We've fallen into bad company!! The Narrow Boats Pensax and King
David have been exploring Europe for 8 or 9 years, and I've spent the
last couple of days in their company. Yesterday, I was motoring
along and I saw them moored up. I went over to say 'Hi' just as
they cast off for their day's journey. We were going in the same
direction, so off we went in convoy, Rosy being tail-end Charlie.
A modern 'Dutch barge' style cruiser passed me, flying the Red Ensign
and called 'Iron Lady', and then we arrived at a large lock that we had
to go down. Pensax went in on the left hand side, followed by King
David. Iron Lady went in on the right, followed by Rosy.
As I went in, I loudly announced that I was a bit iffy about sharing locks
with an unreconstructed Thatcherite, and from the looks I got from Iron
Lady, I reckon I was right - they WERE unreconstructed Thatcherites!!
Anyway, there was a convenient bollard to put my centre line around.
(An explanation for non-boaty people: Going up and down locks generally
requires a boat to be controlled in the lock by some ropes. I have
a 'T' stud in the middle of the roof, with one end of a rope firmly attached
to it. The rope goes from the 'T' stud, round the back of a bollard
conveniently located beside the lock chamber, and back to my hand, which
holds it. As the boat descends, I have to pay out rope, but not
too much, as the aim is to keep Rosy snug against the lock wall.)
So. There we are at the bottom of the lock, and the bottom gates
open allowing us to exit. It is (usually) good manners to leave
a lock in the same order in which it is entered. I didn't notice
King David leaving. I saw Pensax go. The immediate problem
is how to get your rope off the bollard, and back onto your boat, bearing
in mind that the bollard is now one or two metres above you - and out
I know of two obvious solutions. One is to let go of the end of
the rope you are holding, and get hold of the other end - the end attached
to the T-stud. If you pull on this you can (if you are so minded)
watch the other end (that you have just let go of) travel up the lock
wall, disappear behind the bollard, come over the edge of the lock and
fall down on top of you. Not exactly rocket science, and it works
The other way is to do what Pensax did. Loosen the rope slightly,
and a flick of the wrist sends a coil travelling up the rope and over
the bollard, disengaging the rope from the bollard. Initially, this
takes a few minutes out of your life to practice, but the simple skill
stays with you forever.
So, off went Pensax. Actually Mr Pensax had to flick 2 coils up
his rope, as he'd taken an extra turn round the bollard.
I then became aware that Mr and Mrs Iron Lady were in deep conversation.
They were wondering how to recover their rope. Eventually Mr Iron
Lady climbed up the conveniently placed ladder to the top of the lock
to unloop his rope. The lock keeper raised his eyes to heaven.
At this point, I would normally recover my rope, in the expectation that
when the boat in front moves ahead, the back wash from their propeller
will be sufficient to nudge Rosy's nose out from the lock wall, but on
this occasion I stayed attached until they were well away.
I find it difficult to understand why people make life so difficult for
themselves. Watching others work through locks shows you the easy
and difficult ways.
All this 'being with Brits' makes one think about other West Europeans
Starting up north with the Finns
. Their national airline is the unfortunately
named Finn Air, which gives a tantalising taster of things to come.
The country is pretty permanently iced in, and hence the Finns are most
well known for:
- Being sozzled nearly all the time
- Herding reindeer.
They are also not bad at skiing.
They are one of the few sozzled nations not to have invented a decent
drink, preferring the short-cut method of relying on raw alcohol.
Then there is Norway ,
and Sweden .
Famed for their blonde good looks, which, for a high proportion of the
population, seems to stay with them until old age. Er... that's
are famed for their cheese, for their relaxed attitudes towards euthanasia,
drugs and shagging, for their dislike of the Germans and for their love
of the Brits. They are quite good at football.
Enough has been written about the Germans
. But did you know that Adolf foresaw satellite
TV? The Nazi salute, performed in the right compass direction, points
exactly to the correct elevation of the SkyTV satellite - a useful dodge
if you're trying to align your satellite dish!!
are... well... The French. And very good at being French
they are too.
used to be the guardians of European morals, but now we learn that they
were being as beastly to the Jews as everyone else and that Oerklion bribed
people to buy their weaponry.
I've distrusted the Italians
ever since a stunning looking Italian wench breathed
halitosis all over me, whilst the Spaniards did themselves no good at
all by complaining about "Fawlty Towers"' Manuel being a mere
I can't comment on the Portuguese
as nobody knows anything at all about them.
Belgium is a country
of two halves with a good health service and 3 ineffective police forces.
Austria can safely
have a strong streak of insanity in them, which some find to be an endearingly
are good at singing and Bible studies.
are in the unfortunate position of having invented some very good games
(football, cricket and rugger), but now aren't very good at actually playing
them. They also have a national drink which everyone agrees is pretty
ghastly when first tried. 'Drink it up, son. You'll soon get
the taste for it!' Cobblers. English beer (a.k.a. real ale)
tastes like what is left over after making a decent drink. It's
taken the Cornish over 2000 years to come up with the idea of distilling
some of their (excellent) cider (I particularly recommend the appropriately-named
'Cripple Cock Real Scrumpy Cider') into a calvados taste-alike.
are in the unfortunate position of having backed too many losers (i.e.
Bonny Prince Charlie) and supported too many ne'er-do-well lairds (the
Argylls). They have also found a new vocation as being 'not very
good at organising examinations'.
Whither the EU?