Three Times A Lady

Once our guests had left, Shane was aware we might feel a bit flat. I thought it would be nice to go to the museum not too far away. We had been before but there was a new temporary exhibition advertised as starting that day so I knew it wouldn’t be all old hat. I also liked taking advantage of the castle gardens access point of these particular moorings. This is what greets you at the top of the steps leading from the locked gate which only boaters can open.

Castle Gardens, Leicester

The museum was a short walk away. There was a pause in the walk while Shane received a phonecall but we were at a pedestrian area, New Walk, with seats, at the time, so sitting and waiting a few minutes was no bother. The entrance to the museum had a dragon /serpent mosaic on the floor. It looked very old but the attractive flight of stairs to the temporary exhibition looked very new. The exhibition was about snakes which we enjoyed, though it did seem more aimed at children. I had a quick look around the German Expressionist Art. Since war was a major theme, these were as scary as the snakes, possibly more so. Mind you around 100 000 people die every year from snake bites.

We found a coffee shop and once refreshed, returned to the boat for lunch. We had plenty food as we had overshopped, but the other effect of visitors is that the water tank empties faster and the waste tank fills faster so we thought we should begin to look for a solution to both soon.

A blue boat we had met the day before at a lock, came past. We had chatted with the woman at the lock. We knew there was another lock soon so we called to them we were just leaving and might share the next lock and they agreed.

Soon we saw them approaching the lock and drawing level with other boats moored at the side. I was going forward with the windlass to get off, but we saw a woman on the bank speaking to the blue boat we’d planned sharing with and they were staying put and signalling we should stay back. There was either a queue or another issue. The woman on the bank came back towards us and we drew towards the side so I could hear her. She explained that there was a problem with the gate and she had phoned CRT to report it. This wasn’t what we had expected. Shane had thought this might be the lock with very heavy gates that needed one opened before the other and it would only open in that order, and with a lot of muscle, so we hoped more people would help, but it seemed a gate wouldn’t close, rather than wouldn’t open.

We tied up at the side on chains behind the other boats and went to see. The lock was set the other way and they couldn’t shut the gate at the other end to fill it up for them. The woman had said she had tried a few things already. Shane brought the bargepole but, as they predicted, it was too short to reach the water as it was a deep lock. He returned to Bartimaeus with the pole. Just then a boat appeared going the other way. We explained that there may be an obstruction under the water at the gate, but if they were willing to try going in to the lock, I thought the water movement might just shift things. A woman from their boat came to the gate and said she was willing to give it a go, so she and I opened the stuck gate together and the boat drove in, happy with only one gate. I joked we had no idea whether they would now be stuck there, but they seemed unconcerned. We closed the gate and were relieved and even triumphant that it closed easily. I went across to the other side and we worked the lock and as it got full, the driver asked her to get back on. I guess he could see a lot of boats and people around and picking up from the side might be hard. She managed to scramble in. The lady from the blue boat we had originally thought to share with, opened the other gate to let them out while I opened mine and off they went. Her husband drove the blue boat (with no name on it) in next, since their boat was waiting near the front and not tied up at the side. He came towards my side  of the lock and was trying to get off to rope up to keep the boat near the side, to let another boat in. He wasn’t close enough so I said he could throw me the rope and then I pulled him to the side and the next boat drove in with the couple who had spoken to us about the gate being stuck. I was mildly surprised she wasn’t helping since the gates were very heavy, but perhaps she felt surplus to requirements or hadn’t expected to get in so wasn’t ready when the boat cast off. Anyway the blue boat lady and I were managing fine. I thought they would be looking pleased or grateful that the lock was working and they were being helped through but sometimes people are unhappy to have something they thought unfixable, got sorted. Or perhaps they were concerned at having called the CRT and now there was no issue. As they left the lock she called to me asking if she should wait to see if the gate closed again or call CRT to say it was resolved – she believed CRT were already on their way. I said she might as well call to cancel and we agreed that I would call again if something else was amiss. The blue boat left second and the lady returned to her boat after closing the gate and they said goodbye. Meanwhile another lady had appeared. She started to wind the other end. I got myself confused and had begun winding the wrong end but we had a short exchange and I realised it wasn’t right and apologised, wound down and went to get the other end. I don’t know how I managed to get muddled – too many toings and froings and order changes and very heavy gates getting the better of me! There was a slight chance that it did a little good to run a bit of water through as the next stretch was low in water. It won’t have done any harm. The other lady was good humoured about it. Their boat, came in beside Bartimaeus and Shane was already  friendly with them from helping them tie up earlier. As she and I worked the lock, the CRT vans arrived. I crossed over as the lock filled to explain what had gone on. The chaps were cheery and not bothered about being called out. They said this was a problematic gate and they would stay and check it out. They had fixed the previous issue of it needing three people to open it, last year. But it still needed to open in a particular order, as the rails clashed. I went back over to the far gate to open it (first as required) and the other lady got their help to open, while they shouted to me “put your back into it!” They gave us both advice about the stretch ahead that had a falling wall and was shallow so slow and central travel was needed. I was pretty tired by then having worked the lock three times for 5 boats while the other side was worked by three different ladies from a boat each. Still we now had a companion boat for the next few locks.

They moved slower than us so I was still usually there first and getting it ready but it all worked smoothly and Shane was getting on well with the engineer driver too. The lady was also keen, as we are, to engage bystanders and children in helping with gates. Once she had twin girls on her side in matching dresses, and two boys in cycle helmets were encouraged by their dad to cross to my side and help me. On this occasion the gate arm on my side, when open, hung well across the water which was a bit scary when I had the children to consider. The boys obediently followed instruction and weren’t gung ho so nobody fell in.

We achieved getting water and filled up a dog’s water bottle too. Another boat approached and called to us . He wanted to stop but not for water. He had seen chairs in the hedge and wanted one. We let him breast up and then he sprinted off and returned with a folding chair. He was moving a boat and it was empty and had no chairs! We moored up shortly after. Over twenty geese passed us after dinner.

Canada geese in an orderly file

The next day our objective was a pumpout. We met the blue boat at the lock just before it. He wasn’t planning to go through but he and his friend helped work the lock. The friend communicated with the boatyard by phone, as he knew them and someone was currently on their jetty so we had to wait. He was wanting to help out as he knew he was moored a bit in the way. All worked out well and his help was very welcome.

The lady working at the boatyard had a new rule that had recently been required by Severn Trent Water. Did we put any treatments in our tank that included formaldehyde? We didn’t. That was good because they wouldn’t do the pump out if we did. (In the evening I updated Women On Barges with the information.) The lady operating the pumpout was cheerful, even though a piece of her equipment rolled off the jetty and was lost to the river Soar.

We continued along the river, enjoying the meander, with a little break to deposit rubbish. This wasn’t a place we could moor though and it was looking busy. On our last lock of the day we were checking out which side of lock was better for mooring and the blue boat appeared behind us. So we went through with them and got local advice from them as they were returning to their base marina two miles away and knew the place well. We moored up just after it and as the Bengal Tandoori was visible out the window, it was the obvious choice. We enjoyed our carry out.

We had enough left over for today’s lunch. We weren’t planning going anywhere with missions accomplished and unreliable weather. We did another load of washing. A grey wagtail was entertaining and alit briefly on our life ring, looking more orange than yellow breasted in its reflected glow. In a gap in the rain and hail showers we went to stock up. We have been to Barrow Upon Soar before. The post box topper was updated though and I could see the WI were proud of their roots and Calendar Girl fame and were celebrating with cake and three diverse naked ladies in clever handcrafts.