On a long trip, which this one is on my personal scale, you have to have the odd day off, so since it was dull and grey this morning, we opted for a low-key cruise on a converted barge along the Regent’s Canal to Camden Lock. I couldn’t resist though taking notes and photos just in case I might want to write a story – but as it turned out, the London Waterbus operation is one to which I wouldn’t want to give anything but bad publicity.
It started well, the boat moored in the still reflecting pool at Little Venice, geese gliding past, Browning Island (of Robert fame) in the middle, other barges passing picturesquely. And the route is pleasant, past Regency buildings with neat gardens behind iron railings, then wild bits with buddleia and brambles growing over the towpath, and under bridges and through tunnels, one nearly 250 metres long. There was an informative commentary, though it was a bit brief and too quiet to hear well over the other passengers’ conversation. We even went past London Zoo, where birds seemed to be trying to get inside Snowdon’s spiky modern aviary.
But then it began to rain – nowhere near hard, nor even continuously – and the young woman hosting the cruise officiously leaned over people clutching cameras and closed all their windows. I opened mine again, of course, but then she did another round and, when I protested, informed me that “Water damages the boat”. Resolute against the arguments that water is a fact of life for boats, and that people had paid to see the scenery and not rain-streaked glass, she was offended that I had the temerity to disobey her by opening my window yet again, and told me so.
I’m afraid I was rude to her as I left the boat at Camden, to her noisy astonishment. I regret that, but not as much as I regret choosing to cruise with London Waterbus in the first place, and not with their competitor, Jason’s.
After that, Camden Lock Market, even with rain pouring off the canvas roofing, was better fun. Good food there, interesting market stalls of all sorts, good-humoured crowds and colourful, if tacky shops. It’s worth a visit – just make sure you go with Jason and not with you-know-who.