01 Feb TALES FROM THE RIVERBANK
“I’ve sold my house and bought a narrow boat”
That was the statement from my mate Terence Edgar Simmonds one morning as he arrived at work in the engineering factory where we all earned our daily crust. We were all very impressed as he enthused about his change of lifestyle that was to come.
The day came for his move and we were all invited after work to the Sharpness canal to view the sixty foot long ‘Liz’. Eagerly twelve of us scrambled on board and gridlocked the whole thing. So we all disembarked and were given a guided tour in pairs by either Terry or his wife Susie. Being engineers we were all interested in the engine and steering devices.
“It’s just like a caravan really, said Tony
“Aye a bloody long one” said Pete.
“What happens to your car when you sail off into the sunset?”
“I’ve bought a mountain bike and I’ll ride back the ten miles or so and fetch it, so I’ll keep fit as well” said Terry with a grin.
“What about a telephone?” was the next question.
This was the seventies, no mobile phones then but there was something called Citizens Band Radio, C.B. for short.
“With a twenty foot aerial I can get out for about ten miles, so I can contact Susie and she can contact me anytime. Plus it’s free!”
We all had a drink on the towpath wished him well and left.
Every day when he left work he would ‘key’ the mike “Myrtle the Turtle, have you got your ears on?” She would reply then “I’m on my way, lower the gangplank”
Every Monday morning Terry came into work with his ‘tales from the riverbank’. They had moved into Gloucester docks and the community of like minded people. A very communal Saturday night in the ‘Harbour Inn’ with the other narrow boaters, resulted in a pleasant lie-in on Sunday morning. When they eventually emerged, the guy on the next boat took Terry to one side.
“Can I give you a tip mate?”
“Yes” said Terry eager to learn.
“Next time you and your missus fancy a bit of Rumpy Pumpy, you want to unscrew that aerial, you were lashing the tourists to death on the quayside.”
There were other hazards to be aware of, the entry to Gloucester docks from the north, was via a lock situated on a bend on the river Severn. The first time Terry tried it, the river was in spate and he approached the lock with the engine flat out in reverse trying to slow the boat down. Unable to make the lock they sailed like a galleon, past the dock and on down the Severn. Terry stood to attention saluting as they passed the dock. Finally regaining control somewhere down near Elmore bank. They quietly made their way back up to the dock the following day to a great round of applause from the hooters on all the other boats.
They both learned the correct way to live on the water and remained there for thirty odd years finally coming ashore to a cottage on the bank of the river Severn where they had the best years of their lives.