, pulled by another boat, our pals on “Jandai”.
 Despite my general indifference to the weather, and by that I mean the wind and rain, it does impair our movements a bit, and while we have enjoyed a bit of an Indian summer up to last weekend, that has changed since we have arrived in London, and over the last days, it has rained on and off pretty much all of the time, though, to be fair, those in the North and North East have had a torrid time compared to us in the south. The shot of a narrowboat half submerged in York on the news on Tuesday night was particulary disturbing. Our worst day was Monday and we just stayed put and read books and watched TV most of the day.
Pat’s been nagging me for some time and I finally caved in last Sunday and lit our wood-burning stove for the first time since May on our return from the launderette. It soon became very toasty and I guess it’s the sign of the times that will now be lit most days now that autumn has well and truly arrived.

A novel form of propulsion
Last week I posed a question to our regular visitors to this blog. Why are there so many coconuts in the Grand Union in the Greenford, Southall, Brentford area?  A couple of you have told me that the local Hindu population in that area throw coconuts into the canal after family funerals, in the hope they will reach the sacred River Ganges. From our experience, most are stopping lock gates from fully closing!
The journey from Greenford up through Uxbridge and Harefield to Rickmansworth has been far more picturesque than I had imagined or remembered. Rural, with lots of lakes and rivers running alongside as we skirted the Gade Valley. Each bend offered a new take of the canal, with  smart gardens tumbling down to the waters edge but little of no wildlife, except the obligatory ducks and swans and the sounds of owls hooting at night. The lock gates and paddles have proven very heavy and we’ve deliberately taken it slowly, after the frantic pace of the last couple of months, finding time to entertain my step mom and brother, and my pal Wenda and her partner Headley during the week.
We are currently moored in the centre of Rickmansworth, close to Batchworth Lock, which means we are now officially back in Hertfordshire – our home county. My family have lived here for at least 400 years, though generally in the north of the county, around Hitchin. Coming back to Herts means we are going to be very busy entertaining friends and family, and Pat’s diary is pretty full over the next few weeks as we snake our way through Watford, Hemel Hempstead and up to Leighton Buzzard and Milton Keynes.

At last, my own long-term mooring (but not so much of the historic, thankyou)

And if people can get to us, I can do the same the other way. There’s a green line bus that links Harlow to Heathrow and leaves the railway station here in Rickmansworth each hour, linking Watford, St Albans, Welwyn Garden and Hertford. So yesterday I visited my GP in Welwyn Garden, had a bite to eat with some of my pals at John Lewis and then zipped over to St Albans for the St Albans Beer Festival, my normal spiritual home for this one week of the year, since I helped launch it some 17 years ago. It was strange to attend as a guest rather than an organisor, but was good to see all my CAMRA pals. At this rate my bus pass will be in meltdown!

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