We love having guests on board, but it does jolt us out of some of our usual patterns.  Often we give up our bed for visitors – it is easier than teaching them how to reconfigure the dinette.  That isn’t what we do when Heather and Benny join us.  We’ve worked out the best configuration is Heather across the dinette and Benny on the folded down sofa bed.

We haven’t used the sofa bed in this configuration since I moved the TV last year.  I was slightly concerned that the slightly narrower space would no longer allow it to to be turned for use.  I had even reminded myself of the sofa’s construction, noting that the arms are not structural, and can be removed by undoing a few bolts.  Luckily none of that was needed, and after the first night’s reminder our guests did the twice daily reconfiguration themselves.

For the first time since coming aboard we have no fixed points in our itinerary.  The only requirement was to make sure our guests could get home when they wanted.  It took a few attempts to persuade Heather that I really meant it when I said we could go whichever way she fancied.  Arranging things around a visit from her parents was no problem.  While waiting for them to arrive, Heather and I had a wander near the locks and came across a bower I hadn’t seen before.

Bower.  A small seat in the woods has a wooden arch over and in front of it.  The arch has large carvings of various things you would find in or near a canal: otter, leaf, pike, eel etc.
Bower near Foxton Locks

We’ve often enjoyed visits from Heather’s parents on holidays in the past.  Treating them to a ride down the Foxton Locks was a pleasure for all of us.  A short cruise and a pub dinner rounded it off nicely and was a lovely reminder of previous decades.

In the days that followed we dawdled through countryside. I remembered many of the features as we went along, but was still surprised by many of them, perhaps because we are going in the opposite direction.  We had last been through two years ago while I was still waiting to hear what follow-up treatment I might be offered.  This time through I got a message from Edinburgh confirming that my latest scan was, as expected, satisfactory – welcome news!

With Benny driving, I had the unusual experience of going through Saddington Tunnel sitting in the bow.  We entered the tunnel at about the same time as a boat coming the other way, so we could see it coming for half a mile.  As we got close, Benny slowed right down and steered to be almost touching the tunnel wall.

Tunnel light.  The view from the bow of a narrowboat inside a tunnel.  The tunnel light illuminates the bow of the boat much more strongly than it does the walls.  The light at the end of the tunnel is visible, but dwarfed by the light of an oncoming boat.
An Extra Light Before the End of the Tunnel

From my seat on the left side I could plainly see that the two boats were going to collide.  For a moment I wondered about fending, but sense prevailed.  Staying seated and relying on the resilience of the steel hulls was a much better idea than risking putting any part of my body between them.  It was only a glancing blow, but both boats were jolted sideways by a foot or so.  There was some spectacular crashing sounds from inside our boat, but I knew it was only the spare table legs falling over – no harm done.  The other driver gave Benny a mouthful for being in the way – what a cheek!  Fortunately we are not likely to meet again for a while – and probably wouldn’t know it if we did.

I usually watch out for warnings of stoppages on sections of the canal network we expect to be reaching soon.  By the end of the week we were in an area which has been getting more than its fair share.  The River Soar has been closed repeatedly due to high water levels.  One pound was closed for much longer than the rest when a section of the bank was washed away.  I was curious to see what the repair looked like.  It was almost disappointingly ordinary when we arrived, only the newly seeded grass gave any clue.

Repaired bank.  New towpath complete with lock bollards lines the canal.  The slightly bare grass is the only real indication that this is newly constructed after a flood.
Towpath Rebuilt after Flood Damage

We are reminded that we are on a river at most of the locks by an indicator.  So far they all seem to be green – let’s hope things stay like that for the rest of our time on this stretch.

Level marker.  Water is swirling out of a lock gate.  On the stone wall at the far side of the canal is a level gauge.  Just above water level is a short section of green, below which is a short yellow piece.  Marks in the stone show where a red marker previously ran, but only a short part at the top is still in place.
Probably Green, But Where Does Yellow Become Red?