10 May 2010

And we're off!

Well, I’m amazed that we’ve got anywhere to be honest. I’m tapping this post out moored just below the Double Locks by the entrance to the Dewsbury Town Arm so the Great Trip has begun – but the number of lovely people we’ve met who’ve either a) wanted to regale us with their complete life story b) impersonate a complete set of Baedecker Guides or c) demonstrate their quite remarkable encyclopaedic knowledge of the world (a single conversation contained the words ‘ dumper truck’, ‘Sebastopol’ and ‘Smith & Wesson’) has meant that progress has been a tad steadier than anticipated. A good job there’s never a queue for any of the locks on the Calder & Hebble – we were stuck in one for 40 minutes yesterday. Or rather, I was stuck at the bottom of the lock trying to lip-read while A was nodding politely while trying to think up some excuse to get away. Dusk was coming on…

But to be fair, a big contented sigh went up last night as we tied up. It was a great weekend all round – good cruising, good weather, good banter, the only downer being a rather excessive intake of double gloucester on my part which led to some rather vivid and unnerving dreams. Oh, and one of our new Thermos mugs fell in the river. That must be some sort of record as it had only been on board for a day and a half. I was in the bow with the dogs at the time so only have A’s word that it decided to throw itself lemming-like into the water…personally I think he knocked it in and is not fessin’ up. And I particularly liked the way he said ‘your mug fell in’ when they were identical and neither of us had yet carved our initials proprietorially into the soft touch casing.

Technically speaking, this is a working cruise week ahead of the fortnight’s holiday – a working cruise week is where we’re supposed to give priority to work, and cruise if time permits, but to be honest we are more influenced by the weather. If it’s stinky grey and wet, we hunker down and crash out the emails; if it’s sunny and blue, we stick our iPhones in our pockets and remember to put the boat in neutral before we answer them. Either way, it’s fab to be back on board. I’ve just rustled up an improvised fire as we didn’t have any coal on board, opting instead to maraud along the towpath, Spear & Jackson Predator saw in hand, leaping upon anything that looked remotely combustible. It’s now the wrong side of 90 degrees in the boat and Miffy is once again trying to get intimate with the Squirrel. But it is so nice to have that chilly edge taken off…bugger the dirt.

At some point this week we’ll take our leave of the C&H, dropping down onto the Aire & Calder. It’ll be a teary goodbye as this canal has really grown on me. Okay, it can be a tight squeeze in places (notably Salterhebble middle and top) but once you have an effective strategy for getting yourself into and out of the shorter locks, it’s just a case of keeping your eyes open and your shoes dry (oh yes, those top gates do spurt rather….) And whatever you do, don’t be influenced too much by the Pearsons guide – he likes the C&H in parts but his praise is quite grudging…and his damning of the stretch between Mirfield and Dewsbury is totally uncalled for. Maybe things have changed a lot in the last 10 years or maybe he was just having a bad hair day but there’s no way that I’d put these few miles in my Top 5 Worst Stretches of Cut list as he effectively does. The constant interchange of river and canal and the totally inoffensive environs make this as enjoyable a semi-urban route as any other…or was it because the sun was shining and I had a bottle of vintage cider inside me?

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