Corona Canal Chronicles #4

Some mornings were so brisk it took my breath away, and the air was unsure which way to pass. Others were bright and sun-filled.

Of course, whilst we traversed the waters, it was not without taking pause to check on the bird-life of our surrounds. And therefore, we continued to adopt various ducky families, swans and cygnets along our way. In fact, to the point that the supermarkets on our routes must surely have begun to run low on stock, for all the pennies spent on bird feed!

Meanwhile I think it would be fair to say, that by this point, cabin fever had started to set in for me. That and the never-ending study that is. So much so, that I was excitedly distracted by my new discovery of silver polish (who knew the difference it could make!). Rather than continue watching the letters and words scramble around on-screen, I took great delight in whiling away a few hours, scrubbing up the brass from the boat’s lounge area. They say small things please small minds…well, I definitely found it most satisfying!

Hmm. Perhaps I had been on the boat too long 😉

By now, the lockdown ease had continued to fluctuate and vary, with the overarching motto – Stay Alert. Somehow this assumed attentiveness would mean that none of us were at danger anymore. Yet we still couldn’t visit public places with more than a set number of people, they had to be within our bubble somehow or another, but we could begin to think about returning to public houses and whatnot. Honestly, the mind boggles.

Therefore, I was able to enjoy a socially-distanced visit to my sister and nephews, though not entirely enjoying the paddling pool experience at my age and aversion for cold things, and I was also to make arrangements to finally pay a visit to my dad. Whilst we kept our distance, it turned out his loveable bear-like dog, Luke, had other plans, as he opted to shower me in doggie-slobber and give me a good ‘ol wash of love!

Moving onward with the boat (Areandare – can you say it correctly?) we now arrived parallel to the River Trent. The beautiful Shugborough Hall was our next door neighbour, and the gorgeous star bridge our passage.

Even the cows were pretty cool-looking, and we managed to acquire a rather nice mother-daughter picture to boot.

Moving further along, we ended up near my aunt’s house, close to Fradley Junction. And for the first time since I had landed in the UK, I left the boat for an overnight stay on land! (To sort out my rather bedraggled hair and see some of my cousins and aunt from afar). It was such a surreal experience to then enter the city of Lichfield and walk past “real-life” humans. With no-one wearing masks either, and to eat “out”, especially as the meal venue had formerly been the site of my mum and stepdad’s Calendar club store. that I had helped out in, some Christmases ago!

And then once again, I arrived back onboard the boat, to be gifted with a beautiful hand-made Paua mask from my mum, made from some of her wedding top-table material! Canal life went on.

To be continued…

Corona Canal Chronicles #3

After using up our mooring allowance of 14 days at Grindley Brook, we continued along the canal, until we reached a new spot. This time with more quietness, less passerbys, and so many wildflowers and grasses that they came up past my porthole!

Happily, Fela and Kuti had begun to master the fine art of selfies, and gained nimble thumbs to boot, and I was able to receive word of their continued happiness in their caretakers back in Lagos. So the guilt of abandoning them was put to one side for a while longer once again.

The new home-made garden was pretty exceptional, given that we had sunset views over the fields and farmlands but more intriguingly, such was our position that we could see both England and Wales in the horizon. Such was the effect that, assuming the camera never lies, it quite literally blew my mind….

A couple of wonderful weeks were spent admiring this beautiful spot, yet with all moorings, it could not last forever. More time with the brazier and outdoor cinema, and much fresh air absorbed by our lungs. Temperatures constantly changing however, as seems to be the standard norm for life in the UK.

Though my Masters was continuing to drag at my heels, I was able to extricate myself from the books for an afternoon, enabling me to join in with a socially distanced walk with my sister and nephews, where we made friends with more local wildlife.

When this mooring spot reached it’s expiry also, we hit the road, oops, cruised the canals, once more. Passing by some extremely remote areas, with foreboding walls of forestry and crumbling mud, and rather high, overbearing brides that made us feel like we had stumbled into the set of The Borrowers.

