Venturing out into London on a weekend is not for the faint of heart. The crowds are one thing. People seem to turn up from every part of the world to be there on weekends. And the general population too. But the truly frustrating experience is the weekend public transport. For some reason, the powers that be chose weekends to do all the work that needs doing on the Train and Underground lines. They’re too cheap to put on more night shifts. Workers generally work at a snail’s pace anyway. This old rail system needs a lot of tinkering and in some cases complete overhauls to get it up to standards. Then there’s London Bridge station. Tearing it down and building it up again. The whole station. London Bridge station was falling down. It happens to be on the line my best friend and I take into London.
Every weekend there have been disruptions and mostly cancelled services. Not to mention that when everything is open and running there will be the inevitable signal breakdowns or staffing problems. This weekend, though, there were none and all the Underground lines, save one, were operating normally. A miracle. The line not operating wasn’t on our path to that esteemed annual event, the Rickmansworth Canal Festival. The carriages weren’t packed to the rafters either. It was indeed an idyllic ride to the country just outside London (apparently)….in Hertfordshire (where donuts were invented). We had to journey from the nearly extreme south east to the more than extreme north west. You bet we needed a good travel day.
My best friend and I decided to go for two reasons. First, a good friend out there invited us. Second, there were going to be lots of narrow boats on the canal so we could have a close look at what we were moving to very soon. At least that is still the plan. Literally hundreds of boaters show up with every length and width available and colours and names to match. A veritable Smorgasbord of sailing vessels, a cornucopia of canal cruisers, a plethora of portholed, propeller powerboats. Three and four abreast. A lovely sight. Many bedecked with fancy, colourful plant pots and watering cans and festooned with flags and other banners. Lots of different names too. My favourite was The Andromeda, me being a fan of astronomy and all things outerspace related.
Plenty of other attractions too. A whole midway (as the rides and attractions area of a fair are called in North America) awaited as we entered the park. On either side of a rather narrow pathway, which meant bottlenecked crowds. Took us ages to get through the throngs. Midways are always a great attraction. Rides and amusements, carnys trying to get us to toss or shoot something in order to win stuffed animals, games of chance and candy floss stands. Just don’t spend all your money here….you could easily. I wanted to go into The Hotel of Terror, but was ignored. We passed rides to help you bring up the floss and other delights you have eaten as well as the safer kiddie attractions. Something for everyone.
Turn the corner and another aisle of stalls awaits. These are the hawkers of useable goods in the form of wood crafts and fancily painted flower pots and watering cans. This canal art is known as Roses and Castles because that is what is painted on the objects. It can even be studied then applied. Other artisans and boutiques offer everything from clothing (I bought a hat and shirt) and jewellery to paintings and various crafts. The fire service, police and ambulance folk are next to greet you. I spoke with some chaps from the fire brigade. I have an affinity since serving with two Fire Departments while living in Canada.
We found a spot on the grass, laid out our blankets and picnicked….saves money. On the other side of a high hedge over the way from us, we could hear the strains of yet another music group onstage in the entertainment area, complete with beer tent. This band worked their way through a Rolling Stones number. A quartet of Celtic musicians came on next. All around us children played, people sat and talked and ate. The weather even cooperated. A fine day.
The Rickmansworth Canal Festival (or fête….pronounced fate in England) began in 1993 as a canal event which celebrates the canal system in Britain (quite extensive), community and the environment. Can’t go wrong with any of those ideals. The event now draws over 25,000 souls a year over the two days on which it is held. Not bad for somewhere way out in the sticks. But a very beautiful area it is. We only took in the Saturday spectacle. So I missed the Spitfire fly by on Sunday in honour of the VE Day remembrances. My dad worked on those during the Second World War. I have this strange affinity to the craft.
This coming weekend we’re off to a place called Crick for the whole weekend to look at boats and even try a few out. I’ll write about that next week. In the meantime, the search continues for that perfect narrowboat as we sift through the Towpath Talk newspaper and various boating magazines. Maybe next year this time we’ll park our boat alongside the rest at Rickmansworth and be participants rather than gawkers. I’ll keep you in the loop so that you can drop in if you’re in the area next May.
Just looked at one narrowboat for sale on the internet. It has the name Nikki Nakky Noo. Very Pythonish. If it had been Goonish, it probably would have ben Niddle Noddle Noo. They say you mustn’t change the name of a boat you buy that already has one, unless you go brand new. But we don’t want to wait two years to have it built. My best friend says ‘no’ to that name or the other if it ever came up and so any boat with a weird name. She tends to be fussy that way. Probably end up calling it something generic like Gone With The Wind or Gaia. Luckily we’re buying one with a name already. Here’s hoping we don’t have to go through every boat just to find an acceptable name. Could be a very long weekend.