the voyage of friendship
part 8: to limehouse and back
Hello family and friends,
I've been in London this week and what an adventure it's been. As one dear friend (who should know better as she lives aboard a boat!) said after her visit "I had no idea there were canals in London".
Having moved from moorings at Little Venice to a quiet spot at Primrose Hill I was staggered when my stepdaughter Steph arrived on Saturday morning and took me a few hundred yards up the towpath to Camden Lock market. Lauren, a youth work colleague who also knew the market joined us and we explored all kinds of stalls. I bought some neon shoelaces that subsequently shone beautifully in the next tunnel.
Next to arrive were Orla and Hilary, colleagues from the Youth Offending Team who brought huge quantities of bedding, food andtreats for us all for the weekend. With a novice all girl crew we set off to do our first lock, Camden lock, which is overlooked by food stalls, pubs and a crowded bridge; on a very busy Saturday afternoon, it meant for us some very public boating. Gosh, we were fantastic!
We spent a surprisingly quiet night in Islington enjoying all the nice food and drink. Next day was gloriously sunny and my brother "can't keep away Bob", joined me with his wife Angie. I'm sure he's hoping that she'll enjoy it as much as he does. Heading east on the river Lee towards Stratford where Steph lives, I was disappointed to find that all the waterways around the Olympic park were blocked and we couldn't get close. However, we were approaching Limehouse Basin from where boats go through a big lock on to the Thames.
Spaces were short and we moored up outside a scruffy warehouse and walked the last half-mile. It was full of ocean-going sailing boats and looked gorgeous in the setting sun. What's more there was only one boat in the visitor moorings leaving plenty of space for Therapy.
My team raced back to fetch her and moored her proudly among the big boats just as the sun set. Bobby and Angie had to say goodbye, then Hilary and Orla too. It had been a great weekend.
I stood on the roof so that Jennie could see me, after all we were a small boat in a big pond. I know Jennie from my community worker days in the Highlands of Scotland and we had some very happy memories to mull over.... which was just as well as I discovered while having a shower that the boats water pump was broken. After some 'phone calls we bought some big containers of water and decided to push on until I could find a boatyard. Poor Jennie didn't
complain but quickly picked up lock duties and fell in love with Therapy and life aboard. Even when, a day later, during a routine call with Ewan, I realised that the water tank had simply run out, she didnt make fuss but continued to enjoy the experience. Perhaps it had something to do with the happy news that her second grandchild was born today and a huge smile never left her face.
My good friend Sue met us as Therapy retraced her route back along the Regents canal to Islington and back to Camden lock, where I now knew my way around and sniffed out some good food. Here Jennie left us and we stayed again at the quiet spot at Primrose Hill. Next day, it was back through the zoo, back through Regents Park, back through Maida Vale tunnel (with glowing shoe laces) and back to my favourite mooring in Little Venice. Sue stayed another night and kept me company with some essential jobs like laundry and restocking with food and gas.
A few months ago I was interviewed by email and telephone by a journalist writing an article about womb cancer for the Guardian.
Daloni works hard to raise awareness of this wretched disease, and now here she was trotting along the towpath to meet me. She lives in Kent and came up to Paddington bearing warm, homemade bread for me. We quickly felt like old friends and spent the rest of the day cruising back to the zoo and of course chatting.
After a week of continuous company I was alone again and planning the next stage of my journey. I'm not skilled or brave enough to return by the Thames, past Westminster, the London eye and houses of parliament, so I must now return up the Grand Union to the junction where I can take a left turn to Brentford and join the tidal Thames further upstream. And for the first time on the voyage I'm travelling alone. I'll let you know how I get on.
Warmest wishes, Sally