Yesterday we left behind the urban environment for the countryside once again. It was a different age of gongoozler from usual at our start to the day yesterday as we set off next to university buildings. On a previous visit we left by spaghetti junction – the canal goes under the roads but in fact is not the lowest level as there are rivers below the canal – but this time there was a simple canal junction to navigate. The canal can be very swish, surrounded by bars, or new housing or, as yesterday, mainly building site and old warehouses with grilled or boarded windows. The gritty, littered route is brightened by graffiti and this one brought back a memory of children making origami creatures (including a fox) and that Shane had seen a fox the other day. I had missed it but I didn’t miss this one.
One bridge was painted with the names of those who were victims of knife attacks and a plea to stop. There was another social appeal beside some very bright paint. someone has taken time and effort over this.
Today it was back to fields, trees and dog walkers on the tow path. It was a couple of hours before there was anywhere with a shop. Shane started filling up with water while I headed in to the village. His map had shown two shops but the road sign directed me to the High Street and there seemed quite a lot of cars. I saw a petrol station and wondered if that was the draw for the cars and also perhaps that was the other shop. Knowle High Street was full of independent shops: a large butcher, artisan baker, barber, solicitor, a bridal shop, travel agents, pubs, restaurants, deli, cafes and a zero waste shop. I had to peep in there and found fruit and vegetables, not wrapped in plastic, and freezers with tasty looking pastries and an array of ready to cook fishcakes in 8 varieties. I decided that would be an easy meal and they would defrost by teatime and decided on Thai and smoked haddock with spinachand chesy sauce. I picked up some bread and other ready to eat savouries, sorry I couldn’t sample a wider range.
Back to the canal and no sign of Bartimaeus or Shane. I thought my long deliberations about what delicacy to buy had worn out his patience and he had decided to try his hand at going through a double lock single handed. I looked in the nearest lock but saw no boat. I could not see any locks being worked. I tried looking in another with partially open gates. Perhaps a boat with a large crew had turned up so and they had shared the locks there had been lots of eager helping hands to get through fast. There were a few CRT volunteers around but all of them were engaged in gardening activities, none were at locks. I phoned Shane and he was indeed at the very bottom of the locks and moored up.
When I joined him he explained that he had made a start at one lock and as soon as he started opening the first paddle and before the lock had filled a volunteer had arrived. The volunteer went ahead and got the next lock ready for him and the other volunteers joined in preparing all the locks for him.
A further surprise in store was that at the top lock Bartimaeus was recognised by another Ortomarine boat owner, Ian. They owned the boat we were first interested in and we had only just missed the chance to get it. In fact we had been inside Bersera when we had come to see Bartimaeus to see if a tandem could fit in through the doors and try driving on electric, as the two boats are similar – Bartimaeus was out of the water at the time and up on blocks, so we could not hoist the tandem up a ladder or do a test drive. We did not meet the owners but Ian recognised the boat! He lives nearby and had invited us in for a cup of tea. These locks had been a lot more friendly than we had expected!
After a hasty lunch, (lucky I had those ready-to-eat items) we went to his house and had a very enjoyable chat about electrics, adventures and silver propeller collection. When not on it he lives right on the canal and was able to tell us that most of the volunteers are keen on gardening and that they are a real asset to the flight, and even cut his hedge! They had been a real asset to us too. He is on his third boat and has been to the Falkirk Wheel by boat. If they ever fancied another Scottish trip he would be welcome in Edinburgh. But for now we needed to take advantage of the sunshine and crack on.
It was still surprisingly warm. I had been shading my eyes driving in the morning. The sun was still right in front of us and making Shane frown, without his shades. I went to bring them to him after casting off but he’d already got them himself.
We had tried to call in for diesel at a boatyard earlier in the day,only to be told the man who did the diesel was not there. I saw another establishment for boaters, but it did not do diesel either. There was a heron who may or may not have read the sign nearby. No long rods like the four fishermen I had passed in the morning but “Vanessa Heron” has all the right equipment.
We had seen one kingfisher in the morning but in the afternoon we must have been in a good fishing stretch as we saw five more! Many stayed still long enough for us to draw level. While we got a really good look at them they were often obscured by branches, and remain a blue and rust smudge in the photo.
I didn’t need to catch anything as slippery to make my dinner, I had an easy meal idea based on a song, called Fishcakes and Spaghetti, by a band with an off-beat sense of humour and on-beat bongo and guitars, Kenny Young and the Eggplants. Many of their songs are full of puns and ludicrous scenarios. This one is no different except it has a romantic touch. On their website you can find a game made by Bryn many years ago, set to the tune of “Attack of the Maniac Librarian” more wit and less gore than the Nordic noir we have been watching. Only excuse for blurred picture this time, since the fishcakes weren’t hiding or flying, was that we were hungry, and the lighting was poor.