Pretty much everyone on the canal has been friendly. Cows watch us pass, dog-walkers and strollers on the towpath pass the time of day, joggers and cyclists give a cheery nod, and other boaters exchange greetings and comments about the weather or the cricket. There’s a feeling of camaraderie especially at the locks, where we’re all sweating over our windlasses to raise the paddles, or heaving on the gates, or fidgeting with the gears to keep the boat straight in the pen.
Occasionally there’s a boat-owner, as opposed to a hirer like us (identified by the company name on the side of the boat), who watches with suspicion as we skim past their precious vessel, or who sails past without even acknowledging our presence – but today’s old codger took the biscuit. As we passed him, moored but perched on the railing at the back of his boat, he looked critically at poor old Florence Edith and delivered one scathing comment: “Your rope’s untidy!”
So it was, our stern mooring rope, in a heap under the tiller – just as it’s been all week, causing no problems at all. We didn’t acknowledge him, of course, or even look at the rope till we were round the bend; but after that we did a survey of everyone else’s and, true, most of them were tidied in some way.
We made a token effort to be a bit more shipshape thereafter – but it was a busy day today, lock-wise, and there were more important things to think about. There were three on our own, then a series of eight where we had a lock buddy and, despite steady traffic coming the other way, everyone worked so efficiently as a team that we cleared them all in 90 minutes – very satisfying.
Less pleasing was the country mile, and more, we had to walk into and especially back from the pretty village of Long Itchington. The fundraiser afternoon tea inside the old church was good, and the plaque on the wall of a cottage was funny, but we missed the track back to the canal and if it hadn’t been for a helpful cyclist carrying messages between us as we strung out along the road, there might have been a moment of ill temper. But an excellent dinner at the Cuttle Inn put everything right again.