‘Twas a summer’s day and all was well. The Fab Funky Ladies had had a lovely morning floating down the canal to Shardlow and feasted on delicious, gluten-free chips. There was just the tricky business of getting home.
Turning around has become my new narrowboating nemesis. It was troublesome on the Soar, and was to prove precarious once more on the Trent and Mersey. There was ample room swing around outside the Clock Warehouse (where we had enjoyed our gluten-free chips) – I had done it before on the helmsman course a boat-lifetime ago. I have since got worse at turning DF around (who would have thought having an expert trainer by your side would make such a difference) and the willow tree must surely have grown. (Spoiler – I end up with a face full of leaves.)
Just before we were about to get completely camouflaged by the willowy greenery, a passer-by enquired as to whether we needed any help. We looked like we were stuck you see. I immediately leapt to the assumption that he was taking pity on us three helpless ladies as we couldn’t possibly be hoping to navigate that big old boat all by ourselves. A polite but curt ‘no, were fine’ was called across the waterways before we completely disappeared into the tree.
(As a feminist aside – and I know those are the kind of asides my audience enjoys – I genuinely do not think he would have offered help to three men in the same position. We are not a particularly progressive community, and I do suspect that many of its members do not think that a woman’s place is near the engine. Reading this blog might not necessarily dissuade them of that view. End of feminist aside.)
We made it out of the foliage and onto the home stretch. The FFL were commenting on how relaxing the whole day had been, when we were viciously attacked by another of my foes – the low bridge. There we were, ensconced in witty banter, and then there we were, flinging ourselves across the roof so no one got knocked out. And then just when you thought you were in the clear, there was a low pipe just after the bridge. I’m sure many a crown has been bruised by such trickery.
But we emerged unscathed. There was just one lock left to negotiate, and in the near distance we saw a boat heading into said lock. “Hurrah,” I probably exclaimed. “A boat to share with.” (Someone else to do the work is what I definitely thought.) But as we got near the gate began to close. But maybe that was to save time – it was after all the gate behind the other boat – there was still room on one side for us to sail into. And then he started to close the second gate. “Maybe he hasn’t seen us?” I possibly said. (I definitely didn’t say this. My musings were far less polite.) Surely he would open up the gate when he saw us.
He opened the sluice at the far end.
That’s right, he actually started letting the water out of the lock with us just spitting distance away.
I put Double Fracture into an aggressive reverse, chuntering away as I did. What the flippin’ heck was he playing at? Had he no boating etiquette? May the canal gods strike him down. And so on. The aggressive reverse, however, seemed to spur the object of my wrath into action. He closed the sluice and came back to open the gate to let us in. I was once more charm herself. Until we actually spoke to him.
He said something about it being busy on the canal that day as there was a queue of boats waiting to use the lock the other side. To which Sarah replied “yes, the traffic’s been a nightmare.” Best joke of the day. He didn’t crack so much as a smile.
He is off my Christmas card list. Which would be far more of a damning action if I actually sent Christmas cards.
This blogpost was brought to you by ‘Proud Mary’ by Tina Turner.