Friday 19 November 2010

Home School of Rock

Monday 6th September
We slowly tore ourselves away from Hunsdon Mead, like a plaster being reluctantly peeled from a child’s knee, and began the leisurely cruise to Harlow. Having no interest in narrowboat cruising Big Sister asked to watch The Yellow Submarine again; although she is a bit scared of the Blue Meanies and puts her fingers in her ears whenever they appear. Baby Sister is in her pushchair on the back deck drenched in sunshine and The Doctor is steering the boat. I’m doing the dishes as Hunsdon Lock wall recedes down past the kitchen window. We rise up past green lock-slime clinging to concrete, as the shiny happy Beatles sing “we all live in a yellow submarine” to us.

This cruise is now a familiar journey to me as I have been walking to Harlow this way on my writing days. Eastwick Mead on the port side is as vast as Hunsdon Mead and the A414 noisily rushes past us on our starboard side. I make fried eggy bread for the baby’s lunch while we moor up on Parndon Mill lock bollards; The Doctor and Big Sister head off with a windlass to set the lock. As she sings ‘Hey Bulldog’ under her breath to herself I proudly note that The Doctor’s homeschooling is going well: home-School of Rock that is. Big Sister has abandoned the Beatles film, but I am listening to ‘All You Need is Love’ on the stereo as the baby eats her eggy bread in the baby seat on the kitchen floor. Day trippers on a wide beam help us through Parndon Lock, because they are waiting to come down through it. This is standard boating etiquette, to help others in a lock that you are waiting for, so long as you have enough crew to spare. After the lock I am still doing the dishes but the captain calls me on deck to check if the TV arial is going to make it under the next bridge. All bridges on The Stort are low. The pushchair and header tank can make it – so long as there’s not been too much rainfall lately. The arial needs to be turned further onto its side as we approach. I’m standing barefoot on the gunwale, hanging on to the roof rail.

At Burnt Mill lock, Burnt Mill lane and Burnt Mill Industrial estate I imagine the mill workers back in the days before the fire; completely oblivious to the fact that some day, this whole area would be named after one devastating fire on a day they had not yet seen. There is no mill here now.

As a pedestrian I was very unkind to Harlow, but as a boater it is great. Moorhen Marina provides toilet pump-out, a water point, rubbish disposal, recycling, shower, toilets and laundry facilities. However, the washing machine can only be operated by a digital card, available to purchase from Stanstead Abbotts marina. This is five or six hours boating away, or an indirect train journey, changing at Broxbourne. However, The Moorhen waterside pub is extremely child friendly and does two meals for eight pounds. We moor up and take the whole family out for dinner.

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