Thursday, 3 February 2011

The Coal Boat

15th January

I left the children watching kids TV and walked a few boat lengths up the towpath to the coal boat. The banner hung over the hold reads, ‘Coal, Diesel, Calor Gas, Logs, Kindling’.

They are triple moored; I crossed the back deck of a widebeam, then the counter deck of their motor boat, to knock on the cabin of their butty.
“Yep?” It’s Coal Lad.
“Are you up? I can come back later.”
“Yes I’m up.” He peeps a sleepy head out of the back doors, and grins. He’s dressed in his work clothes and a grey wooly hat.
“I just wanted to let you know I need a pump-out when you go. You said you were off at eight.”
“Yeah, I’m still waiting for him. He’s stuck on the A40, so I went back to sleep.”
“Well, no hurry anyway,” I smiled.
“And maybe one gas,”
“We haven’t got much gas.”
“That’s what Candlebridge said” (the other coal boat) “something to do with the ice.”
“Yeah. All the gas comes out of Essex. All that snow and bad weather before Christmas has set them right back. They run a tight schedule you see. No one’s got any gas. All these people up the Lee are ringing me and saying they’ve got no gas at all. They can’t cook and they’ve got no hot water. So if you’re not desperate we’re only selling it to the people who really need it.”
“Wow,” I said, “no I’m not desperate. We’ll be alright,” and I returned to my boat.
Then, as I was standing at the sink washing the dishes I watched a tree on the opposite bank get blown down by the wind. It fell in slow motion right across the cut, and almost reached the little GRP cruiser that is double moored next to us. Now the coal boat won’t get through! I lifted up my eldest daughter to see. But in minutes, a couple of rufty tufty boaters were over there and lifting it out of the cut. More manly boater blokes arrived with saws and a trolley and began to saw up said tree for firewood! Free fuel all round.
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