Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Lock Rules for Under Fives

We’re cruising up the river, fringed with waist-high reeds and bull rushes. The Doctor tells our eldest that they look like her ‘stick burgers’, which is what she calls kofta kebabs. Floating lily pads pave the water’s edge, and pink and purple flowers are among the bushes and trees. A warm breeze rustles the leaves across the clouded skies, the river is bending and winding, the boat is gliding. I make a mental note to myself: sellotape a list of ‘lock rules’ to the kitchen cupboard door and brainwash Big Sister to repeat them back to me until she understands them.

The Lock Rules for Under Fives

1) No running
2) Stay close to a grown up
3) Hold hands when told to
4) Keep away from the edge
5) I said, KEEP AWAY FROM THE EDGE!
Carthagena lock is the first lock, bedecked with welcoming hanging baskets, dangling from a black and white iron footbridge. One solitary coot earnestly goes about his business under a shady riverside bush. Big Sister, unimpressed by the river’s stunning beauty is back indoors by the second lock; watching The Wiggles DVD. I’m not sure what’s happened to my music taste but I am starting to like The Wiggles. I sing along as I do the dishes and consider going to see them live in concert.

The boat is rising up the lock, slimy lock walls recede down past the kitchen window as my eyes become level with the paved lock-side. In front of the black and white railings the BW sign reads, ‘Dobbs Weir Lock, Lee and Stort Navigations’. White painted bollards sport grooved injuries from years of ropes running around them. We leave the lock and attempt to moor up. Purple flowered towpath weeds respectfully acknowledge our arrival with polite nodding. But our boat’s draught is too deep. We can’t moor here, we can’t get close enough to the bank, so they sagely nod at our departure. There is a low grating, gravelly sound as our hull scrapes the bottom. So we turn the corner to arrive at The Fish and Eels Hotel, where patrons are welcome to moor. It is an olde worlde style traditional English pub overlooking the wide weir and water-lilies. There are no other buildings to be seen, just reeds and grasses and trees and an expanse of cloud-reflecting river stretching promisingly north east and away. As soon as the mooring ropes are tied to the rings provided, The Doctor politely hastens to make himself a patron of the pub, and therefore justify our use of the mooring. I picture the captain alone in a brown leather armchair, at a table with his pint and a science book about The Multiverse. It is a chance to recalibrate the man within and replenish the solitary peace of the soul.

Dobb’s Weir is an old manual gated weir that used to control water levels n the navigation, especially during heavy rain. “Auto weirs” now manage the water flow in the Flood Relief Channel. Instead of the familiar roar of the traffic on City Road, (at our winter mooring,) there is the white noise of the weir descending to the water level below.

That night we had dinner in the beer garden. It is the only pub we can go to where a babysitter is not required. We can see our boat from our table and can keep an eye on our kids while eating ‘out’. Fantastic!
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