Plastic Boats- a Halloween Horror with Chardonnay
Of the Odd 11 Most Dreaded Halloween Horrors of the Cut- this one belongs in Monaco! Let me introduce you to Her Royal Majesty, who sits perched high up on a stool at the cruiser’s stern, so stiff her pale makeup will crack if she smiles; I guess that’s why she snubs my friendly wave. Her pilot drives her. A she-devil slipped into sex in the city, a flame-red dress, and stiletto heels that tap the bright white plastic deck.
Her friend- starched tailored jacket with matching white pressed pants, accompanies her- you can tell they deliberated much time on this evening’s wardrobe. Hair spray holds them together, bracing any wisps caught by an unruly breeze. Her cushions are plumped and scattered. She shoots you dead with one cold stone glance if you dare to acknowledge her.
The Chardonnay bottle pops a cork. Wine glasses clink against gold ringed fingers, the group acts out a grand display- fun-loving freedom, occasional shallow laughter amongst friends. His sun-seeking tan, one’s wealth- impress the ladies- for they’re gold diggers. But be wary of such men, for he’s a cruiser!
They don’t talk to plebs- or each other much in any depth. There’s a distinction, a class divide, a spoilt expectation, a hasty affair. Then comes swiftly after- boredom, an unhappy marriage- martini on the rocks! A crushing sadness hid from view, a legal binding, an adulterous disappointment pushed down. A just dessert!
The Phantom Captain’s Hat
A retired Navy gentleman might pass you by on the cut. His long affair with boats is one of true devotion, told in tales of his travels aboard mighty ships. Memories are etched into the lines of his weathered ruddy cheeks, cracked by salt- lashings of wind.
Alas, the high seas call to him, beckoning him to the challenge, the old man must fight one last duel, but he loses. His tide has gone out, and so he retires to the calm of the canal, a humiliating defeat! He takes his captain’s hat, and leave, to explore calmer waters.
Here he decorates his craft with brass knobs, clocks, barometers, and binoculars, and keeps a regimental record- a notebook. Plaques of boat shows and places sailed to, rest proud on stern walls- an honourable display but a Halloween horrors bit scary! His engine bay gleams from polish- “You could eat your dinner off it!”, he claims. A bearded, sea fairing eccentric. Captain Cod of all things fishy. A happy balm pot.
Rosie ‘n’ Jim- and Vampires!
Two cute French dolls came with our narrowboat. Rouge cheeked, smiling, rough rag hair, each with their own hipster shoulder bag and individuality, on which their names are embroidered lovingly- but by whom?
Jim wears a red and white spotted necktie to match his red hair and a folksy waistcoat. Rosie’s black tresses are finished with a crimson silk bow, matching her polka dot red trim dress. What is not to adore about these two famous children’s narrow boating story characters?
It soon became clear that other bargees have Rosie and Jim’s too. Sometimes Rosie, who is holding Jim’s hand, stands huge and hauntingly at the window waving, as their ghost craft drifts past.
You might be shocked then to hear that they, but two sweet, innocent, children’s dolls, are detested and feared by some boating community. Why they’re so twee and so creepy, they send shivers down the spine! Twin canal Halloween Horrors.
Shitter Glitter- Beware such Halloween Horrors on the Cut!
Shitter glitter is the term I give to the canal communal toilets after a fellow boater runs from their throne of shame without one guilty glance over their shoulder. They don’t take advantage of the bog brush. There is no second flush. They turn up nauseatingly early and leave beer-guzzling late- as sly as a fox. It’s such a joy to see! And it’s not only gents but the ladies- yes, you too! A true Halloween Horror- every day of the week.
Disco Dan the Man- an’ his gruesome party crew
A skiff full of jiving bodies singing and dancing, jostling for space, motors past going too fast- rocking metal hulls which bang into stone walls, grazing paintwork. It moors to a local pub eatery. They shout- don’t talk.
The party boat only comes out in the sun and parties late into the star-lit night. Rope lights pulsate to the rhythms of the music. Arms raised to the celestial heavens, their bodies in unison sway. Laughter rises and bottles clash as clumsy drunks spill their drinks and scream at sordid jokes- their actions unpredictable as monkeys in a tree.
Fake Illuminous-green Lawn- Screaming Halloween Horrors!
The fluorescence of a green grass rooftop, decked in plastic pretence, is sure to catch your eye! Fake, manicured, and downright corny. Symmetrically impeccable flower pots bordering ninety-degree square lawns; the pride of middle-class horticultural boffins living in bungalows. They’re efficient, sensible, weatherproof, and low maintenance. Snails hide beneath them and worms leave. Void of all life- this is precisely why I don’t live in a house!
A narrowboat can have real turf too, only mowing it isn’t easy. The roof-top gardens of houseboats are a show of individual creativity and one of personal choice. They’re a dumping ground of practicality. They’re a half-baked project, a dish of screws, an off-grid energy factory, a smoking chimney, an old antenna, and a mop- l’Chaim! To Life!
