Friday, 30 July 2010

Kensal Green to Cowley

On day two of our journey we approached Harlesden, and I came out on deck to look at the pub where my boat life began; The Grand Junction Arms. Harlesden was once briefly considered the murder capital of London. There are lots of nail bars, Caribbean takeaways and betting shops. There are no book shops. The pub used to be a canal side tea shop and once provided stables for the working boaters to rest their horses. Now it overlooks a pleasant beer garden and when I first moored there that day with Trotter and his mate, there were four other boats permanently moored there. London moorings are like gold dust. I needed to find a mooring before buying a boat and so I’d been looking for possible sites, and asking in pubs with moorings. To be honest I only was able to get the mooring because a boater died...


Beyond my old mooring is the North Circular Aquaduct where the noisy rush of the dual carriageway below contrasts with us boats drifting quietly above. At Greenford I have memories of mooring with a couple I once knew, who lived on a pair of old working boats, and kept all their water in metal jugs (called Buckby cans) on the roof. On a sunny afternoon in Greenford he was painting roses and castles on his Buckby cans and she was teaching me how to spin wool, while we sat in the field below Horsenden Hill. We had a few boaters parties at Horsenden Hill too; sound systems, DJ’s and live bands sometimes. The Black Horse in Greenford I remember as a cosy pub where my friend was once moored as the mooring warden for a few years. Then we pass Northolt moorings, where Weedhatch got his name and Ellie killed the rabbits, and Willowtree marina – from which my Rough Diamond boating neighbour was evicted for pulling out a gun. But these are other boaters stories...

At Bulls Bridge there is a very sharp corner, and on my first time steering my own boat I was told ‘don’t worry, everyone crashes into it on their first time’.

From Bulls Bridge to West Drayton must be the most dismal stretch of canal I have ever seen. From the huge metal chimneys of the Nestle coffee factory to the graffiti on the walls by the towpath, it’s a grim industrial landscape. Occasionally you may notice the odd coconut floating down, allegedly from a Hindu ceremony in Southall. At least that’s what I heard on the towpath telegraph. Without fail it’s almost always raining whenever we travel this way too. I had volunteered to be the driver for a couple of hours and The Doctor was indoors with the children. But as we’ve been moored up for winter it’s been more than six months since I drove the boat and I felt exhilarated as I was reminded of the freedom we have by being able to move with our home.
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