Things that go bump in the night

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Things are going well on my little boat, as you’ll see later in this post.  However, that doesn’t mean it’s all been smooth sailing*.  I spent about ten days moored up at Willesden Junction recently.  Extremely astute former Go See Run Eat Drink readers will remember Willesden Junction as my first home in London, back in August of 2010 (!).  It’s a particular unloved neighbourhood, but the canal is close to the tube and it’s got basic services and it’s not hard to find mooring space there.  I wandered back up to my old stomping grounds after tying up and spent a few minutes checking out the old ‘hood.  Sadly it is - brace yourself - even MORE of a shithole than it was five years ago.  Which I am sure we can all agree must have taken some concerted effort on the part of the residents, the Council, and anyone who has passed through. More shuttered shops; fewer actual services.  Unless you want a place to get hair extensions, buy fried chicken, or place a bet you’ll struggle.  Clearly the hipsters have not discovered Willesden Junction yet.

No mind though, it served its purpose for me, which was to provide a convenient mooring location where I could leave the boat while I was on a weekend trip to Bruges for a few days of running with hashers and drinking Belgian beer.  I felt ok leaving the boat because I’d made friends with a guy on a nearby boat and because I kind of need to get over the slightly queasy feeling of locking up the hatch and leaving the boat behind and having a very tiny suspicion that it won’t be exactly floating or even exactly still there when I get back.

Moored at Willesden Junction.  Beautiful scenery, I’m sure you’ll agree.  The Powerday warehouse is particularly stunning at sunset.

So off I went to Bruges and ran around that beautiful city and drank a lot of really lovely beer and toured a brewery and ate chocolate and frites and moules and generally had a very nice time.  By the time the Eurostar pulled into St. Pancras Station on Sunday evening I think we were all done in, and I still had the schlep to Willesden Junction ahead.  And of course there were engineering works on the Bakerloo Line which meant I had to get off two stops before my destination.  And of course it was raining and windy.  An of course at this point I abandoned all forms of public transport, because there are fewer more dispiriting phrases in English than “Buses on Rail Replacement Service”.  I took a quick taxi back to the towpath and found my boat just where I’d left it.

Me and a flight of Belgian Beer.  Oh yeah, they have things figured out over there!

Oddly, though, there was another boat moored against the Lucky Nickel.  Double-mooring is when a second boat pulls up alongside a boat moored to the bank and ties up alongside.   This is quite common in the more popular spots in London, because the amount of prime mooring space is much smaller than the number of boats in the system, but to find a stranger double-moored in the grim wilds of Willesden Junction was a bit surprising.  I was momentarily annoyed, but had more pressing matters to deal with because the stove had been out for two and a half days and the temperature in the boat was slightly above seven degrees.  I spent the next while getting the fire going again and waiting for it to catch well enough that I could bank it up and get some sleep.  I finally got to into my chilly bed at about midnight, with the rain and winds increasing, and the other boat knocking up against mine about every nine seconds as it was blown around.  Not the ideal recipe for a quiet night, but little did I realise exactly how not quiet it would be.

About three hours later - at 2:50am, to be precise - I was woken by a most unholy crash from the other end of the boat.  When I got up to investigate I found my wall-hung kitchen cupboard could no longer accurately be described as wall-hung, since it and all its contents were now jauntily strewn about the kitchen floor, wedged between the two counters.


On the plus side, the temperature in the main cabin was quite cozy by this time, so at least I was comfortable for the hour and a half it took me to gently pick my way through the broken wine glasses and the scattered canned goods and get the cupboard sort of back into place.  For the first while I loudly cursed that mysterious double-moored boat, whose incessant knocking had obviously caused the cupboard to leap to its death.  Then I looked a bit more closely at the brackets from which the cupboard had been hung and quickly redirected my mutterings to whatever mouth-breathing moron hung those brackets from a grand total of four tiny half inch screws sunk into thin and suspiciously ill-supported decorative tongue-in-groove siding.  I was reminded of when I owned an old house in Winnipeg and regularly muttered imprecations against the former owner for some inexplicably bizarre “home improvement” decision he’d made. And then I sighed, and rested the cabinet on the counter, securing it with four very long screws into the substantial stern wall of the boat, and a steel bracket for good measure.  And then I went outside and tightened the ropes on the offending boat so that I might be able to get a few hours sleep, and poured myself a large glass of port and retired to my bed once again.

(The next morning I met the wife of the couple on the other boat and of course she was lovely and apologetic about having to double moor.  Apparently they got caught in the heavy weather and didn't feel they had much option.  And she thanked me for tightening their lines.  And the next day her husband helped me slip out and continue down the canal.  So they were nice and friendly and perfectly reasonable.  But they still don't know how to tie a freakin' knot.)

So that was last week.  The cupboard is fine now, still resting on the counter, and now with its forward door bolted back on, because of course the screws in the hinges pulled right out of the particle board on impact.  And while I did lose a little metal-and-mirror side cabinet I’d been using for storing spices (bent and damaged beyond repair), I have to admit that having the cupboard a bit lower is kind of convenient.  And it’s all temporary anyway, because there’s no way that cupboard will still be in that kitchen once I finally get it all sorted out.

And how about some GOOD news on the boat renovation front?  Because I’ve got that too!  I spent much of my time in Willesden Junction working on the bedroom, and I’m really pleased with the results.  The ceiling and walls have been painted white, so it’s much brighter.  And I dismantled some old shelves and trimmed them down with nice curvy corners and re-purposed them by hanging them from the wall (with nice chunky steel brackets and proper screws, I might add…). Having stuff up off the floor makes a difference, and using much narrower shelves beside the bed means that I was finally able to unstack the two narrow mattresses and reconfigure them into a lower, wider version that is much more comfortable and grown-up.

Here’s a picture of the bedroom last year.

And here it is now!

See?  Wall-hung things that won’t abandon their posts at the slightest tap!

And here it is looking the other way.

Seeing what a difference a bit of paint and some other small, easy changes makes is hugely satisfying and reassuring.  Now I can look at my bedroom and imagine what it'll be like when the whole boat is more like this.  I've still got miles to go, but at least I've started down the road and it feels great.

* P.S.  I had a few suggestions about what phrase one could use to describe the act of moving the boat when "sailing" and "driving" both didn't seem quite right.  "Manning the tiller" was suggested, as was "under way" but I think the one I prefer it "piloting".  Thanks, PW!

1 Comment:

daphne said...

The Hudson Bay blanket is a nice touch.

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