Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Motor Car


DSCN1467  Shakespeare's Birthplace, Henley Street

Shakespeare’s Birthplace without any tourists showing!


When I first moved aboard ‘Futurest’ in 2009 having sold my house and ninety per cent of my other ‘precious’ possessions so that I would be able to fit into this fifty seven foot long ‘cigar case’, the one thing I felt I could never do without was my car.

Two years before I had bought myself a brand new Smart ‘Fortwo’ two seater and with its sparkly and sporty burgundy and silver colour and light blue interior it was really something special. It was a wonderful little machine that was so cheap to run as well. It cost only thirty five pounds a year to tax and did eighty five miles per gallon I remember and yet it could pull away from the traffic lights quicker than most.

Thrilled to pieces I was. I thought with its quirky and hippy look as well It couldn't fail to be a real head turner and I had no doubt that it would ‘pull’ the girls as well. It was my real phallic symbol and I needed it …... to do all sorts of useful things. Well life wouldn’t be complete without a car would it?



My Smart ‘Fortwo’


So for the first year on ‘Futurest’ I trailed it behind me. Not literally of course but at the end of each day’s cruise, like so many other boaters do, I was prepared to go back by public transport to collect it (this was in the days before I owned a folding bike). However I soon found that this was tedious but it was worth it since I needed the car so much. I needed it to get down to ……the local shop at the end of the day and to empty my rubbish as well. And I needed it also toooo………… well you know what I mean. I needed it!

But at the end of the first year’s cruise I noticed that other heads seemed to have far more interesting things to do than ‘turn’ in my direction when I went past and certainly I had pulled no girls in the meantime so at last I asked myself the very important question. Was having the car at my disposal really worth all the effort?

The answer was certainly a  big NO.

So in the end my son relieved me of it. His need was really much more than mine having a two hour commute to work and back each day and I was sure with his young and handsome looks he would stand a much better chance anyway of ‘pulling’ the girls than I ever did.

And in fact I didn’t miss the car at all. I bought myself a bike but mostly I walked everywhere. At the end of the day I used to make sure I tied up within walking distance of any facilities I might need. If I was too far away then I was happy to use the bike.

It was all very good for my general fitness too. I became a different man, much better off psychologically as well as physically. I came to discover that walking is the only safe method of travelling while taking in one’s surroundings as well. In all other forms one has to concentrate so much on where one is going exclusively that everything else is missed.

As a result I soon became aware that there was more to life than the trappings of humanity that previously I had taken for granted for so long. Nature had so many beautiful magic stories to tell me now that I had never known before. I became more knowledgeable about the lives of all life around me be it fauna or flora; in the air, on the ground or in the water and I came to realise that my life was no more important to the World than the most humble animal and far less important than the life in a leaf of grass for example or a wooded coppice, on which it depended completely. Soon I came to realise that all life in Nature is a struggle, which all the participants take on without complaint. They just have to carry on; that’s what it’s all about. Only Humanity feels hard done by and feels the need to whinge about its sad life while blaming somebody else for it, thereby alleviating its need to do anything personally to make things better.

However I deviate somewhat from my story about the car.

After six years now getting along very cheerfully without a car one would think that I am well cured of the ‘automobilic’ affliction of my previous life. But I have to admit that this is not  quite the case.

My GP, who I like to see every year during the winter whilst I am at Warwick for my MOT, has his practice in an outlying village about ten miles away and difficult to reach without a car. Previously my brother has been kind enough to ferry me there and bring me back afterwards. However this time he has been unable to do so personally but was most happy to lend me his car. That was on Monday last and as we are meeting on Saturday for ‘Loves Labours Lost’ at the RSC at Stratford he generously said: “Why not keep it till then.”

Consequently not only did I keep my doctor’s ten minute appointment on Tuesday but I then went into Banbury to do some shopping and while I had the car I thought it would be a good nostalgic opportunity to see again the house in which I was born …… and my old school buildings of course (I had such a happy time there)…… and the house where I last lived (and I might as well do the one before that as well while I’m at it!) ……. and it would be a good thing to go to go to the cemetery to see my wife’s grave again while I have the means to do so. Then on the way back to Warwick at last, why don’t I drive up to Burton Dassett Hill, where as a family we all loved to go on a day out years ago? There’s a beautiful ancient church there too with well preserved remains of Medieval wall paintings.

Then yesterday I needed to go shopping to Morrison’s. Normally I would have been quite happy to walk the two miles there and back carrying the load, but yesterday, easily I persuaded myself that I needed to travel in the car. I managed to accomplish in fifteen minutes what otherwise would have been a morning or afternoon out. I convinced myself that by going in the car I would have lots of time left to do all the other things in my day. But what did I do after returning? I had lots of time to read a very exciting novel I’m into currently. Hooray!

In consequence I have to say that it appears I’ve missed the car, just like I would a drug, for all these years ….. and maybe l have lapsed this week. But I shall be very happy to return the machine on Saturday, thanking my brother nonetheless for his kind generosity and gratefully I shall return to my normal way of life.



Ancient, lichen covered Burton Dassett Church with its South Transept

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The End of the Voyage

Having been tied to the towpath opposite Kate Boats Yard for sometime Janis and I were quite ready when the time arrived to move our two little ships the short distance across the canal to take up winter moorings.

In the late low sunshine on the afternoon of 1st November we let go and they moved smoothly but eagerly on this last short leg of their 2014 voyage. Pretentiously I am calling it Voyage 6 for ‘Futurest’, since it’s the sixth year that  she and I have enjoyed life together.

Statistically during the year we have covered a total of 546.3 miles, passing through 352 locks, 14 tunnels, 11 lift bridges and 52 swing bridges. All this happened during a total cruising time of 314.5 hours which gives us an average speed of 1.74 miles per hour taking us through, again on average, one lock every 1.55 miles.

Though the voyage was most memorable and happy, especially as neither Janis or I had travelled across the Leeds and Liverpool Canal before, and generally the weather had been very kind to us, there is nothing quite like the expectation of winter moorings.

The thought that one can catch up with meeting family and friends again is very powerful, but the biggest joy, having been relying on the vagaries of 12 volt battery power for seven months, is the initial pleasure I receive from the benefits of connecting up to 240 volt power from ashore again. The feeling is absolute bliss.

The pleasure of hot water on tap without having to run the engine is heavenly or being able to use the washing machine without turning on the generator does make life so much easier. The pleasure of taking only a minute and a half to boil a kettle of water instead of the usual ten minutes on the gas hob or the decadent ease of making toast in an electric toaster instead of tediously under the gas grill is so rewarding. Whilst being able to switch on more than one light at a time if I so desire on these long dark nights, in total makes me feel almost guilty at my apparent lack of responsibility.

Things that were taken so much for granted when living ashore become so precious during one’s life on the water.

Kate Boats yard doesn’t change very much. They were busy sending hire boats out on Saturday, the day we arrived, while others were returning. It was good to see Nick, Cheryl and Rebecca again and as always they made us feel very welcome.

My winter friend the Robin was there as well welcoming us in with his loud distinctive song.



Shaggy Ink Cap Mushroom ?