Saturday, 13 November 2010

On Another Level

Late August


When the water level dropped dramatically the other day I, rather unfairly, blamed the inexperienced hire boaters. It turns out that it is I, having lived comfortably for ten years on the Grand Union Canal, who is inexperienced at river living. It was midnight and we were already asleep when The Doctor noticed that the boat had an extreme list. The fridge was chugging like a Goa trance tune, frantically humming, trying to maintain its operations because of the list. We were practically rolling out of bed, on a steep slope. He went outside to loosen the ropes and after briefly tucking in Big Sister, who called out to me, half-asleep, I joined him on the towpath. The water level had dropped beyond belief. We were well and truly grounded on the bottom of the river, and by the light of the moon, the muddy river banks were clearly visible well below the waterline. What on earth could have happened? We were actually a little alarmed.
“If it keeps dropping, we might tip over,” observed the Doctor.
“What can we do?” I asked nervously.
“Not much,” said The Doctor. “I’ve loosened all the ropes, we’ll just have to hope it doesn’t drop much more.”

Luckily, it didn’t. The next morning I asked one of the bachelor boys who moors by the lock,
“Do you know what was going on with the water level last night? What happened?”
“Yes, I do.” He confirmed, authoritatively. “They opened the sluices.”
“Oh, it was the waterways people? We were really worried, I thought we were going to tip over! I’m not used to this river living!”
“Yeah. Well, I was watching TV, I’ve got a satellite on the roof, and I was in the middle of a film! The boat tipped and I lost my signal. So I phoned up British Waterways, I said the level’s really dropping out here mate! He said, I know! I’m watching it on my computer!”
“So they’re expecting rain then?”
“That’s right, they do it if they think there’s going to be a lot of rain. But to be honest, I’d rather my boat was a bit low, than have it up over the side y’know?” He gestures towards the towpath, and I realise that to float above the river bank and then be grounded ashore would be a nightmare indeed. We’d tip over for sure and never get back in the cut!
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