Dane Aqueduct to the first shady tree, Crow Holt’s Bridge 52
Another alarm set and at 7:30am we could hear someones engine had started up, oh well we were all here for the same purpose and everyone was already awake. As we sat having our breakfast boaters were making ready, applying sun cream, donning hats and neck covers ready for the hot ascent of the locks.
We were just coming out to roll back the covers when two blue t-shirts and red life jackets appeared at Lock 12 to unlock it bang on 8:30. In went the lead boat, the poppy boat (NB Winton’s Folly?). Once they were up, the original second boat in line entered the lock closely followed by the queue jumping boat. They both fitted, just. We all hoped that the locks were a standard length and that they’d fit in every chamber of the flight together.
Next boat in and up with plenty of crew to help. Then it was NB Scowling Pig’s turn, the boat in front of us. Mick and Paul (narrowboat mover) from behind us moved the boats up towards the lock whilst myself and the chap from the last boat helped work Pig up the first chamber. Sorry never got your name and apologise now for calling you Pig.
Every boat went in the lock, raised, exited, gates closed, emptied, next boat in. There was always going to be a bit of a log jam before people got spaced out, add into the mix a C&RT work boat making it’s way down the flight and things got a little congested.
As Mick brought Oleanna into the bottom lock I walked up to help Pig, a single hander, he’d be passing the work boat in the next pound. Back down to get Mick up and let him know what was happening. Paul helped and then went to get his boat, everyone helping where they could.
The C&RT chaps said they thought there would be seven or eight boats coming down, and there they were close on their tail, the lead boat mob handed with three crew.
Gradually boats spaced them selves out as we passed the downward boats. When I was redundant at one lock I’d walk up to help Pig. Seeing what was happening up ahead I’d signal back to Mick and Paul. The frequency of downhill boats was such that at most locks you only needed to close the bottom gates behind your boat and then open the top ones leaving them for the next boat to enter straight away. This made the single handers around us very happy, less work to do.
A couple of volunteers came down with two boats, they have only been allowed back on duty this week, but this does not include volunteers 70 and over, so quite a proportion of volunteers down. It didn’t matter to us as by now, the last four boats were a well oiled machine.
Pig up ahead, I’d flit between us and him, Paul following, we’d lift a paddle for him when we could and he’d do the same for the boat bringing up the rear.
The sun beat down and I was envious of chilled drinks being consumed by downhill boats, our water bottle had warmed up nicely now!
A patch of poppies by one bywash,
A flurry of daisies below a lock, all the time The Cloud watching over us from the other side of the valley.
As Pig ran round the locks I reminded him to have a look at the views every now and then, they were wonderful.
A few more boats appeared coming down hill, the stragglers at the back and then we were on our own. Paddles could be lifted for those behind without worry of turning a lock in front of someone.
By the time I reached Lock 1 Pig had moored up and was heading back with a bag of rubbish and his windlass in hand, going back to help the guys behind us. The chap from NB Winton’s Folly helped me set the lock for Mick and bring Oleanna up onto the summit. Mick pulled her out and moored up to fill with water. The lock was reset ready for Paul who was just leaving Lock 2.
We’d heard from Paul that the queue jumping boat had done a very similar thing at Harecastle Tunnel the other day. Then today he’d managed to get in the second lock. He also managed to push in at the elsan point, ‘I’m in the lock, so can I go in front of you’, just as NB Winton’s Folly was about to pour the contents of his cassette into the elsan. All his haste and pushing in most probably got him back to his home mooring an hour earlier than if he’d stayed in line at both the tunnel and locks. Age and fretting had been used to his advantage. We all got up the locks in plenty of time, long before the last passage would be allowed.
The well oiled flotilla made it up in 2.5 hours. Not bad at all and nice to spend time with other people again enjoying the day.
Once we’d topped up we pushed off and continued until we found the first tree that might offer us a touch of shade. We knew the canal would get woodier the further we went but we also knew from previous experience it also got shallower!
As soon as we’d tied the outside up Tilly was off and hunting for friends. Part way through the afternoon ‘DOORS’ had to be called as I could hear Tilly returning with a friend. She’s not brought one on board for quite some time, but we have become a touch relaxed with the doors, so one day soon she will surprise us.
After a suitable rest we sat down to watch Act 2 of Small Island. Hortense’s arrival in London to find that the streets of the mother land were not paved in gold. Gilbert did his best to make her feel at home in the one room he rents from Queenie, her husband presumed dead from the war.
The set though seemingly simple was quite complex. The Olivier revolve being put to good use with traps in it. Large sliding doors on the upstage wall where elements could be brought onto stage, the back wall constantly being projected onto either with footage or textures. The forty, yes forty strong cast, moved set pieces and created atmosphere.
We enjoyed the play very much, but in watching we’ve been reminded of peoples appalling attitudes to colour both then and now. How horrific that a mother should feel it much better for her mixed race son to be brought up by a black couple than by herself.
12 locks, 1.46 miles, 10 boats up, 9 boats down, 1 team, 1 very hot day, 2 volunteers, 2 lock keepers, 1 tepid bottle of water, 1 full water tank, 0 rubbish, Act 2, 40 actors, 2 kids, 1 warm cat.