Die Lorelei

A couple of days ago I was looking at some photos in social media of a publicity shoot of the choir that I used to be in. I had gone back a few times in its current version after the pandemic but being in Edinburgh so infrequently and a change in rehearsal location meant I gradually attended less and less often and the last time I went to a performance, it was to be in the audience, not to sing. I noticed the leader had started to get the choir to do a bit more in the way of actions into their performance. The shoot had a nautical theme and everyone in the photos was dressed as sailors or pirates in blue and white with striped tops and posing by the sea. I felt a bit jealous. I definitely have suitable stripey tops and actually drive a boat and haul ropes. Alongside the photos of maritime singers, was a video clip of the choir leader in a mermaid outfit, hopping sideways over the shingle on the tail, splashing into the sea and somehow managing to swim by undulating her legs together, flapping the fish tail up and down. Is there no end to her abilities? She didn’t actually combine the mermaids outfit with singing, but she does sing, play guitar and writes songs – in her non native language. Also in her non native language, she did a PhD in biochemistry. She teaches during the science festival in Edinburgh. Actually she speaks a few languages. She teaches our choir singing and while we have trouble learning our parts and the words, she knows all the words and parts and never needs to check. She teaches drama to Bulgarian children and does puppet shows in Bulgarian. She I full of energy, good humour, patience and enthusiasm. And now I find she can swim like a fish! I am in awe of that woman.

But I am not in Edinburgh in my stripey top. I am on the River Soar. We left Barrow-on Soar yesterday. I went to the front as we cast off and was taken by a line of drakes taking a mid morning snooze on a rail.

Ducks in a row on a rail

Shane was driving towards the bridge arch and I had been pointing at the ducks and then suddenly thought I had distracted him from steering as I saw us veering very close to side and I could see the rails continued under the arch but below the water level so he might not see them. I waved to try to alert him not to drive into them. It is very unusual for Shane to scrape at all, but this was one of those rare occasions. I wondered if the wind had played a part. I asked Shane if the wind had thrown him sideways, but he said it was the flow of the water.

He wasn’t the only one having steering difficulties. Just before setting off another boat had come level with us and realised they had overshot their crew member and there was no more bank for picking them up. She started reversing but with a combination of the river flow, technique, difficulty steering in reverse without thrusters and a windy day, meant she was making very gradual progress in moving towards the bank. I suggested she was welcome to just reach us, rather than go all the way back and sideways and then her crew (human and canine) could cross our boat. The dog had already decided to come on our deck anyway! This was a smaller amount of manoeuvring and Shane came out and grabbed the side of their boat to hold it near us while they crossed. That was much easier.

The flood lock was the next potential hazard. We already knew the signage was confusing. When we arrived there were paddles open at both ends, the red one as per instruction at our end but at the other end a white one. I closed the white one at the far end .The gate still didn’t open so I opened the other paddle. Success and the lock worked quickly with only one paddle working at the other end. Now I saw why the ‘wrong’ paddle was open on our arrival. The red one didn’t work at all. So I left it as I had found it. I wonder why they colour code them in stead of saying a paddle at each end.

The rain started and we thought mooring up for an early lunch seemed a great idea. We continued when it brightened and enjoyed lovely bird songs and sightings. A mandarin duck drew my eye and a heron seemed more bold and prepared to be near a moving boat. Some men at a mooring for charity trust boats for hire gazed admiringly as we drove past silently on solar. One called “That’s beautiful!”

We saw a strange little craft with large prongs at the front. They are used to clear weeds but it was going along an unweeded part. Shane tried to get a picture while driving and didn’t quite manage. It moved to the bank behind us and the driver raised the prongs then lowered them until they laid on the bank. He stood up and started to climbed out. The prongs on the bank steadied it enough, no ropes were needed. He shouted out “Toilet break!” So I replied “we won’t look!” It was going to be hard for him to hide in the hedge in bright orange overalls.

We found a mooring by an old factory. It’s massive tall wall and jagged glass weren’t the prettiest, but there were more attractive views on the towpath side. In the evening we had a walk towards Loughborough which was about a mile away. We saw another pair of mandarin ducks en route, such striking plumage.

The towpath isn’t often named but there was a large sign with a very unusual name. I took a photo to share with my friend who lives in Germany. She was able to tell me that Hall was not a building but part of town name. It seems Schwäbisch Hall and Loughborough are twinned.

Roadsign for Schwäbisch Hall Way

This German corridor took us into Loughborough where we passed the end of the canal and viewed the water point and then walked into town. We took to the street nearby and I decided that on our previous visit we must have walk in the other direction as I hadn’t noticed the large sign commemorating the lives lost from the German bombing by zeppelins in 1916. The Zeppelins must have been mesmerising and many came out to look but that was for many a fatal decision. They were aiming for Liverpool but hit Loughborough in stead. Money was collected much later to make the plaque and the largest donation came from the Zeppelin engineering company.