Tuesday was shaping up to be a beautiful day as we drove out of the marina topped up our fuel tank and made off down the last couple of miles of the Paddington Arm, then turned right, back onto the GU Main Line.
It was a good journey. Uneventful, not exciting, just simply very pleasing in its rich variety. Hayes, West Drayton, Yiewsley, Cowley. At Uxbridge Lock, we were joined by NB Sylph on their way to Gayton Junction to meet friends. As we waited together for the lock to empty for us, a raucous noise drew our attention to eight parakeets mobbing an intruding crow, a green flash against a very blue sky, and the cacophony of their voices.
But it was hereabouts, strangely, that seemed to mark the end of London. After the lock and the A40 bridge, the scenery made a distinct change into something far more relaxed and rural. And beyond Denham Deep Lock, where Sylph moored for the night, we were back into that glorious watery stretch where huge lakes sprawled out on both sides of the canal.
At Widewater Lock, we had to wait while another boat descended. I strolled up to meet the skipper, and to lend a hand. The boat was a rusty, dirty, decrepit widebeam that had seen very much better days, though probably a long time ago. I remarked that the guy hadn't opened the ground paddles, just those in the gates. He laughed wrily.
"I haven't got a clue what I'm doing, mate. I've never done locks before today."
I opened one ground paddle, and he followed suit with the other. He peered into the chamber.
"Blimey! That's filling fast! I wondered what they (indicating the ground paddles) were for! No wonder the locks have been taking me so long!"
I tried not to laugh. He told me his story.
A film company were looking for a rustbucket boat for a film they're making, starring Billy Zayne. They found one such on the web, and this canal rookie was commissioned to drive it from Rickmansworth to Bow. I didn't ask how it was he got the job. So here he was. Solo, and totally uninstructed in canal navigation. I gave him a quick lesson in locking, helped him down that lock, and off he went, shaking his head in disbelief and muttering, "Ground paddles!"
We moved on.
We moored after Copper Mill Lock, and had an excellent meal at the nearby Coy Carp Vintage Inn restaurant. We nearly missed the opportunity, though. The building faces a small lane, and its face is painted grey, its windows look dead. It's all drab and untidy. There are no signs on it, no adverts, nothing. We sighed in disappointment, and turned to go. Then my attention was caught by a car driving into a little turning off the road. I walked down to investigate. The actual entrance to the restaurant, the "front" of it, is at the back of the building!
And very nice it was, too!
The weather was still fine, warm even. Midges hung in dense clouds over the water. Could this be the change in the weather everyone's hoping for?