Carry on Carrying

Since I wrote the missive entitled “Setting Off”, things have improved slightly at the yard. Loading has been eased with the purchase of an old JCB fork truck, together with  improvements to the wharf itself. Loading down a plank with a wheelbarrow is now a thing of the past. Pallets of pre-packed fuel, still generally packed by ourselves, can now be transported right alongside Roach. Loading is still by hand, but this is not a major problem as all the weight is going down-hill. The pre-packing is carried out using a hopper that I thoughtfully bought for Jenny one Valentines Day. Who says romance is dead? 

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Unloading, however, is still the same old process of grunting a lot whilst hand-balling bags out of the hold. It must be said that Jenny’s grunting is coming along nicely.

There are now quite a number of boats that have loaded at our yard over the years, some of which are regular visitors. They nearly always leave with more coal than they intended to leave with, as our “you might as well take the rest of this pallet” approach seems to work well. This is the result of stacking all our pallets with fifty 25kg bags, rather than the forty which make up one tonne. I have to say that Richard and Jules (on Towcester and Bideford) have got wise to this and hardened their attitude somewhat. We will have to resort to the “ply them with drink” gambit; they do appear to be the susceptible types. Jules and Richard also occasionally employ Ryan with Southern Cross, and Pete and Laura on Stanton, to collect stock form our yard for delivery to Stoke Bruerne. Ryan (heavily influenced by Jenny) finds it very difficult to leave Awbridge with only a part load; clearly narrow boats go better when full to the gunwales. We like Ryan.

Pete Hawker, with his boats Bletchley and Argus, was also a regular visitor. He regularly moved both boats on his own, which just goes to show that enthusiasm need not wane as time goes by, although he did try to get a butty steerer when he had both boats well loaded. His nephew, Michael, was regularly press-ganged into steering the butty. Michael looked anything but the part, usually sporting mirror shades and baggy shorts together with a red shirt advertising something called “Arsenal”. Apparently Arsenal is a football team, like Luton Town.

A further, indeed major, feature of the yard at Awbridge, is The Bell. This is the local pub, a ten minute walk away, which some would say is just far enough to keep one from visiting it every night; a difficult task, as it was the local CAMRA pub of the year recently. Bathams is the beer of choice, but Holdens is also available, together with various other guest beers. Apparently they also sell lager, but I haven’t tried it. Most folk who visit our yard also visit the Bell. Having just written it, that last sentence sounds suspiciously like an “Amazon” type sales pitch.

The proximity of the Bell generally means that early starts are a very rare occurrence at Awbridge.  

The canal itself is no better than previously written about, even though the Spot-Dredging Team has been through recently. Some places have been improved by the dredging, but other places left out of the programme have got worse. To my (un)trained eye, it would appear that the dredging team were left to dredge where they considered appropriate, rather than affected and interested users (me) being asked to contribute local knowledge of problem spots. Never mind, we’ll just carry on carrying.

coalboat@waitrose.com © John Jackson 2014