Sunday, June 09, 2013

Other people’s time zones

When Dave and I go away on a narrowboat with the usual suspects, we set sail around 9 a.m. after breakfast and as many showers as the hot water supply will allow.This means that Dave, who gets up at 5 a.m.(OMG) has been pacing the towpath for several hours, muttering the mantra “We need to get going. This is no way to beat the queues.”

The view from my bed on the boat:


And here’s a view outside, first thing in the morning:


When Dave and I go away on our own, we set off early. This last trip I indulged him and agreed to wake up at 6 and we’d set off half an hour later, after my two mugs of Yorkshire tea. This, dear readers, is a huge concession. I am useless first thing in the morning and I feel appalling.

On some canals I can stay in bed while we travel. Not so last week. The trouble with the lower reaches of the Leeds Liverpool canal is the plethora of swing bridges. Whereas an experienced lone boater can manage most locks solo if they have to (although it’s a faff), and swing bridges are not impossible, the latter really need two people: one to open the bridge, and the other to steer the boat through the gap. This is because the bridge always swings away from the towpath and you need to be on the other side to open and close it.


The photo above shows my favourite kind of swing bridge - a defunct one that is permanently open.

One afternoon we moored up early above a set of six locks and sat in the sunshine reading. We decided we’d go down the locks the following morning. Bad mistake. A long stream of boats came down the locks and with every one that passed us, Dave’s twitchiness increased: “Have we misjudged the journey? Should we be going down them now? What do they know that we don’t? Shall we change our plan and go tonight?” For someone who doesn’t give a damn about the norm, or the motley crowd, or the grunts of the inferior, he was surprisingly fretful. I insisted we should go down in the morning when it was quiet, at half past six.

The following morning at 5.20, an intermittent banging on the side of the boat woke me up. Ah, I thought. Dave must be filling the top lock, so when it’s time to go, the lock is ready. I turn over and snooze. At 5.30 I open my eyes and see through the gap in the curtains that the trees are moving past the window, though the boat is silent. What? I stumble into the kitchen and look out to see that the boat is already in the lock. Dave has towed it down the canal for 100 yards.

He clambers on board and says “Are you surprised? Can I turn the engine on now? Do you want to be on the boat while I do the paddles and the gates?”


By 5.55 a.m. I am on the lock side, the bottom paddles are open, and Dave is on the boat in the emptying lock. I am barely awake, but the air is chill. That helps. Everything is quiet apart from the sheep, the birds, the throbbing engine and the clunk of the catches on the gate paddles (now silent.) Oh, and the gushing water.

By 8 a.m. we have gone down six locks, emptied the rubbish, had a chat with another boater, and taken photographs -

me, waiting for a lock to empty -


- Dave – behind the lock gates -


Here’s the view from the breakfast table as I munch my muesli:



ndenim said...


You have got to have absolutely fabulous knees to sit like that. Awesome! Lovely pictures.

Best wishes, Peggy

Sue Hepworth said...

Why thank you, Peggy. That is the most unusual compliment I have ever had. And if I may say, a compliment you would not be making if you could actually see said knees. However, said knees do their job. And one of them is not an original. I got it in 2007 and it's brilliant. OK, it's fabulous.