Sunday, 25 July 2010

Into Paddington - With the Guides

(Posted by Cath)

Stockers to Little Venice

Knowing that we had to get into Paddington to pick up our son at about 7 pm, we set off fairly early. We were on our way by 8 o'clock.

At the first lock, Springwell, I was approached by a cyclist, "is this the way to London?". "Um, no, that's the way to Birmingham."

"Ah, good thing I asked. So does this way go to Harrow on the Hill?"

Frantically trying to scan my mental map, all I could think was that it is unlikely that the canal goes anywhere near a hill, as it's downhill all the way to London. "Well, this will take you through Uxbridge, and there's a branch towards Slough."

"Oh, I must have the wrong canal then."

"No, sorry," I replied, "this is the only canal anywhere near to here." My problem was that all I could think of was canal based locations, but not the names of nearby places. I doubted he'd understand "Bull's Bridge". "If you keep going you'll get to Brentford, or there's an arm that takes you up towards Paddington."

"How far is it to Paddington?"

Once again, I had a problem, he wouldn't begin to understand "a day's journey", so I hazarded 20 to 25 miles, and he set off towards Paddington.

I have been very struck when reading histories of the canals that the boat people undoubtedly had very vivid mental maps of the routes they used, but these probably bore no resemblance to any geographical maps. I find that I have two mental maps: the roads that I drive alongside a vague idea of where various cities are in the UK and a completely separate canal map. The two intersect at various points, but I have difficulty in finding my way between two nearby points on the two separate mental maps, even at places I know well.

Working narrow boat pair Archimedes and Ara were back home after delivering gravel to the Coventry Canal.

As were Arundel and Joe

I walked Charlie down through a couple of locks - they are fairly well spaced here so it was a reasonable first walk of the day. Then at Widewater a boat was waiting for us in the lock, we followed them down until we got to Uxbridge, where we pulled over at 11 am, as they opened, to go and buy some paint for our repaint when we get back from this trip. This took far longer than we expected, we needed to do some more calculations, and then we spent ages deciding on exactly how we want to do the roof. We are planning to change the colour to mid to light grey, as the dark green roof becomes so hot that it is impossible to touch on a hot day.

We set off again at nearly one o'clock, then at Cowley a series of small boats slowly entered the lock, a new one arriving in view just as we were on the point of closing the gates, it probably didn't take very long but we were beginning to panic about arriving in Paddington on time. After Cowley it's a long stretch of lock-less miles to Paddington, so we took one hour turns at steering. I spent some time trying to sort Charlie's ears. He has very long ears, (ridiculously long really), and very long hair both on the outside, and the inside. While we try to keep them brushed, he's managed to get goose-grass caught in the them, and the hair has become matted in places. I sat on the front deck with his head on my knee, armed with some tasty treats to keep him interested, and worked on the ears with a comb and brush.

Approaching Kensal Green we could hear the deep booming sound of a rave going on in the trees to one side of the canal. A number of young men were slumped or supine on the tow-path. Ahead of us were two boats, both across the the cut. As we approached them we could see banners draped across them proclaiming "Girl Guides, Birmingham and Northamptonshire". However, the women on the boats were the oldest girl guides we've ever seen - some of them being a decade or so older than us. The guiding boats were pulled in towards the tow-path, allowing us to pass. As we went by one of the 'girl guides' waved and called out, "We were just thinking of going to the rave".

Alan turned to me and said, "You know, today has suddenly got a lot weirder".

One Alan's favourite boats on the Paddington Arm near Kensal Green

It is good when you arrive at Little Venice late in the day, and can still find a mooring!

Having tied up at Little Venice, we took Charlie for another walk and then set off down the Paddington Arm to meet David at the station. The guiding boats had moored up down the Arm, with 'guides' sitting on the cruiser deck chatting.

David appeared, looking quite flushed, but not surprisingly. It turned out that instead of catching an underground train from King's Cross, he'd walked down the Euston Road, and Marylebone Road, before following signs towards Paddington - while carrying some 30 kilos of kit.

Back at the boat David showered and changed and we headed out towards Zizzi in Paddington Basin, where we had an excellent meal - although we ordered before we saw the size of the portions. The garlic breads were huge and we had to ask for a box for some of the pizza we couldn't manage.

Charlie is temporarily fooled by the walker we found him down the Paddington Arm.

We went to buy milk at Sainsbury's in Paddington station - I'm not sure what time this closes (if it ever does), but it was still open at 10pm on a Sunday night. Then on the way back to the boat we got brave and went to ask the guides what they were doing.

It turns out that it is the centenary of the guiding movement. There is a tall ship going around the coast, visiting lots of guiding regions, but the ship can't visit the interior of the country. So, a relay team of 'guides' has brought a couple of boats down from the Midlands, to celebrate the centenary. They seemed very cheerful and were having a great time. Tomorrow this team will hand over to another team in Limehouse Basin, who will take the boat back to Leighton Buzzard, for the next team to take over. Oh, and for the record, they hadn't been planning to go to the rave - one of the boats had got something through the prop.

Stockers to Little Venice
Miles: 24.8, Locks: 7

Total Miles: 47.8, Total Locks: 54

1 comment:

louise.mathieson said...

I love the photo of Charlie - am tempted to recreate this with my dog :)