We’re at the end of cruise four now, and we’ve just arrived on the Thames. It’s been a bit of a rocky road to get here, involving precarious DIY by Sara and me, perched on the edge of the boat as we rescued a battered rose panel which had been almost torn to shreds by stonework on the side of a bridge; scary fast steering through winding canal (mixed with flowing rivers); getting stuck in a muddy bank on a VERY windy day and having to pole ourselves out of it; and of course lots and lots of comfort food. Cruise three, Devizes to Newbury, wasn’t a full one, so we had more time to spend with the guests. This is, in the words of Adrian Monk, a gift and a curse - everyone eating together meant that our evenings finished earlier than usual, and we could go to the pub (giving one guest her first ever game of darts, and she very nearly won!) or just sit and chat with them (that same guest gave us a recipe for a German snack she had as a kid - stale hot dog buns covered in butter and sugar and put in the oven until they’re solid. They last for weeks, apparently) instead of going straight to bed. However it also meant that we didn’t have as many people who were up for helping with the locks, so the actual work has been a lot more strenuous! We’ve picked up a couple of extra people for the past few days - the crew of another hotel boat vanished overnight (we presume on purpose) two days before the start of their season, so while they staff up again we’ve taken on one of their guests, and a local seasoned lock wheeler has joined us too.
Speaking of guests… I really didn’t want to write anything about any of the people we look after, but some things are too inane not to put in. To avoid actual names, I’m going to call all the male guests “Trevor” and the female guests “Deirdre”. And if those happen to be your names and you’re on one of our future cruises, rest assured I might not be talking about you. Although, to be honest, I might. So here’s a short conversation Neil had with Trevor the other day.
Trevor: “There’s a carpark.” (points to carpark)
Trevor: “You could park a car in that.”
Well, it made me laugh anyway.
We’ve seen a lot of Tranquil Rose this week - a fellow hotel boat which seemed to be a few steps behind us most of the week, occasionally catching up (I heard a worried, “Er, is that person allowed to be on our boat?” from Deirdre as one of the owners clambered across us to fill TR at a water point). It’s run by a lovely couple called Steve and Steph, who are good friends with Neil and Corinne - they’re selling up this year to take control of Llangollen Wharf, but as I know the daughter of the potential buyer, I’m sure he’s lovely too!
And so here we are in Henley on a massive beautiful river, which requires barely any butty-steering, and so more time is spent in the kitchen. We’ve finished the limoncello we bought, which turned out to be made in the Netherlands and tasted a bit like soap, but Sara’s off to her home in Italy for a long weekend so she’s promised to bring some of the real stuff back. We’ve had Italian and Scottish evenings for the guests since the first week, and during the next cruise I’m going to attempt a Michelin-starred restaurant’s recipe - wish me luck! Next blog entry will probably be more about me than the cruise/guests, unless anything really spectacular happens… but I don’t want to write it all out here (I’m waiting for the next showing of Four Lions at the cinema, and I absolutely do not want to be late). Hope you’re all well, I want to hear from you! Send me a text or email if we haven’t spoken in a while. Oxford next week, see you there…
Also - a piece of cake to the folk who noted the Crystal Maze-related blog title.