I returned to Spey a few days ago in the North. I had some gigs that had been in my diary for longer than I planned to be in London. In between this, a mountain of overseers, and a day out at Malham Cove with my girlfriend, the place got so busy that I came to the foot of this massive limestone escarpment, frostbitten and gorgeous, in the depths of the Yorkshire valleys, before I’d really had time to tackle it. I stared at it and thought, “I live in London.” It all felt surreal.
I got off the tube at my now-familiar stop in Bethnal Green. You know you’re about to go back because it’s the station where the railroad and tunnel noise is too loud to make the announcement telling you the next stop. I began to understand the nature of the different lines. Perhaps discovering the Underground, an entire day from morning rush hour to party-goers heading home at night, is on the agenda for the future.
As I wandered down Main Street, where the wind is blowing and the season is now changing to winter, I pass by large plastic bags of foliage, tidy and tied and ready to go who knows where. It seemed a symptom of the city that the city wanted to brighten the roads, and provided coolness in the summer, but resented the scattering of spent leaves in the fall, packing them up for disposal. “Please clean up after your tree. A £50 fine.” The Hawaiian-style bar, “Love Shack” had a sign on the door that said; “Pull me hard.”
The Spy cabin felt damp and unpopular. I knew it would be a slow process to make the place feel comfortable again, so I relaxed in it, one job at a time. I lit the fire and armed my new purchase, the convection fan, and started getting moisture out of the cabin. An American-accented runner descended down the towpath screaming “Come on, bitch! You’ve got this!” to herself as a motivator.
I brought my little space back to life, aired everything, heated it up, cleaned it, polished it, and vacuumed it all. The smallness of a space demands more cleaning than a larger one, probably because of its sheer complexity, the very diverse requirements of the cabin, and all of the home life that takes place in an area I can reach and touch every corner of it. center. The orders overlap and constant care is needed to prevent the place from slipping into chaos. If a new item arrives on the boat, it must find a home for it, or jiggle around the cab that gets in the way. Often this means the displacement of something else, which must be completely removed from the cabin. Every space is allocated.
I had an online tutoring school as part of a project I’m doing for Historic England, and my laptop battery needed a boost, so I started a Bolinder, oiling all the moving parts of the rulers, lubricating and engaging the alternator to charge my computer . I wonder what the inventors of Bolinder, the world’s first mass-market marine oil engine, could have made more than a century ago, by using their innovations as a constant engine to support the digital education economy.
All is well, the fire dries up and everything warms, I went for a walk on the towpath and ran into another runner who slowly appeared and overtook me. He had high motivational music, specifically the 1992 hit “Rage Against The Machine” “Killing in the Name”, and the lyrics “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!” He exploded into an uproar to announce his presence as he ran and screamed along his length. After a while, I realized he had this song in the loop, and I wondered if he’s been running for hours like this, screaming the same line at everyone he passes.
I will have to go ahead for the weekend and decided on Sunday that Saturday was due to bad weather. The wind was already racing over the channel, driving the shoals of waves eastward, and they ran under the boat swim, the back bends on itself, with a rhythmic shlup shlup that kept me awake. I spent the Saturday at the art galleries and came back to the boat in the evening. The anchors were in a state of animation, with bits of wood flying around, bike covers flapping, boats banging around. I cooked a basic meal and slept a terrible night of sleep, worrying about things flying away, hearing the water cutting under swimming and the boat line creaking whenever I was about to drift. The proximity to the outside world which is often a positive feature of aft cabin life can be an issue when you prefer to have a place to hide. You are still a part of the elements and subject to their whims.
The morning was calm, and the sun was shining across a perfect blue sky. I had plenty of time before my crew arrived, so I stripped the solar panels, cleaned the cabin again, polished all the copper work, recharged the coal shuttle, removed the trash, and started the engine to start charging the somewhat empty boat batteries again.
My crew has arrived, young Sam, 14, has a keen eye for boating work and his mother, Nicola, whom I know through music. It was so cold that we left the ropes and headed toward Acton Lock on Broadway Market. Some mooring ropes have frozen solid and need to be dropped into the channel to keep them flexible.
“But you don’t wear gloves?” Nicholas asked.
