Wednesday, 15 December 2010

A Mooring

Thursday 7th October


On the way back from the church hall toddler group I stopped at the lock cottage to collect the laundry. The Lady of the Lock has also, kindly picked up a load of cheap nappies for me when out shopping at the cash and carry.
“When are you off back to London then?” her husband asked me, smiling to see that the baby has fallen asleep in the back seat of the double buggy. “Ah, bless.”
“Well,” I sighed. “I’m having real trouble getting a winter mooring back in Islington actually.” I briefly explained my story. We discussed the idea of staying around Roydon and commuting into London with the children.
“You should just stay around here.” It is not the first time he has encouraged us to stay.
“Well we can’t stay all winter can we? The lads on the boats,” (I nodded towards the boats above the lock), “they told me the cut overflows into the water meadows and that it comes up all over the towpath. They said they move off to Stanstead Abbotts.”
“What?” he laughs. “They’re not going anywhere. I’ve lived here for five years and I’ve only seen it get that bad a handful of times, and even then it’s only for a couple of days.”
“But I thought we wouldn’t get back out under the bridge.” I glance down below the lock, towards the station. “I heard boats get stuck there.”
“Oh yes, I have seen them stuck there,” he said. “But only for a few days. No, stay. Stay as long as you like!”
“Well our little man isn’t back until December is he?” The Lady of the Lock asked her husband. “You could stay on our mooring until December if you like.” She urges me to come and have a look at the overgrown mooring at the end of their garden.
“We’d clear all that,” she gestures towards the long grass and nettles behind the picket fence.
The boater that lives on their mooring is off travelling on his boat. They describe to me their ultimate plans of running electricity to the site, making it a proper mooring and selling that bit of land one day.
“That would help pay off our mortgage and then we could just run our shop!” she smiles, her blue eyes twinkling. I look at their house. They’ve recently started selling Calor gas and put signs up on the side of the house to advertise this.
“Tell your husband, that we’ve got diesel now,” said her husband. “I forgot to tell him when I saw him on his bike this morning.”
“Wow. Since when have you been selling diesel?” I asked, noticing the orange fluorescent hand written sign, advertising the price of diesel in their window.
“Since this morning,” grinned the husband of The Lady of the Lock. “I’ve got it in barrels.”
I look longingly at their mooring and think about having a garden for the girls, a postal address and being a regular at the local toddler group, with my lovely neighbours supplying everything from water and gas, to diesel and ice lollies.

Back home after lunch I can’t get enough hot water to do the dishes, even though I turned the water heater on an hour ago. I check the pilot light in the cupboard: the gas is gone. The baby is asleep in the bedroom so I leave Big Sister painting at the table with instructions to call me if there is an emergency.
“An emergency,” I explain, “is if you have hurt yourself or something; if you really need me.” (Not, my Lego is annoying me, or I can’t get my sock off.)
“I don’t think there will be an emergency,” she reassures me.
At the front of the boat in the gas locker huge spiders scuttle about as I clutch my gas spanner and peer into the rusty well-deck to see that all four plastic stoppers have been pulled out of the gas bottles. This means that all of the gas bottles are empty.
I head back inside and explain to my daughter that we’re going to have to take the boat down to the lock to get gas. The baby wakes up and cries. I put her coat on and make her comfortable in the pushchair on the back deck. I stick her sister on the sofa in front of a DVD and climb onto the roof to lay the TV arial down. Then, I heaved the gangplank onto the tow path, and lever it up to rest one end on the roof. I then somehow heave the heavy gang plank onto the roof. Finally I loosen all three mooring pins out of the earth by bashing them with a mallet. Then I untie the ropes and reverse the boat into the middle of the cut. I didn’t go forwards first because I didn’t know how shallow it is and we could run aground. The sun sparkles on the water and the short cruise is beautiful as it passes through meadows and trees. But as we near the lock the baby is arching her back and crying in the pushchair and her sister has had a tantrum because I refused to let her do painting unsupervised while I drive the boat. I moor up on the lock bollards and discover that she did do unsupervised painting anyway and has pretty much ruined the table with a selection of multicoloured paints.

At the lock house the lovely husband of the Lady of the Lock offers to bring the gas bottle round to the boat on a trolley. He then connects up the gas bottle for me and himself and one of the friendly blokes who moors by the lock spend at least half an hour holding ropes and helping me to turn the boat so that I can moor up on their end of garden mooring. This is because I didn’t fancy reversing several boat lengths backwards to moor at the nearest space because narrowboats don’t steer well when going backwards. As we actually need four bottles of gas and are collecting sand for ballast off him it makes sense to moor up for a day or two here. Although it is right next to the railway and doesn’t have a view of the meadow, I am excited to have a sort of private mooring and a garden gate. What a novelty!
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