Thursday 20 September 2018


Yesterday, as many will know and some will have experienced, was windy. Very windy. Not ideal conditions for taking a narrowboat out and about. But today was expected to be wet. Very wet. And we had to be at Fazeley by Friday. We had a choice – wet, windy or both.

Of course, if I hadn't broken a filling, or we hadn't decided to go south to get it fixed, and arrange for a haircut for my best beloved, etc, etc, we could have set out earlier and simply found some quiet spot to hole up for a day or two. As it was, we had a limited time-frame. So when yesterday's rain had relented and the worst of the wind was supposed to be past, we left our berth – around 4 p.m. I managed the tricky business of getting out of the marina fairly well – the wind is always in the most complicated direction! Then we set out down the Trent and Mersey, to get at least a couple of hours in before nightfall. Once we were travelling, the wind was manageable. But around Little Haywood, disaster struck.

We always collapse the pram hood canopy when on the move – it folds forwards very neatly. To do so I remove the side panels, fold them and put them on Erin Mae's roof weighted down with three spars that I "just happen to have". The wind was flicking at the edges of the panels but, as we were passing a few moored boats, a strong gust blew them off the roof and into the canal. I put the engine in reverse immediately, hoping to be able to fish them out of the water, but they were sinking rapidly. As any boater knows, having your engine hard in reverse when there's clutter in the canal is a recipe for getting all sorts of things tangled round your prop, so as we came level with the sinking panels, I had to go into neutral, and then reverse back gently to where we thought they were. But twenty minutes of fishing with a boathook produced no results, and in the end we concluded they had gone – probably to catch round some other boater's prop at a later stage.

Having the pram hood cover fitted had been a great decision. It had provided both protection over the stern from the sort of weather we've had today, and a extra degree of security. I was concerned that we would not be able to replace the panels with the same material, but when I rang Keith Wilson today he implied that it might be possible. It all means that after our weekend at Fazeley we will need to return to Great Haywood straightaway and arrange with him times and places for measuring and fitting this new set of clothes.

I was extraordinarily upset yesterday about it all. It felt as though something very special had been irrevocably spoiled. But then I thought of so many going through real trauma. For goodness' sake, I chastised myself, how does this misfortune compare with a dozen situations you can read about today on the BBC website? Death, disease, bereavement, torture, the effects of the wind in the Philippines and America – how can losing a pram hood cover compare with such things. Of course, it was my calamity, which is bound to make a difference. But it's good to get things in perspective.


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