In a week where I learned more about Pokemon than I ever thought I needed to know (it turns out I have a gym right outside my house…who knew!) it’s nice to keep things old school sometimes. With the sunshine out, school holidays in full swing and a hedge to cut, I knew the towpath was going to be pretty busy. I shied away from the noisy, petrol hedge trimmer option in favour of peaceful, traditional old shears. It takes a bit longer but you don’t scare the dogs. With the volume of work to be done I don’t always get the luxury of taking the slower way but today I did and it’s nice every once in a while, even if it is more tiring.
…. to appropriate and misquote a phrase. One of my previous jobs was as a groundsman in the parks of Finchley and Hendon. I spent lots of my time putting straight lines in grass. Cricket tables and wickets, bowling greens (it’s much harder than it looks!) and posh the grass outside the town hall. As a result I developed a bit of a thing for nice stripy grass. It’s very satisfying to do and always makes me smile. Before you ask, yes, I do know how sad that makes me, I’ve made my peace with it.
Most of my job as a Lenghtsman is exactly the opposite. I make the river look wild, natural and as though I haven’t done anything at all, which is a skill in its own right that takes a bit of practice and lots of work. The lock sides and mooring lines however do need to be neat and tidy. That’s great for me, I still get to channel my inner groundsman some days while still being a card-carrying tree hugging conservationist. It’s the best of both worlds.
The passing of a flotilla of Canada geese is one of my favourite sights, and sounds of the navigation. I know for some the mess they make is a concern but they always make me smile. Their gentle honks aren’t anything but joyful. I always loved them from my time feeding them in Poole Park as a young child. The swans we’re taller that I was and pretty intimidating but the geese were always gentle.
When you live on a boat, as I did for 15 years before I came to the Navigation, the local bird life gets used to your routine. The swans will be there as soon as you are awake tapping on the side of your boat demanding food… with menaces. The geese however swim up and honk a bit which always feels like they are asking nicely. Consequently I have a soft spot.
This flotilla is various sets of parents and this year’s young moving en mass to the golf course. The lovely short grass seems to be a favourite although they are usually polite enough to wait until most people have finished playing before they descend on the 12th fairway by the lake.
With my punt I am a flotilla of one and after a very soggy and thundery time of it today my punt is also now thankfully home. After 3 rounds of thunder and lightening and some very heavy showers I made it back safely, if dripping on the kitchen floor for a while. Many jobs need to be done from the bank, as you would imagine but this was one of many that definitely need my floating company car.
I managed to get over 3 1/2 boat loads of floating pennywort cleared. It is one of those satisfying jobs, especially when you can coax a large raft onto the punt in one mat. That said, you always know that if a couple of leaves escape you, and they always do, that the whole thing will be back, as I you’d never been there within a few weeks. Lots of jobs are like that here. If you take it to heart you’d spend all summer being depressed, but you can’t. I might be wet through to my socks, like my kind volunteer / husband, and I can almost hear the grass growing and pennywort spreading as I sit here but it’s still a great day to be down by the river. Whether you’re a Lengthsman or a goose.