It's even more of a challenge to get the blog up to date now I'm back in paid employment! Barry's been busy working the photos in between jobs in the house and garden, and I'm trying to find the enthusiasm to do the writing and editing - it's increasingly difficult to fit in now I don't have much spare time, so bear with us once again. Luckily I'd written brief notes on our travels each day to remind me what we'd done, but I have to admit a certain reluctance now to take myself back almost two months - on the other hand I think Barry may be holding on to the blog a bit so that he feels as though he's still living on the canals, he's missing it dreadfully, bless him.
Without meaning to brag, the weather here is glorious now, sunny and warm. How lucky are we to be back having long light days again while England is suffering in the dark, damp and cold? We'll try and send you all some sunshine via the airwaves ...
Friday 24 September
This morning my priority was to stock up on groceries ready for our big weekend - all four of our children will be on the boat Saturday and Sunday, how awesome is that?
We eventually got ourselves together enough to start our journey to find a mooring close to the centre of London around 1100hrs, without realising Freddie had a booked train at 1555hrs from St Pancras! The distance between Tottenham Hale and St Pancras isn't far by car, but a number of hours by canal especially as we had to travel south to go west!
The main Olympic Stadium - we do a right turn here to follow the Hertford Union Canal
We couldn't fail to notice the incredible array of great graffiti displays along the canalside ...
The surroundings of the canal south towards Hertford weren't pleasant, with prolific debris and green algae floating on the water everywhere, causing the poor prop to shudder in response to the extra work it was having to do. Towards the end of that stretch however, as we passed by Victoria Park, things began to improve a little. Freddie realised that he and his wife Sarah used to live round here many years ago, and he took a stroll to find their lodgings of the past but sadly without success. Still, you could see in his face it had evoked some happy memories of time gone by.
I recently read Alain De Botton's 'The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work' having seen an exhibition of the photos in Oxford (a highly recommended thought-provoking read), and one of the many poignant aspects for me was his description of an 'age of reminiscence' as we mature into our late 40's and early 50's - I can certainly relate to that as I think Freddie was on his day on Northern Pride.
The day just got colder and colder, with a wind that felt as though it had come directly from the Antarctic - probably the lowest temperature we've experienced since being in England. We haven't been terribly lucky with weather in London so far, where it's generally warmer than other parts of the country.
Freddy looking a little apprehensive about being in control ...
Sadly it wasn't the best of weather ...
it was wet, it was cold, but hey! It was LONDON!
Top Lock on the Hertford Union Canal, by Victoria Park
You wouldn't know you're in the middle of London
There was a vast diversity of buildings, people and degrees of affluence and poverty passing through London, with a surprising number of walkers and cyclists out and about.
a bit of an industrial area just to remind you where you are
and lots of canal side apartments
There's derelict factories and warehouses
and buildings from the 60's don't look too attractive
but overall an interesting mix of architecture
out of the Hertford Union Canal and onto the Regent Canal
carrying on past the western end of Victoria Park
Through Old Ford Lock
and on past Bethnal Green and more graffiti
A couple more gas towers - the one on the right looks Victorian
If this is their sign on the canal side, how big is the one on the street??
An interesting photographic display - are these the people who live in each apartment?
We weren't going to make it on the boat close to the station in time, so Freddie left us at Islington and walked with Barry the rest of the way to catch his train back to Sheffield.
Bridges, boats, bushes and buildings
and another spectacular piece of graffiti
Interesting playground area for this childcare centre
It's good to keep a spare seal on board in case of emergencies!
Trendy offices by 'City Road Lock' - who's watching who?
It was a frustrating challenge to find a mooring for the night. A fellow boater, Ray, had suggested that east of Islington there may be some moorings, but they were all full up and it appeared unlikely that they were only there for the stated maximum stay of seven days, looking as though they'd been settled nicely for many a week! Another suggested place was Battlebridge Basin, but all we found on turning in there were permanent moorings, with just one outside the canal museum. We decided to continue on, though with the howling gales it was a nightmare to turn around in a narrow basin with boats moored in every direction - but Barry managed it without incident!
Barry has his final cup of tea in the cracked Captain's mug! And Tom lives on the edge
The 21st century merges gracefully with the 18th century
Back into the light after passing under Pentonville
Battlebridge Basin with the canal museum at the end
Along the way we tried saying 'hi' to a few boaters moored up - but all we received in return was a cursory sideways glance devoid of friendliness - it seemed to us that the boating community we encountered that day were the same as on land in London where it's a challenge to get eye contact or a smile from anyone! Maybe it's a peculiarity of living in the 'The Big Smoke', or maybe we were just unlucky?
The pumphouse, boatyard and moorings at St Pancras Lock
We shared a couple of locks with this trip boat full of semi-drunk fancy dressers
As for these space aged pods - wow!!
One of the highlights of the day was passing through Camden with it's colourful market stalls adjacent to canal. Supposedly there's places to moor up briefly to visit the market but unfortunately we couldn't see them or they may have been already taken!
Leaving the first of the three locks on the ascent through Camden ...
... with only a few onlookers as the weather was c**p
Into Hampstead Road Lock at the top
Tom attracting some admiring spectators, one of whom wanted his pants (well, someone asked him where he got his 'trousers' from - aka pants in NZ speak!)
Part of Camden Market which embraces the canal, and the unused second lock
It's amazing what's been built so close to the canal - you don't need to go to Venice!
From solid stone castles ...
... to seemingly gravity defying oriental restaurants
Some very regal looking homes around Regent's Park
Some people just have too much money!!!
And then there's unpretentious narrowboats - permanent moorings just before Maida Hill Tunnel
The tunnel disappears under the building in the distance only to reappear in Little Venice ...
... under the watchful eyes of the restaurant patrons
The world famous 'Little Venice' lined with boats ...
stretching through some very smart real estate once again
Breath-taking with the crisp Autumn colours
Having not found anywhere to rest our heads, we just carried on to Paddington Basin, where thankfully there was an ideal mooring at the end of the visitors moorings, right next to the train station. Again it appeared that many of the boats moored there had been around a while so we breathed a sigh of relief as by now it was getting very late and we were beginning to despair! What must it be like in high season?
It was quite late by the time we turned into Paddington Basin
After a long day we were bereft to discover that we had no heating as the level of diesel must've been low, so it was a cold night! We did OK though, lighting loads of candles and of course just having the gas cooked on to make the tea produces a substantial amount of warmth.
Exhausted, we retired early, in anticipation of a unique and wonderful weekend ahead with our children ...