…. you are talking to inanimate objects at 4 o’clock in the morning. To be honest the title could be the start of a book on the life of a lengthsman in the winter, let alone a blog post.
I found myself this morning cursing a windlass that was doing exactly as it should, but in my sleep-deprived mildly addled state I just couldn’t get it to cooperate. Don’t get me wrong, the weather is fairly calm now, but keeping the water levels within the required tolerances (at Walsham that’s only about 2 inches ) is always a 24 hour, 7 day a week job. Over the last few weeks most sleep has been grabbed in 1 1/2 hour chunks ( if you can have a chunk of sleep! ) and it begins to take its toll. I always explain the life of a lengthsman and weir keeper as having a baby that never grows up. It is definitely not sleeping through the night at the moment. The rain hasn’t been that dramatically heavy but when it falls on sodden ground, it soon makes its way into the navigation. That means that my colleagues and I are constantly glued to the weather forecast and twitching our metaphorical and literal net curtains, to check the water levels and see if the weirs need adjusting to compensate.
That is not to say that sleeping in your clothes and having to leave your warm bed for the cold, wet towpath doesn’t have its perks. I get to see stars, sunrises and wildlife that I would otherwise miss. However tired and grumpy I get I still can’t help but smile at the sight of every kingfisher, heron and frosty morning. That being said, if you see a baggy-eyed sleepy woman wandering along the towpath, please be gentle with me!