The Kennet and Avon is another kettle of fish. https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/kettle-of-fish.html
The Kennet is the river at the east end of “the cut”, the canal is in the middle, and the Avon is at the west end, entering the sea at Avonmouth, near Bristol. It is one of the earliest canals, begun in the early 1700’s
Swing bridges and lift bridges are liberally interspersed between the locks and take us by surprise. We are so used to looking at the vertical V on the maps that we miss the bridges that need opening. Then there is the joy of an opening bridge next to a lock, so both have to be operated at once. Oh, what power, to stop traffic for a narrowboat! We are still on the River Kennet portion, and we are not used to both banks being pretty difficult to moor on as they are river banks, not canal banks. And the locks are very different. They are older, i.e. it has been longer since they have been updated, and often “clunky” and difficult to open. But we persevere. I think we are both pretty tired, and our bodies are achy. I am trying to find a local massage therapist but no success so far. For those of you reading this who are MTs, or in related fields, my lats are screaming bi-laterally, and the insertion of my left deltoid complains every time I have to throw a mooring line. I think it was the intense weeks earlier when we did about a hundred locks a week. As much as I worked out at Sally’s gym I did not do enough arm work, and after all my leg work, my quads and hamstrings are still pretty pathetic. Again, glad I am doing this now, not in 10 years. But the weather has improved. Now it is sunny in the morning then clouds over. My dad used to say “too bright, too early”, meaning that it would not last if it was too sunny too early in the day. But there is no rain, and no wind, so all is good.
Mary and I are sitting in the Rowbarge Pub. We came in for a drink and have just had dinner. Crab and mussel linguine for me, fish pie for Mary. Two nights ago in Reading we went to the Fishermans Cottage.
It was lovely, we sat by a fire, not lit, but still comfy chairs, and worked on our computers as we are now. Separately, doing our own thing. No comments from the peanut gallery please. Apparently Reading became a Canadian destination because of the references to Reading on the CBC. So that might account for the Canadian Flag on the wall behind the bar. Find it if you can.
As much as I am enjoying these pubs they are not the pubs of my youth. They had two main drinking areas, the bar, where men drank, and where women would be looked at askance if they walked in, and the lounge, where men took their dates. Or where groups gathered, as we did, to socialize, and decide where to go to next. Drinking habits have changed. Now men do not go out right after work or right after dinner to prop up the bar waxing lyrical with their mates as much as they used to. Now couples socialize together, maybe except Friday night in the northeast of England, so the pubs have had to change to survive. The four pubs we went to in Durham are now more unusual than usual. Now to survive they offer food as well as a vast variety of drinks including cask ales. Gone are the terrible beers of old. It is an amazing transformation, and shows the ability to move with the times to survive.
Ok, back to the canals. We have been in scalloped brick locks! Very odd, and yesterday one that looked like a skeleton.
The Kennet and Avon is a bit different. Next is going to be one that is lined with sod, not a solid wall. When we reach the height of the locks in Bath it will be 19 plus feet deep. I am hoping that they have proper bridges, not walking over the lock gates. We did a 4 meter deep one in the height of a wind storm on the Oxford Canal. There were bushes in the way. I was not happy, having a fear of heights.
We have passed so many boats that are clearly live aboards. I hazard to guess that upscale live aboards live in Marinas. They have access to showers, laundry facilities, cafes and pubs. Permanent electrical hook up, so likely toasters, coffee makers and microwaves. They look after their narrowboats, don’t want to scratch the paint work. You get the picture. Then there are are canal side live aboards. Some are in official moorings. Private land on the non-towpath side of the canal that they pay a fee to use. Some are lovely, well developed sites that they take pride in. Others seemed abandoned. I wonder what the Canal and River Trust do with those boats? It has become a habit to look for the license in the windows of the boats, and some are non-existant. Then there are the live aboards that are constant crusiers, they have to move every few weeks. They are a motley crew. Some are clearly women, some are clearly men (you can challenge me on my assumptions). Some are quite posh, others not so much. But all seem very friendly, and we have been helped out by a few of them. I think I will be relying on them when I am single handing in a few weeks. It is a very varied world that I am enjoying observing. As I say again, a microcosm of society, reproduced everywhere. We come in all shapes and sizes.
I feel so privileged to be able to do this. I bought real estate that grew exponentially in value and I loved every day of living there. I diversified and bought investment properties that I hope will show profit in the end. In the mean time they are a bit of a financial risk, but life is risky. So I have worked the system to the best of my ability, and now I am here. I could be in a class room at Centennial College and I am very happy that I am not. I did my time and now I have moved on.
TTC, total topic change.
When I was a kid and Dad had to cut the lawn we had a running joke about him cutting the heads off the lawn diasies, and dandylions. I loved those daisies, the only form of diasy that I like. And I weeped for every one that went under the blade. So seeing them here is lovely. I have tried to grow them in Canada to no avail. So I am enjoying them immensely. It is amazing how the small pleasures of life re-occur.
Further TTC. We had a lovely visit with my first cousin once removed, Wendy Oakden. She said she would send me the pictures she took. She works at Sick Kids in Toronto, but is collaborating with a project in Poland and had a friend in Oxford that she was visiting. They came down to Reading from Oxford for the morning. We went through a lock and cruised down the canal a bit before they had to leave for the train. Dan had afternoon meetings. We had a lovely time together and I am so glad they came. Dan’s dad built trawlers in Tasmania, so had some boat smarts which was great and made for a comfortable lock and mooring experience. It is a rich life here on the canal.