As we passed through, I sensed a strange sensation run through my bones, as I imagined what it would be like should I be on the boat solo at this stage, without another human in sight, and certainly no indication of where I would locate food and supplies!

After a long day of travel, we found the latest mooring spot with sufficient internet signal to allow the online workers onboard access to their required radio waves. However, it wasn’t that ideal and after just a few days we were off again. This became a fine art of time management, as when we moved the boat, we would often lose the broadband. Which is fine when you’re able to freely enjoy the scenery, fully focus on being the captain of the ship, and when you have no need for contact with the outside world. However, we all had our various requirements for this accessibility and there were numerous Canal Club house meetings onboard, to work out distances achievable in the time brackets available, set against the apparent quality of signals we could receive. All very well when this all matches up, but as we found out many a time, just because it says it will take x amount of time, it will probably take y, and even though the signal radar may appear strong in location z, this is debatable to say the least. Apparently it really can depend on which way the wind blows….

It also transpired that it can depend on who/what you pass as you amble along….as my stepdad discovered when unbelievably (I kid you not) he got shot.

We had passed through another set of picture-postcard scenes, of quaint villages, amazing meres, long grasses, flower patches and open skies. As I sat working away at one end of the boat, and my mum at the other, we heard a series of gunshots. My mum quipped, ‘gosh, I hope that isn’t Barry getting shot!’. And never in a million years did I take her seriously, nor she herself. Why would we!

All of a sudden however, there was a commotion outside with my mum calling me to attend. Wherein she exclaimed that what had first been a silliness between us was indeed fact. There seemed to have been some illegal bird poachers nearby, and through using what we believe to have been double-barrelled shotguns, some of their wayward bullets had ricocheted, with one or two bits hitting my stepdad in the leg. Ouch. In fact, he was able to locate one of the pellets, for us to all examine, whilst we all had a stiff drink in disbelief.

All of life’s journeys take us along paths unknown, though for sure, this is one we had not foreseen along our current way. Perhaps we should have taken the other turn? Or perhaps there was something far worse waiting for us had we have done so.

To be continued…

Corona Canal Chronicles #1

Much time has passed and life has continued with many uncertainties and adaptations to the new norm…I have now been living on the canals for almost 23 weeks! So over the course of the next few blogs, I thought I would give some recaps from life with the Corona Canal Club, aka myself, my mum, and my stepdad.

To follow on from the last blog, I had settled into a routine of online working, continued research and analysis for my Masters, camp fires in our canal garden, daily fun with Brock the dog, and a growing kinship between a cute family of ducks and myself. They would ‘call on me’ in the mornings if I hadn’t yet sighted them, and after some time, they began to eat from my hand. Brock got jealous for the divide in my attention, and at times it was hard to know if he understood he wasn’t a duck himself (He came to love eating the birdseed I was keeping in constant supply for Sparky and his siblings!).

There were some beautiful sunny warm days, but I was mostly sat attached to the laptop, feeling like I was slowly going insane with square-eyes, screen time, and little exposure to the outside world. Days rolled into one, as we manoeuvred our way around each other for internet signal, use of the bathroom, sharing meals, music and film tastes, playing cards, and ways to see my sister and her boys, whilst maintaining appropriate social distancing.

Meanwhile, life had become ultra simplistic, with no traffic to fight against, limited time in supermarkets, no social meetups, less and less time on the phone, as I was getting frequent headaches from Zoom etc, and we moved the boat only for our water refills, pumpouts, and food collections. Small things turned into big adventures, such as the access to a canalside shop during one such cruise, leading to the only case of Corona any of us have experienced during this whole period…

However, with the announcement of the eased lockdown, it was time to make our farewells, not only to my beloved Sparky and kin, and of course beautiful Brock, but to our lockdown friends, who had been in the Hurleston junction with us.

And then, the next chapter began, with an ‘almost’ return to normal, as we began movement along the canals once more. Although not before we had refilled on our delicious free-range eggs from the local farm, and after getting back into the swing of things with the locks on our way.

More updates to follow, in Corona Canal Chronicles #2!