ME & MY BOATS

An oc­to­ge­nar­ian cou­ple have spent 11 years on the wa­ter al­ready, and are deter­mined to carry on nar­row­boat­ing un­til they’re well into their 90s

Canal Boat - - CONTENTS -

Our fam­ily think we are well and truly mad but ac­cept that our get-up-and-go hasn’t yet got up and gone! Af­ter 20 years of run­ning a sail­ing busi­ness on Win­der­mere fol­lowed by 11 years of ex­plor­ing the canals and rivers of the UK, we have no in­ten­tion of veg­e­tat­ing and be­com­ing arm­chair TV ad­dicts. We are not in the first flush of senior ser­vice. In fact as we ap­proach our ninth

decade – or as the fam­ily spell it “de­cayed”, we are fit and well and deter­mined to carry on boat­ing well into our nineties. We set off in April, and apart from short for­ays home to see that all is well and the weeds haven’t reached shoul­der height, we re­turn in­vig­o­rated some­time in the au­tumn from our trusty nar­row­boat Hal­cyon.

Al­though nowa­days we do seem to ex­pe­ri­ence cer­tain lim­i­ta­tions which we are deter­mined to ig­nore. Our eye­sight these days when ap­proach­ing low bridges can be a lit­tle sus­pect! Gen­er­ally we take ex­tra care, duck our heads and make sure the chim­ney and TV ae­rial are flat on the roof.

Un­for­tu­nately we had a slight lapse when com­ing head-on to a bridge be­fore the dou­ble lock, the one just be­fore the Hare­cas­tle Tun­nel from the north. As only one lock was in our favour it made sense to go through the other one… It didn’t! Even re­vers­ing at top speed couldn’t stop the in­evitable clash of bridge roof ver­sus search­light, TV ae­rial and top box.

The bridge won in spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion. We were left with no light for the tun­nel tra­verse, no stor­age box, and worst of all no TV which meant no ‘Neigh­bours’ for the en­su­ing 24 hours. The RCR came up trumps and fit­ted a new light within two days, there was a lo­cal Tesco five min­utes away so it was unim­por­tant when we got on the move again, and we chopped up the top box for kin­dling, even though we had no store box.

Our hear­ing is not what it used to be. There is no use tak­ing a two-way ra­dio into a lock as the sound of the wa­ter far ex­ceeds the voice in the ear. We re­vert to hand sig­nals pro­vid­ing we are in eye con­tact. This can lead to a few mis­un­der­stand­ings as we haven’t yet got our sem­a­phore sorted out. Sig­nal from John to pro­ceed un­der a bridge was read as “Put the ket­tle on” and he waited pa­tiently for me whilst I poured the tea and sat wait­ing for him to par­take. By the time we re­alised our mis­take the tea was stewed and there was a queue of boats wait­ing for us to move! Af­ter shop­ping and a long walk, I sat and re­laxed, say­ing: “I’ll fill the ket­tle dear.” This was re­ceived as “I feel de­crepit dear” and he sym­pa­thised ac­cord­ingly.

Af­ter shop­ping and a long walk, I sat and re­laxed, say­ing: “I’ll fill the ket­tle dear.’ This was re­ceived as ‘I feel de­crepit dear” and he sym­pa­thised

There is not a lot of use try­ing to watch any TV pro­gramme which lasts longer than an hour as by 9pm we are both asleep in front of the roar­ing log stove af­ter a full day of ac­tiv­ity. But we have re­dis­cov­ered the joys of read­ing and char­ity shops are a boon for new books. An added ad­van­tage is the pur­chase of a new wardrobe whilst in the shop. No need for clothes which will last us for the next 20 years!

The con­tents of our sponge bags now owe more to the phar­macy counter than the cos­metic area at the chemists. Hair colour­ing is out – I have found that with white hair and a help­less look when strug­gling with locks, there is usu­ally help at hand for an el­derly hap­less fe­male. John un­for­tu­nately doesn’t get quite the same at­ten­tion. He looks – and is – com­pletely ca­pa­ble so is left to his own de­vices.

Paint­ing the boat ex­te­rior is not a favourite oc­cu­pa­tion but it must be done in spite of creak­ing knees and aching backs. The lower part of the boat down to the wa­ter­line takes the most time, in­ter­spersed with nu­mer­ous cups of tea and grum­bles about the 60ft to cover, but the end re­sult is worth the ef­fort. Ob­vi­ously the cel­e­bra­tory glass of wine at the end is a sheer ne­ces­sity.

Nowa­days we are in less of a hurry to get some­where by a cer­tain time. We have found that start­ing be­fore 8am and moor­ing up by 3pm we usu­ally have the pick of moor­ing spots and still have time to ex­plore and walk the dog. We do try to moor up some­where near civil­i­sa­tion, a pa­per shop within a 10-minute walk is a bonus and as all our gro­ceries have to be car­ried in a ruck­sack or trun­dled be­hind us in a shop­ping trol­ley, the same can be said for buy­ing pro­vi­sions. We held out for years from buy­ing the said trol­ley – “Only for old peo­ple!” said John, him be­ing an in­de­pen­dent sort of guy. So I gave him the haver­sack to carry… when it was very full and very heavy of course! Very quickly we jointly de­cided we were old peo­ple and swal­lowed our pride ac­cord­ingly. Bags of dog bis­cuits travel much bet­ter on wheels than on backs!

Hav­ing said all that, we are now plan­ning our next trip. We plan to be away from April to Oc­to­ber so who knows where we will end up. The next big oc­ca­sion is our di­a­mond an­niver­sary in 2018, where will we go to cel­e­brate it? The Seine per­haps…

More hard graft tack­ling yet an­other lock

Our jobs list is never-end­ing

Hey, we sur­vived the chal­lenge...

Our 60ft boat goes on and on and on

The bridge won this par­tic­u­lar en­counter

Back on the paintbrush

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