A Woman’s Touch

It was a minor inconvenience in the morning that I managed to cut my finger while cutting open the hot cross bun to go in the toaster. I was annoyed with myself for being careless and that it could be a nuisance handling ropes and keeping it clean and there was the interruption to my breakfast.

Anyway we had plasters so I got it covered up before we cast off. I was sorry to leave our handy spot. It was surprisingly quiet apart from birds and had snoozing ducks on the bank when I went to get the ropes. There were no passers by at all and no mud.

Leamington Spa non-towpath mooring

It is a while since we have been through Leamington but some parts were familiar. We had remembered mooring by a field of sheep by the aqueduct over the river. I had remembered taking pictures of the sheep in the field and pigeons on the concrete wall of the aquaduct, but hadn’t remembered that the other side was entirely different and a had iron railings rather than a solid wall.

Crossing the aqueduct and looking at the River Leam

Despite the fields we were about to get into an urban area again. I vaguely remembered that coming the other way I noticed a detail on some graffiti. The cartoon bear, looked familiar but not the large paws and claws painted on different parts of the pipes and pillar nearby, a clever use of space. I wasn’t even sure it was original or added. The sunset beside it was different again.

Bear holding on to the bridge

I was sure I had not seen at all a dramatic cat. As we drew closer more detail was revealed. The lady walking along stopped to make sure she wasn’t in front of it when she saw the camera poised, but it was okay. I had already got the whole picture.

Cat and mouse and cheese on the wall

The lady told us there was a really good one coming up, just around the corner. On the back of a bridge was a detailed picture of an elaborately decorated woman’s face. With the angle and some obstructive posts and trees I was trying to line up and thought I had it then realised the plastered fingertip had not worked on the touchscreen and now the picture was occluded. That wasn’t the issue I had predicted.

We were soon at the first lock. I went to work it. As I was doing so I saw another boat coming the other way. A man with a windlass and a tiny dog, probably a chihuahua, came over and said I could hop back on and he would deal with the gate. As we left he said “Nice boat, by the way”. Their boat was pretty interesting too, named Calamity Jane, with a painting of the lead character on the side, very distinctive.

At the next lock I noticed the other gate had a big hole in the side and the wood looked quite rotten, so bad that I could see the bushes right through the end of it. This is just after the winter closures for repairs. It still works I suppose and if only opening one side, as I was, then you won’t use that gate.

Seeing the bushes through the wood

There were plenty of boats coming the other way so we were finding the locks set our way and it was a good job too as the path was muddy and slippy so I wasn’t doing well at getting ahead to the next lock. They were spaced far enough apart that the locks were almost all being used singly. One woman remarked on how heavy going they were to work with only one person, by which she meant, like us, one locking and one driving. I met one other woman who was really hoping they would catch up with the boat in front enough to share a lock. Unlikely, but I tried to help her get there by staying a little later to help her through.

We progressed smoothly and Shane was surprised to discover how late it had got when we stopped for lunch after two o’clock. There were still quite a few locks to go after too. We ate quickly. I changed my shoes to better footwear for the mud. Shane noticed another boat coming and thought this would be a buddying up opportunity and called out to her as she passed, if she wanted to share locks. She said that was fine, but she had to pick up some wood before the next lock and it would take ten minutes. We were not in a hurry. We cast off after she passed and then we passed her pulled in on the other side with her boat tied to a tree. The sound of a power saw was to be heard.

I got the lock ready and true to her word, she didn’t take long to get her wood aboard and to come up. She introduced herself as Vicky and offered to come up and help with the lock as she drove in. I said I thought the advantage of sharing a lock, if you were a lone boater, was not having to get in and out of the boat at every lock, and she struck up lively conversation with Shane while I worked the lock. She was great company and not content to just stay in her boat and several times in the upcoming locks got out to help work the locks as well. At one point, as she was steering towards the lock, she was also on the phone and I said she certainly was good at multitasking. A lock or so later a friend of hers arrived at the side of the lock. Even with her friend there she was getting out to rope haul her boat in and help work it. It didn’t take long to get to the end with her helping. We thought we might be helping a boater on their own, but in the end, I think she helped us.

Vicky roping her boat at the last lock and some freshly cut logs on her roof.
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