Thursday 6 July
Alvechurch to Stoke Prior
It’s been a devil of a day for Leigh! Ferocious heat whilst facing thirty something locks didn’t deter her though. Luckily her brother-in-law, Tom, appeared over the horizon of the fifth lock – a vision in a white shirt, and beige shorts meant she wasn’t sure if she had died and gone to canalboatersheaven at first. Yelp!
Due to having twotoms with us today, I shall refer to Leigh’s brother-in-law Tom as TomYoung from now on.
Whilst Leigh and TomYoung laboured the locks, our Tom steered and Rosie and I stressed. It’s hard work stressing for six hours you know. You may wonder why we stress? After all we’ve lived a travelling life for over four years now. We simply don’t like our pack being apart. At all. Ever. Every time one of our humans leaves us, or worse still, both, we find it hard to settle; six hours of padding around, trying to catch sight of Leigh when we are in a lock and she is ‘up top’ working the mechanisms, constantly watching Tom intensely – to make sure he doesn’t leave us too – is exhausting. Talk about ‘a dogs life’. You should try it!
We did take a break at lunchtime, when the humans took a little timeout to eat some tasty sandwiches and warm lemon cake. ‘Warm lemon cake?’, I hear you ask. Yes, warm lemon cake. Leigh went shopping before we set off, put the majority of the shopping away but left the lemon cake on the roof. After eating their sandwiches, Leigh said, ‘We have some lovely lemon drizzle cake, but I can’t remember where I put it…’. To which TomYoung replied,
‘It’s on the roof. I noticed it earlier’
Now, any other group of people, on hearing TomYoung’s comment, might think this unusual; those who know Leigh, or have read me before, will know this is quite normal in our boathold. For three hours the cake had been basking in the heat of this twenty-six degree day, on the hot-tin-roof of ‘Very Pinook’. Leigh was quite cross with herself because if TomYoung hadn’t spotted it she could have passed it off as, ‘One I made myself, fresh from the oven’. Yelp!
After lunch TomYoung and Leigh worked the other twelve locks to finish off the Tardebigge flight, then we all strolled over to the ‘Queens Head’ pub for a cooling drink. The garden area is gorgeous with a Teepee and plenty of umbrellas to keep the heat off ones head. Rosie and I took advantage of lying on the cool blades of grass, whilst the humans discussed the mobile Gin Bar set up in the garden. I have to bark, you see (and hear) some great ‘characters’ in Britain in the summer; for a very entertaining hour or so pop along to a country pub garden and simply watchandlisten!
As TomYoung set off for home, we dribbled on down the canal towards Stoke.
Leigh worked the last six locks and had three interesting incidents.
Firstly, as she approached one of the locks she noticed a duck making a ‘distressed’ sort of noise which, on closer inspection, she could see was a Mummy duck. Within a nanosecond she heard the squeaking of ducklings and saw that five little ones were trapped in the almost-empty lock – with no chance of escape. The only way out was for Leigh to fill the lock very gently, ‘shoo’ them down the one end, and lead them to the safety of their Mummy. Once reunited, the family swam off and Tom steered Very Pinook into the lock. Yelp!
There is a lesson here, all boaters need to be vigilant to ensure they do not close a lock leaving ducks, swans, geese or any living thing in a sealed lock. If we had moored up before reaching that lock those ducklings could have been trapped all night and who knows if they would have survived? Poor babies.
Next, Leigh was admiring a row of pretty cottages when one of the residents heads popped-up out of the garden. This made Leigh jump. Knowing that the lady would have overhead Leigh shouting to Tom, ‘I love these cottages’, she smiled and said to the lady, ‘How lucky you are to live in such an idyllic spot.’
‘I know, I only moved in last September – and I absolutely love it here, although I wasn’t actually looking to buy on the canal’ replied the lady.
The conversation continued, and continued, and continued…until Leigh realised we were hanging around for her to finish nattering. One of the joys of slow-travelling (the only way to travel on a NB) is meeting and chatting with people; Leigh tell me constantly that this is necessary to ‘polish her small-talk skills’.
I do worry about the overuse of her jaw though. Yelp!
The third ‘incident’ happened just as we were about to moor-up. A moor-hen (not a pun folks) was making a distressed-sound (Leigh is getting good at picking up on these).
As Leigh was grabbing the front-rope from the bow, ready to pull us in to tie-up, she noticed a teenytinybabymoorhen between the side of the boat and the cut. She shouted to Tom to keep going so that the little chick could scoot along to its Mummy; not easy because the flow of the water was against the direction of the just-about-swimming chick. However, the chick was reunited with Mummy and all potential disasters averted. Life is quite exciting on the canal you know…