“You have to get through a little pain barrier, and then you find that you don’t need it.” I explained. “It’s like Christmas cards, the first year you don’t send them, everyone thinks you’re rude, and then everyone is like ‘It’s just Tom, he doesn’t send Christmas cards. “
At the next lock we are cam fodder again, an Italian gentleman who, having asked permission first, finds great delight in the boat and crew. I declared myself particularly ethnic, with a winch, flat hat, beard, and Barbour’s jacket. Everything got a little dead. Wasn’t I supposed to do the project? I wondered how close London’s waterways are to the singularity, with everyone on the water doing a project than anyone else. The photographer trusted me his method, and I documented it in my notebook. fair exchange.
Sam made his way into mentor mode, and quickly sat on the perimeter door opening as if he’d been doing it his whole life, only the cleanliness of his flat hat let his inexperience go. He sure looked like he knew what he was doing, so I left it to him and went to the engine room to take a ride with the oil.
At City Road Lock, the crowds are more dense, and the side of the locks has become a shrine to a man who drowned two weeks ago. We wandered around the flowers and other displays and worked carefully through.
At St Pancras Lock, the boats were moored at a depth of three, and even the lock was occupied. This is always a bit annoying, as they have to be kept clear for the safe action of the locks, but I never complain and instead use the front line to swoop off the front of the moored canoe to tie the boat to a standstill. A face immediately appeared on the window but he realized that they couldn’t complain. I gave them a friendly wave.
The lock around it was a layer of ice, even under perfect blue skies and bright sunshine, and we worked carefully through a glacier valley in the flats to Camden. Here, we are watched to be passed to the top of the locks by increasing numbers of people, held by a railing upon which rows of them recline, the closed nature of the lock dividing the stage and audience and transforming our progress into a performance on the tour.
We ate sandwiches as part of our immersive act, and a hundred people followed the plot indifferently. Some had questions, the usual questions like “What’s under all this grouping?” “Where do you live?” “Are you going to convert it?” And the general nature of your trip means you are obligated to answer. I’ve sometimes thought about getting a sandwich board made for situations like this, completely filled with a fictional history possibly involving 3D mines and grubs. It would be very interesting to bring this up in museums and work boat gatherings.
I would have liked to have found a berth above the Camden Locks, but the short range of visitor berths was just as full, as ever. It appears that one of the boats has been at anchor for 7 days for four years now, and the two residents are allegedly selling it to each other for a pound when enforcement looms, thus resuming the operation. I would like to get here for a week, but spots are extremely rare.
We took the big turn in the section of Regent’s Park Zoo, narrowly avoiding a Dutch barge trying to come the other way. It’s Regent’s Park and Millionaire Zoo here, and docking is strictly prohibited, most likely in case you’re a citizen and become either a baboon or a Russian millionaire. This is one zip code they don’t like to let the poor into.
Nicolas had made sandwiches in the cabin and the crust remained. The loaf was a type of leavened bread.
“What do you call this piece of bread, where did you come from?” She asked.
“I don’t know. The crust?”
“Everything has a crust, but this final piece, does it have a special name in the North?”
“Eh, I don’t know. We’ve only started seeing loaves like this in the North in the past few years and haven’t fully developed the lexicon yet to deal with them.”
“What bread do you have?”
“Barmcakes. The big ones are called binlids. You can’t beat the trash can. “
“I want a trash can.” Happy Sam.
The canal here is deep, constantly dredged by work boats and cruise boats, leaving Camden and Paddington, rubbish hoppers deeply laden, and cruise boats full of pioneers. A big, dirty work boat called the “Baron” came with a very large blue pump mounted in the front end. He was drawing water behind us and we surfed in his wake.
We found ourselves following some Go-Boat, open day charter boats that set out from Paddington. They were mostly full of people who looked cold and regretful, and didn’t make the most of the coal range as we had. The young, well-dressed types had drinks at the tables, and most of them chose to turn past the Maida Vale Tunnel and cut through rather than continue, meaning they were all going the same way we did. We entered the tunnel at the back of a long caravan and rumbled along a soundtrack of indistinct screaming and screaming. They all looked so small and weak in the tunnel, I crawled as slowly as possible so there was a margin for error if they did something stupid.
After the tunnel, we passed another boat heading the other way with two American women inside.
“Excuse me, but is this the right way for Little Venice?” they asked.
“I just went through that.”
“The proof is in the name. It’s not too big.”
“That was it? How much did we pay for this thing? Jeez!”
It became impossible to have a further conversation when they fell behind.
We docked after Little Venice. Visitor moorings here were occupied but there was room for 70 feet outside of another narrowboat, and double mooring is standard on the London system. The temperature was dropping and the light was starting to fade. It was the perfect time to stop.
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