My Canal Trip

2 Conversations

Day 1- Saturday

I write this looking out the window as we go down the fifth lock of today. Bearing in mind that it is now five past six and we started at half past three, we are on a steep learning curve. Our three narrow boats are going through this one together, accompanied by a swan.

I've learned today how to successfully throw rope, that you should always send someone ahead to fill the lock, and that as soon as a coach wheel goes flat you should call a breakdown company immediately, rather than spending an hour trying to get the offending wheel off yourself.

The Boat 'Olrun'.

Day 2- Sunday

Steep learning curve? I write this somewhere on the Avon, our boat having been rescued by some random people in a narrow boat. Rescued, that is, from having run aground on a sandbank! Looking back at the bank, it seems impossible that our boat was on the landward side of some of the rushes!

Only one lock so far today- from the Severn to the Avon at Tewkesbury. And it was automated, run by a lock-keeper. Something to remember is to check when the keeper's lunch is; you don't want to arrive at one in this case, and have to spend an hour waiting about in Tewkesbury. We didn't have to, happily, but we met people coming the other way who did!

We spent a pleasant evening moored off a cow field half a mile upstream of Upton on Severn last night. The Plough there sells nice food; main meals are about a fiver each.

Note: I have since discovered that part of the reason for us going aground was one of the shoals of sailing boats. I mean shoals: seven or eight sailing dinghies who don't seem to understand that in a crash, a seventeen tonne cast iron narrow boat will crush them to smithereens, whilst sustaining minor scratching to its paintwork.

I know that they were tacking against the wind, but they should still keep to the right of the river, since they are much more manoeuvrable than a narrow boat.

Working Hard.

Day 3- Monday

We spent last night in Wyre Piddle, a teeny little village upstream (on the Avon) of Pershore. Had supper at the Anchor. Having a starter and a sweet is definitely the way forward; main courses just get in the way. They made lovely mushroom soup.

Today we travelled back to Pershore, and spent the afternoon practicing in the abbey. It's a lovely sunny day, but the abbey was freezing- makes you wonder why gothic architecture wasn't invented somewhere really hot. Like Africa.

We sang evensong in Pershore, where the vicar of the abbey (does this make him an abbot even though there are no longer any monks?) won our hearts by feeding us donuts.

We all have sea legs? Well, 'narrow boat legs' enough, so that standing on dry land becomes a very swaying experience.

Day 4- Tuesday

Last night we had the first 'thing' overboard- happily only a hair band! One of the other boats found a pillow of theirs floating by them in the water.

Disaster of the day today was that our boat wouldn't start. At all. No, really, not starting- stuck still. And we were due to sing in Tewkesbury... aaargh!
So we had to... shock, horror... abandon ship! And go to Tewkesbury to sing our concert on the other two boats, all squashed in... Legal? With signs saying 'The maximum load for this boat is 8 people' where there were fourteen!

The concert went well, though. The Abbey here is beautiful and has marvellous acoustics. We even had more audience than choir- wow!
 Tewkesbury Abbey.

After the concert, one of the other boats carrying a skeleton crew went back for our boat, which had been fixed by the boat hire company. It was a four-hour journey there and back, so most of us spent the afternoon in Tewkesbury. We found the best teashop - Pickwick's, near the abbey. They sell about sixty different blends of tea, and lots of different coffees, too.

Being reunited with our boat was a good feeling. We'd felt kind of homeless all day!
This evening is lovely; the sun seems unusually warm for the time of day.

Day 5- Wednesday

'Busy doing nothing, working the whole day through, trying to find lots of things not to do' kind of sums up the day, really. I write this moored where we have been all afternoon and evening, about an hours' trip upstream (on the Severn) of Worcester in an apparently nameless place, containing a pub filled with locals, and a caravan park. We've only had to deal with one lock today.

Most of the people on my boat have spent the day asleep or playing card games. The bunks are hard and, while I don't think anyone's got as far as falling out of bed, it is hard to sleep... the riverbank seems to be suffering from an acute attack of swaying, too, probably made worse by the fact that we are tired; it seemed safest to remain aboard.

A swan has supplied this evening's entertainment. Okay so they look beautiful and graceful from a distance, but close up, are they very bad tempered! There's been one at the stern of the boat swearing at me in swan language, and threatening to bite my trainer. It even pecked at the window when I was below deck! So we tried to irritate it by taking photos with a flash, which didn't seem to bother it, and then, much more successfully, jerking the rudder at it (with the engine off, of course!).
Childish? Us?

The Swan.

Day 6- Thursday

... Or day 15, if you follow the Book of Common Prayer.

We've spent the day in and around Worcester, moving moorings very frequently for no apparent reason. I returned to the boat twice today not to find it where I'd left it!
We sang evensong at Worcester Cathedral, hence the BCP comment. The 15th evening is Psalm 78 day, although happily we only were required to sing 33 of the 73 verses.

Worcester organ is scary. It is loud. Did I say loud? I meant LOUD. Organs usually have two different types of stops, with both of them situated in the chancel. But at Worcester, half of them are about 60ft away. So, the first time we practiced the anthem, there was an appreciable time lag between hearing one half of a chord and the other, although the organist was playing them at the same time. So, we, erm... Panicked. The organist had to re-register everything and curse the organ's counterintuitive stop layout on the console. Apparently. Not that I actually understand such things... although the incredibly low 64ft pipe, playing its note with a frequency of eight cycles per second, was impressive. It was weird, one kind of felt it a little more than heard it.

Day 7- Friday

Another lazy day in Worcester -we found a café bar called Charleston's for breakfast... we then found a bookshop with a closing down sale, which took up a lot more of the day. So now the boat resembles a library!

We returned up the Worcester and Birmingham Canal (I think, I really do try to pay attention to the names, honest) much quicker than when we first came down it, and came to the conclusion that too many helpers spoil the lock, or hinder passage through it, at any rate.

I write this in the boat yard where we say goodbye to our boats tomorrow. We have been celebrating the end of our holiday with an award ceremony. My boat collectively won the 'disaster area' award, for all our, erm, technical difficulties!
I won an award for the 'least productive crew member'- hmmm, I wonder why, says she, sitting in the bow with her perfectly varnished long nails.

Our next worry is exactly how long we'll be suffering from swaying building syndrome. Seeing Worcester Cathedral gently rocking is distinctly worrying!

Joanna (Princess of Darkness)

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