It was a fair morning and we knew we had locks ahead and showers forecast later. I went to the shop for bread and milk, as we were not sure where lunch was coming from and Shane readied the boat for off and was topping up the thirsty batteries when I got back. It wasn’t windy which made for an easier turnaround in the basin than it would have been when he arrived. Shane refused my offer to watch at the front and was confident of not bumping into the ice-cream barge opposite. There is a narrow exit from the basin through a bridge and there were two men leaning against the bridge and I thought they were watching us. As Shane completed the turn and headed towards them, one called out, “I don’t how you managed to turn that thing, like that!” Then they got on with their refuse collection.
Shane went through the bridge and I hopped off under the bridge to work the lock. A couple were watching and studying the solar panels. They had a chat about the panels and they said they were getting a boat next year. He said to us, nodding to each of us in turn, “Is that how to do it then, you drive while you work the locks?” We both replied that we took it turn about and I said Ihad driven into this one in the other direction. The woman said she was glad to hear it and looked at me and said “I like you!” She obviously didn’t want to get stuck with all the heavy work. We wished them well with their boat!
The day was off to a very chatty start, and it wasn’t just the locals, a wren was in full throated song and full view, more in your face than usual. When I was opening a gate, a lock ahead, I came back to find a woman chatting to Shane and as I arrived she spoke to me about the name Bartimaeus, which she remembered from Sunday school as a child and we had quite wee chat. Her house overlooked the canal and she had noticed we weren’t normally here. I decided the people of the Stratford canal were extra friendly.
Shane went ahead to open the “meccano” lock as I didn’t fancy trying it and thought it might need us both again, but Shane managed to open it himself and came back. I managed to close it myself but with difficulty all the way and only got it started by bracing my legs against the bridge wall. The thin metal bar is not comfortable to lean back on when pushing. Whether it was that lock’s fault or not, I started to get some back twinges and was nervous of any forward leaning and twisting. We pulled in for water and I stepped off with the rope and was looking for a place to tie off. A man came over and said I looked lost. I said I couldn’t find a suitable post or ring level with the water point. He explained that there used to be one right where I was standing but they had had an “Evergiven incident” and the mooring point had gone! We made it work with a long line and topped up. Meanwhile I went to take a paracetamol to help the back.
A couple struck up conversation with me when I recognised the swan nest and went up the front for a good view. They soon found that we travelled at walking pace as they maintained a conversation walking alongside. They knew there were a lot of locks ahead as they walked there regularly. We hadn’t met that couple before but did see a woman and her dog who we had seen and chatted to 2 days earlier and she obviously recognised us. I don’t know if her dog did. It didn’t pay us any attention.
While I was in a lock and Shane was ahead, a group of teenage lads came by on their bikes. One shouted to another to alert him to a flat tire and they stopped beside the lock. One turned to me and asked, “you don’t have a puncture repair kit there by any chance?” and was gobsmacked that I said we did. Shane was only too happy to help them. They had no spares, tools or pump but one knew what to do and got stuck in, borrowing our tyre levers. Shane tried to lend a hand, but it was proving a hard tyre to remove – a tyre lever snapped and we resorted to trying with a teaspoon. The lads were all very good natured with frequent encouragement and thanks offered and a whoop of praise when their friend got the tyre off. Finding the puncture didn’t prove easy. They all moved off the path to let a truck go past. Shane tried putting the tyre in the canal to see the puncture and I was just filling a bucket with water (that way the tyre wouldn’t get flecks of petal, stick etc on it) when I heard they had found the hole – right by the valve, not suitable for a patch. Undaunted one thought he would try to use the glue. They were still grateful for the attempts to help and offered us a “squishy” – the only emergency supply they had! The truck came back and stopped beside us. I wondered if she was going to try to offer to put the bike in the back or something but she was addressing Shane and me in the boat and told us there was another boat coming the other way and she had asked them to leave lock gates open for us.
We moved out of the lock and went forward to use the next one, leaving the glue and pump with the lads, and let the oncoming boat in then pulled over to have lunch. I explained to the woman working the lock that the group of boys were trying to fix a bike and were very friendly and polite. We agreed that youth get a bad press and it isn’t fair. She said she had been nervous of a gang of boys she had seen in Coventry and they had been great.
I nipped back to tell them that we weren’t far away. I tried to help with the pump, took the glue back and left them to it. They passed while we were lunching and returned the pump. The fix hadn’t worked and he was grinding past on a rim but there was no loss of bonhomie.
We continued along and Shane pointed out a weather vane I had noticed on the way out. I tried for a better picture. All in all the house was well kept and there were beehives in their garden.
Shane continued to do most of the locking but drove once the flight was behind us. The weather had darkened and crossing the aqueduct was a sharp contrast in weather from last time. I looked down and saw a car far below. Then as we passed overhead the passenger window wound down and the lady waved out at us then the window closed, then reopened when had got a camera so I waved again. There seemed to be no end of cheery people pleased to see us today.
My back feels a bit better but I still want to take care and Shane gamely went straight to Wootton Wawen shop after we had moored in the rain to get some more painkillers, since the ibuprofen had run out and he was feeling like he needed to watch his back too. Backs aside, we had a very cheerful day! More people interactions than usual and still the waterbirds on the canal, cormorants flying overhead, lambs in the fields, a hare running and an inquisitive horse to cheer us on the way.