Perhaps I’ll plant an Autumnal, Halloween-themed rooftop with pumpkins growing, illuminations, and all light trickery- a ghostly apparition amidst the rising mist that hovers upon a cold, still, dark waterway. Be warned- there are gnome themes out there, and they’re pretty scary too!
The Cry of the Crazy Canoe Instructor
The explorer with ten excited children in tow roped together so that their little oars splashing wildly up and down in novice hands, thought to be working in one direction, instead in a muddle and mayhem, sends their boats twirling. They shriek and he shouts.
Teenagers break free and row out of sight. The deafening yell, “OY, COME BACK!”, of an anxious instructor to rein in such bravado, cuts into the calm of a quiet sunny day, right outside my boat window.
Oars of a misguided direction, scrape and tap along my hull and leave splashes of water which dry- mucky spots on the glass. Sometimes this douche lands on my bed. The teacher smiles apologetically as I look out my window. Small worried faces stare up at my raised eyebrows.
The canal is a castle moat, a jungle trench, a pathway through a fallen tree where crocodiles might be lurking in a woodland glade. It’s an oxygenated torrent of youngster’s questions, an aquarium, an H2O Science lesson, a squad with a leader and one goal, an ox of a challenge. The beginning of an expedition to the Arctic Circle.
She is a love affair gone awry, a moored vessel- long forgotten, one of many, strung in rows like precious pearls kept hidden in a box, a sea of bobbing boats, all nodding and occasional clanking, in silent sleep and disarray. A watery graveyard- the marina.
She sits waiting for a handheld brush, a stroke of fresh pillar-box red, or royal blue, a blob of oil, a turn of the key that will fire her to action. Oh, for to sail away, just one day out!
Like old toys discarded by spoiled children. As old relations are left to decline- memories lost and youth forgotten, but a photograph frozen in time. Pushed aside. Squeezed out of a full calendar. Clutter on a busy desk swept into the bin. Ghost boats- once loved, held close, a union. How quickly she- a beautiful bride, becomes a dissolving marriage.
Mad Zombie Cyclist- “Coming through!”
The towpath might be construed as a cycle path or a bridleway, but cyclists and riders take heed, for they are not the same. There’s no love of bloodthirsty quarrel. This is no place for Tour de France- racing stripes red, white, and blue.
This is a liveaboard boater’s home- a row of mooring pins to step over, a generator to go round, a BBQ to ride through. A web of chatting walkers, dogs on leads, playing children- a bustling private highway. It’s a place to slow the pace, step back, give and take.
The bike bell dings and waits while people move to one side. A leisurely ride, or a short-cut, and polite cyclists stop for those on foot. A wide berth given to boats is respected. If you’re in a rush then take the road!
A horse is risky- it squeezes past a family teetering on the bank. The nervous horse might leap around or kick you, as a windmill stirs to action, a tarp flaps in the wind, or an engine starts up. A steaming pile of manure is left for prams to negotiate, with high odds of collision, to sandal-clad feet on a narrow pathway, once darkness descends.
The Hound of the Baskervilles
Dog walkers come and go, some three or four dogs in tow- a constant stream. Barking at ducks at 6 am, I’m awoken! Long leads stretch three meters long, winding around tall legs, tripping them up. Muddy paw prints on clean jeans, a nose sniffing in your bag, a great boisterous clod with a wagging tail. They splosh into the water to retrieve a ball or tread water chasing a duck they will never catch.
How the English love their pets- more than people. How spoiled they and their four-legged friends are. With a fury, canine welcome, they piss up the side of your boat or on your gangplank. Besides the open barge window they squat down for their daily constitutional- please don’t! A well-dressed couple ignores their dog at a distance, doesn’t clean up, and turns a blind eye. A mooring rope is dragged through it, yuk! I think, I too love dogs- more than their owners.
The Haunting of the Canal Bridge Horn Blower
Beeeeep! That’s not me swearing, but the happy Hornblower. They love the chance to press that button in the middle of their steering wheel- it’s child’s play- Bop It Extreme. The quiet, the wilderness, the countryside- disturbed… for what? Did you lose your sight? Can’t you find your brake pedal? Not one, but six horn blasts are needed, to tell all you are here!
The horns come, and they go- damn that horn blowing all day long! The country cottages nearby, close their windows. A houseboat moves on… around the corner. The rabbits dive for their holes and the Heron flees. Not a Halloween horror, or a Guy Fawke’s night tirade but an every ten-minute fanfare… a horn-pressing plague. If only the canal bridge hornblower could be de-horned- muted!
The many-faceted colours of life, the annoying habits, the frighteningly odd antics of a few- they’re the stuffing of nightmares… and Room 101 is waiting! If the oddest 11- dreaded Halloween horrors of the cut- were… deleted, then how perfect rural life would be!
What’s your worst, travelling nightmare? Which of these horrors from the cut would you send to Room 101? Comment and share.
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