Sunday, 30 January 2011

Winter Wonderland

18th December

Coming home I access the towpath from Danbury Street bridge. The concrete ramp is solid with frozen snow. I gingerly edge downwards step by step, one hand on the pushchair, one hand on the railing. Under the Victorian brick arched bridge the sound of water drips through the darkness into the cut. The edge of the arch is protected by black metal, with deep grooves worn into it: the result of years of ropes rubbing the corner, when horse drawn boats were the main traffic here. Like all boaters my key-ring has a spherical cork on it to save it lest it should fall into the Cut. The BW key opens the heavy iron gate, which is all vertical black railings. This magic key fits all waterways locks and opens gates, swing bridges, electric locks and boaters facilities across the whole country. My footsteps crunch on the towpath, which is crisp with pure white snow. Ice is slowly forming like translucent custard skin creeping by moonlight across the surface of the canal water. The steep cutting on the opposite bank is peopled with bare winter trees, their toes tucked snugly under the snowy blanket, their silhouettes back-lit by old fashioned style amber streetlamps. On our mooring boats are double moored from the bridge to the Islington tunnel. In the nineteenth century winters were so much colder that the local Victorians would come ice-skating on the glistening Cut down here and even go skating in the tunnel: A half-mile black bore-hole lurking and dripping secretly below the bustling boutiques of Upper Street. I can hear the distant chugging of engines as a couple of my boating neighbours recharge their domestic batteries. Single Boat Mum’s boat glows with winter merriment as solar-powered blue fairy-lights twinkle on her roof. Johnny Boater, tousled and curly, stops to chat as I lift the two sleepy angels out of their pushchair. Then he winks and grins and heads off down the towpath and disappears into the darkness. A thick icing of snow on the boats’ roofs’ make us all inhabitants of a charity Christmas card’s perfect winter scene. I shut the blue painted back doors against the snowy boughs leaning over the mooring. Soon chestnuts are exploding in the gas oven, there’s neat Jack Daniels in a glass and Frank Sinatra on the stereo, dreaming of a white Christmas, in Angel.
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