Diary of an urban Grandad
NARROWBOATS. Wonderful things. Can’t help but love ’em, really. Who can resist those long, thin slices of floating paradise, each one less than seven feet wide? Give or take a couple of inches, of course. Which reminds me. I have spent many weeks over the last few years onboard these sausage-shaped pleasure beasts, yet I’m still not entirely sure how wide they are. Which is ridiculous.
The first question any journalist worth his or her salt should ask before stepping foot on one of these things is, “narrow, huh? Interesting. How narrow, exactly?” Hmm. Note to self; take a tape measure next time. That would be the professional way to approach things. Either way, I think it is safe to say that the word “narrow” is the perfect one to describe these boats. Truth is, you couldn’t swing a guinea pig in one of these beauties, let alone a cat. Not that any sane person would wish to do either. This is a job for a hamster, if ever there was one. Obviously. But I digress.
Point is, I know it may have been mentioned a few times in this column over the last few holiday seasons, but I think it is worth mentioning again. When it comes to slowing down, chilling out and generally enjoying life on a whole new level, there really are few better ways to do it than on a narrowboat. If heaven exists, I’m pretty sure there are canals there. And locks. And canal-side pubs, come to think of it. And if there is a creator, he or she is bound to have provided their faithful fans with a few of these long, thin boats as payback for a lifetime of servitude.
What got me thinking about all this, was spending a week aboard narrowboat, Caitlin, recently. She was a sweet little thing. Fifty feet or so of luxury, several feet wide, and every inch of her built for good times. The perfect companion for almost every occasion that involves canals. We picked her up in Chirk Marina, which is somewhere up north. Not entirely sure where. Originally, I thought it was in Cheshire, but after half an hour’s chugging we appeared to cross the border into England. So who knows.
Either way, after a few weeks of nonstop stress here at home, Mrs Cullimore and I were in some serious need of relaxation and Caitlin delivered. Oh, yes. In great big, beautiful bucket fulls. Travelling onboard this baby at three miles an hour is the perfect antidote to modern living. The weird thing with such slow speed travel, is that you have to pay attention to where you are going, all the time. It’s incredible. Successfully steering a slow boat to paradise requires one hundred percent of your attention, all of the time. Which makes it the perfect way to live in the moment, follow your breathing and all that other stuff meditation is supposed to make you do.
Trouble is, you snooze, you lose. At one point, I found myself driving the boat through a swarm of low flying swallows. These little sweeties were showing off, basically. Dropping down to the canal, touching the water long enough to swallow (see what I did there?) a mouthful, then skipping back up into the sky. All within the space of a heartbeat. Was like watching a wildlife wonder of the world. Mesmerising. Trouble is, in all the excitement of the show, I took my eye off the way ahead for a few moments. Big mistake. We immediately ran headlong into a bridge, causing Mrs Cullimore to stomp onto the poop deck and give me a sharp dressing down. Lesson learned.
Another lesson to be learnt on the canal, is just how friendly other narrowboaters are. One morning, we were quietly enjoying a cup of tea on the foredeck, whilst Mabel the mini schnauzer was trying to make friends with some nearby ducks. Suddenly, another boat pulled up beside us and several dogs, along with their owners, bounded over to say hello. During the course of our conversation, we found out that these very friendly people had once hired a narrowboat. Just as we had done. Like us, they had taken the boat for a week. Difference is, they had enjoyed the experience so much, they had gone out and bought their very own boat straight afterwards. Which struck me as being a bit forward.
We’ve been hiring narrow boats from Anglowelsh for years. Usually once or twice a year. Made me feel a bit guilty. We have never been tempted to go out and buy a boat all of our very own. Why would you, when hiring them is so much easier and relaxing?
I have spent many weeks over the last few years onboard these sausage-shaped pleasure beasts, yet I’m still not entirely sure how wide they are.