Jack Frost Nibbling at Everything

Is been a while since updating the blog. Winter’s bitter chill has set in, though the lengthening days are a welcome relief. The temperature has dropped, and it is noticeably colder on MacGuffin just now.

It’s not the coldest it has been; I remember a long winter in Southall. Getting up in the dark, getting home in the dark, the canal frozen. We would wake up at the weekend with the sound of ice around the hull, creaking and breaking. There are few sights funnier than a goose coming in to land in what it thinks will be yielding, braking water, only to find it is in fact perilously hard and frictionless.

Hazardous as ice is, people are worse; last year we were in Kensal Green, iced in, when a spate of burglaries hit the boating community. Nobody could move because the ice was so thick, and the burglars became bolder: what started as a few bits nicked off the tops of boats escalated into break-ins. There have always been pointless and stupid crimes from pointless and stupid people directed at boaters: a gang decided it would be larks to lift generators off boats. As the concept of something that works confused them, the generators got dumped in the canal a few yards further on – not recommended by the manufacturers. A boat mid-winter without electricity is no joke, but there’s an old saying that wherever you are in London, you’re never more than six feet away from a live dickhead.

Then, one boater, female, alone, woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of someone breaking in. And someone tapped on our window at 3am, to ‘see if anyone was in.’

Yes, we frequently are at 3am. In and sleeping. My regret is I wasn’t wearing my glasses and didn’t get a photo of his face as he was almost certainly responsible for the burglaries.

One morning we found our neighbour’s empty boat sitting with the back door wide open and nobody home. We bought a new padlock for the door, called the owner and reported it to the police.

The Doctor and I became part of an impromptu security force, patrolling the towpath at night for an hour in the driving snow. Eventually the ice thawed enough for everyone to make a break for it: we spent the rest of winter illegally moored in Little Venice, steeled for a showdown with British Waterways that never came.

Mind you, the coldest I have ever been was in pre-MacGuffin days, camping in the Lake District. I woke up in the small hours in a Dark Place. It took a few moments to realise I had scooted right down to the bottom of my sleeping bag, where I was huddled foetus-style, gripping my frozen toes so tight, my forearms had gone into cramp.

I think this winter may have worse to throw at us. So far, the canal hasn’t frozen. But this year we are, gratifyingly, under the watchful eye of CCTV, and close to a friendly and well-heated, wi-fi saturated pub. Ideal for nights, like tonight, when the stove burns with less intensity than the weather demands.

The Doctor and I sit opposite one another, looking at equatorial destinations on our various devices.



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