03 December 2008

Monty on the Ponty

Well, where to start? Perhaps at the end would be best. We’re here all snug as a bug in the delightful little mooring basin at the end of the Llangollen, plum tuckered out after an afternoon’s exploration. Funny thing is, we hadn’t planned on staying as we were on a tight schedule. It was going to be a quick in and out, stopping just long enough for water and rubbish, and then we’d point our nose east for the return journey. But as you well know, serendipitous things happen on the cut and we met some friends in the basin who urged us to stay for at least the night so we could go and have a look round. We didn’t take much convincing, to be honest – well, why be your own boss if you can’t make unscheduled changes to your holiday plans?

So we locked up and toddled off with the dogs down to Horseshoe Falls. It was a bit dicey underfoot as the winter sun hadn’t permeated through to melt much of the ice but we came through unscathed. And it was very well worth the effort – not only was it extraordinarily pretty on what had remained a classic winter’s day but there was also a sense of real achievement in getting to the very end of the canal, albeit on foot. It appears that horseboats work this stretch and A was all for harnessing the dogs up and trying it ourselves. I gave him a look, mindful that it had been difficult enough up to now without having a crack at something with a No Entry sign at the beginning.

Oh yes, there were two or three occasions at least when I thought we’d fall short of our ultimate destination. The notorious Llangollen flow coupled with too little water under the boat made for painfully slow going wherever the channel narrowed. Most of yesterday seemed to be spent going backwards as we crawled an inch at a time over the aqueducts and through the tunnels. Passage through the latter was particularly difficult as the flow kept pinning you to one side and I had to crab along the whole way. For a while I thought it was just me but then I saw a following boat experience exactly the same difficulties. Today’s trundle through the narrows on the approach to Llangollen itself meant more of the same, with occasional underwater obstacles forcing me to retreat and take a run up to get past/over them. My tiller arm is sore and tired but I guess we will absolutely zoom back on the return trip.

There was a blogger sighting as well this morning, as Elsie and dog Ben of Bendigedig hoved into view on their morning walk. Typical dog owner, I recognised Ben before I recognised Elsie – sorry Elsie and lovely to see you again!

Tomorrow we return over the aqueducts. Now coming over yesterday was okay, with Chirk being a slightly more comfortable proposition than the Ponty. I’m okay with heights but I don’t really love them that much, so I was obviously keen to regain the other side of the canal and get out of mid-air. My unease wasn’t really helped by the fact that A kept ogling over the non-towpath side and saying ‘Coo, isn’t it high up here’ and ‘You’d never be able to get your boat out of this metal trough’; all the time there’s me, looking straight ahead, clonking the side every two seconds, thinking the whole structure looks horribly precarious and whose stupid idea was it to come here anyway?

But it was all worth it because as soon as you turn at Trevor, the canal delivers its ‘save the best for last’ smack in the kisser, with hills and mountains rising up before you with little white houses nestled in their folds and ridges. It may as well have said Welcome to Wales in forty foot high letters – we loved it!

Today’s walk also told me something I didn’t know. I have always wondered a bit about Ranger, as to whether he’s a bovver boy where other dogs are concerned. I’ve never really let him that close to another dog to find out but today we met a lovely chap who was doing some work around the hotel near the Falls. His little dog – a Border Terrier sort – was actually chained up and we didn’t spot him at first until he came out of hiding and announced himself in front of Susie and Arthur. The owner returned at that point to take his dog out of the way so we could get past – in fact, he picked him up and I was feeling so relaxed that I let Ranger approach to have a sniff. He was absolutely fine, not even reacting when the dog growled at him. Then Susie went over to do her ‘Call me madam’ act and she remembered her manners as well – amazing. Monty was okay with it all too and Arthur and Miffy couldn’t have cared less, so I was greatly cheered by the results of this cautious meet-and-greet. Maybe I should just stop getting so worked up by the whole thing but I am a bit wary of the pack mentality – five against one isn’t really fair is it?

I’ve also had to put up with some moans today from himself. He’s claiming that the weight’s falling off so fast that he’s had to take his belt in by three notches and that this may still not be enough to stave off a flash of boxer as his jeans fall down around his bum. I should add that he is not officially on a diet but as I’m living on short commons, so is he – most of the time. I was kind enough to include a stash of Ginsters pasties in the boat provisions – he’s unkind enough to eat the damn things in front of me. Have men no sensitivity to these things? You can stuff your face, just don’t do it in front of me. I mean, I’m so desperate, I’m eyeing up tiny bits of Steak and Onion slice that have fallen onto the deck…

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