Friday, 7 August 2015

Its a 'Funny Old Game'

Its a 'Funny Old Game' – was frequently said by my favourite football pundit Jimmy Greaves. Whenever something unexpected happened on the field or in the outcome of a game. However, 'Its a funny old game' can be applied to just about any action theses days. The life on the Inland Waterways is not excluded either from the 'Funny Old Game. I always find boaters to be a bit 'funny' in either the ha ha or weird way. Because of their belief that their knowledge in everything is both sacrosanct and legendary. Yet life has a funny way of reminding them from time to time, that this might not be so!

In life there are two subjects that are likely to get people to behave out of character. Engage them in a discussion about religion and they will either be against any notion of a higher being. Or they will be a devout believer and want to encourage you to become the same. The other one is politics, which has a similar sort of effect either to send people to sleep or to raise their blood pressure by a couple of pounds per square inch.

However, when it comes to the Inland Waterways, its like hand to hand fighting in the trenches. Because if you think that religion or politics can bring out the best or the worst in people. You have not had a discussion on the merits of a cassette toilets -v- pumpout system. However, like all things, whether its drainpipes or flares. Things that go around come around. At the moment what's rocking the boat metaphorically and in reality, is when people are going past moored boats in their boats.

Go onto any shallow canal and unless you are almost drifting along with the wind, your going to move someone's boat. The amount that you move the boat is of no consequence. Because there is the 'serial shouter' is waiting to pounce. Its there 'raison d'ĂȘtres' and its comes gift wrapped with the same sort of commitment, as religious or political fervour.

When I started boating he says 'sucking on a metaphorical granddads pipe' some of our favourite locations to stop, would have huge sand, gravel and bulk oil carriers going past even in the middle of the night. They would move your boat, for a quarter of an hour or more before their arrival. Their engines would vibrate through the boat. Their huge lights would turn night into day. There speed when passing would be much faster than a typical narrowboat can achieve even going flat out. They would only slow down a little when manoeuvring some tight spots. Your boat would continue to move for a quarter of an hour or more after they passed. What's more, I never felt the urge to complain. I quite enjoyed the experience. You learned how to moor up, you also learned how to select a sensible place.

Now as we travel the cut, we see boats moored up on bends or on a bridge hole. Which on the narrow shallow canals mean that you have to use more power to manoeuvre past. The serial shouter 'in waiting' flounces out to complain bitterly. Using their stock phrase 'slow down you should use tickover only' which is usually accompanied by an exchange of hand gestures. Its done deliberately, because of their belief that 'I' can moor anywhere 'I' want. I am going to exercise my right to moor anywhere I want. This is of course perfectly true, anyone can moor in a foolish place. Some idiots are more prone than others to exercising their rights to prove their lack of common sense.

Now the old graveller skippers knew a thing or two from their decades of working and travelling the routes in all weathers. They were not averse to giving way to to other boats on the move. They were quite accommodating to the amateur boaters. There was an expectation that you would do what you could to let them come past. They in return would do what they could to make the passing manoeuvre as easy as possible. It was all achieved with the exchange of a cheerful wave. Now if you were foolish enough to moor up where it made life difficult, an extra blip of power from the huge engine could act as a 'rocking reminder' to you for the future.

I only ever witnessed one pleasure boater get the short shrift from a skipper. He was being a complete pain in the arse. Sticking in the deep mid channel on a very long straight. There was some tooting from the graveller who was fast catching up. There were a few hand gesticulations from the boater. Eventually he gave way and pulled over to one side and the deeply laden graveller came past at a good speed. His displacement of water picked up the boat and placed it gently on a mud bank. The narrowboat was left about a foot higher in the water than usual. The graveller effortlessly cruised past and the skipper gave a cheery wave. It was performed to perfection, it was like watching a wonderful goal being scored – It was another example of the 'funny old game' there was only one master, there was only one idiot and there was only one winner. The skippers knowledge in everything is both sacrosanct and legendary. If you don't want your boat to rock, you need to choose a different lifestyle.

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