Wednesday, 13 June 2007

No Food at the Inn
One of the reasons we enjoy life on the inland waterways is the 'old fashioned' values of helpfulness and courtesy which prevail. Last night we moored near a man taking his boat up to Market Harborough single handed. As the locks are all twice as wide as a narrowboat along here we arranged to set off early with him and work up the flight together. About half way up we passed a boat from Rippon which was preparing to set off from its overnight mooring. To their enquiry as to whether we were going up the locks we informed them of our arrangement, expecting them to follow the two of us. However, they quickly pulled out behind Gecko and in front of our single-handed partner. It was obvious they intended to join us in the next lock and leave the other boat to manage alone. Consequently we let them overtake and take the locks ahead of us. Their unusual behaviour was summed up by our lock partner thus "Flat cap, overalls - different rules"
Being on the outskirts of Leicester (the Beirut of the canals) all the locks we are negotiating today are chained and padlocked to deter vandals from emptying the pounds. However, lack of maintenance by BW achieved the same result at one lock and we had to open all the paddles on the next lock until sufficient water came down to lift us off the mud.
The navigational bible for the inland waterways is Nicholson's. There have been ,and are, many other guides around but they all fall short in one area or another. When Robert Nicholson first published his guides they were very personal in their assessment of facilities and local amenities. I well remember the entry for Fleckney, Leics and how appropriate it was -
'A grim industrial town with no apparent reason for its existence'
When the Ordnance Survey acquired the guides in 1989 the sanitized version read:
'An industrial village just 10 mins walk form the canal. Very useful for its supermarket, fish & chips and take-away Chinese.'
Back in 1998 Denny and Nikki from Minneapolis came over in mid February for their first visit despite having promised that they would do so every year since 1979. On the Saturday we took them to the Cotswolds and enjoyed a walk around the Slaughters. (What, Americans who can walk? I hear you say). That evening we tried every B&B within driving distance and failed to find anywhere to sleep. Our equally unsuccessful search for food did, however, provide us with the reason for this unseasonable tourism when we waked into a restaurant bedecked with red hearts. Yes, St. Valentine's Day fell on a Saturday that year and we ended up driving home to sleep. The next day, in response to popular demand, I tracked down a hire boat available for a couple of days cruising - at Foxton. On Sunday night, therefore, we found ourselves in Fleckney having walked almost five miles in a large circle from the canal but at a pub which proclaimed how good their Sunday lunches were. Sunday dinners were a different matter - they did not exist. So to cap my inability to find a bed on Saturday I now demonstrated how not to find anything to eat in an English country pub. My reputation improved only imperceptibly when I persuaded the party to follow me across a field and back to the canal in less than half a mile. When the battery was flat in the morning and we were unable to start the boat I gave up all ideas I had of becoming a travel guide.

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