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Water flowing underground
same as it ever was
Work to Rule 
4th-Jun-2005 09:55 pm
knitting sketch
A conversation earlier this evening

frimfram: Do you know the Fort St George?

hesadevil: We have eaten there many times and oft' and moored up for the night outside. I have a lovely story to tell about a particularly exciting night that involves two men in firemen's helmets, a rope and a calf.

frimfram said I couldn’t leave it there, so – here’s the story.

We’d enjoyed a lovely meal, drunk rather a lot of very good wine with it (those were the days before I developed an allergy) and had settled in our respective bunks for the night. MWNN snores for Ireland – and England and Scotland and Wales, he’s the British Lions’ top scoring can raise the dead with the decibels snorer-in-chief – so our bunks are at opposite ends of our 45 foot narrowboat. On board were our two German Shepherds who worked strictly to union rules; they adopted the European 35 hour working week before we ever signed up to the Charter of human(e) rights. Lights out for them was 7pm, after their evening consistutional. But I digress – we were all tucked up for the night and sound asleep by 11pm.

It’s a clear night in late spring/early summer. The sky is full of stars and there is a sliver of a moon. All is peaceful, the stillness broken only by the occasional thunk on the underside of the boat as a fish without sonar does an impression of a head-banger on the steel. Suddenly, the peace is shattered by an almighty pounding on the window immediately opposite my bunk on the starboard side. I grope my way to it and peer through the crack in the curtains. My eyes are blinded by a light shining directly into them; it’s a lamp suspended in mid air. As my sight adjusts, I can see a pair of eyes beneath the source of the glare which I recognise as being part of a fireman’s helmet.

“I must be dreaming,” I think and turn back towards my bed.

A second bout of banging forces me to recognise that this is no dream. I look out again and this time can clearly see two firemen, hatchets in hand and ropes slung across their bodies, staring at the window. I wake MWNN

“There’s two men in firemen's helmets with axes outside the window,” I yell.

“You’re hallucinating, woman, I told you not to have that third glass,” is his grumpy reply. “Go back to sleep!”

I peer through the window again. One of the firemen is clambering along the gunwales, making his way towards the bow, while the other is walking along the towpath towards the stern, axe in hand.

“Not drunk, no hallucinations. One of them’s heading for your end of the boat – and he’s carrying an axe.”

MWNN leaps from his bunk, pulls on some clothes and raises the hatch. I can hear him conversing with the man on the back deck but can't make out whatis being said. Meanwhile, the second fireman is clattering across the bow and onto the port gunwale, (*hums 'There's firemen on the starboard bow, starboard bow . . .*) causing the boat to rock. An almighty thrashing and splashing from the Cam adds to the assault on my equilibrium and I begin to feel distinctly seasick.

Too much wine, I really shouldn't have had that third glass.

Fearing that the emergency involved a threat to someone’s life, I throw on a dressing gown, open the bow door and step into the front well. The fireman is now walking along the gunwales with a rope in his hand. On the other end of the rope, in the water beside the boat, a calf is being guided towards the stern towards the second fireman.

'I’ve heard of water therapy for horses, but didn’t think it would be applied to cattle, particularly night-time training. Maybe the Cam’s too busy to do it during the day?'

'MWNN was right first time, I must be drunk to have thought that.'

End of drama – And the story behind it? The calf had fallen in, couldn’t get out, the fire brigade had been called out to help and were roping it along to a spot where there was a launching ramp.

What was memorable was not that it happened and our narrowboat just happened to be in the way; no – it was the two Shepherds sleeping through the whole episode without so much as twitching a whisker or raising an eyebrow.

Working to Rule indeed.,
4th-Jun-2005 09:57 pm (UTC)
What a wonderful story! I love that feeling when you are drunk/half-asleep/both when everything seems at once very surreal and perfectly matter-of-fact. Of course, that was just very surreal :)

I haven't seen cows on Midsummer Common at all, I don't think, but they're grazing on King's Backs at the moment - and very picturesque they are too.

I'm quite impressed that you got some peace (albeit bizarrely interrupted peace), too. The sirens are wailing tonight - Strawberry Fair isn't all hugs and puppies!
4th-Jun-2005 10:06 pm (UTC)
I don't think the cows were on the common that night either. I think the calf had fallen in quite a way downstream.

Thank you for motivating me to write that story down. It's been told many times but never put in writing before. I now have a copy of that saved, via ljarchive.

When the cruising log was done in England, it was very much a working log about engine hours and diesel consumption and other technical stuff. Since moving the boat to France, I've kept a personal log and once I'd found Live Journal, I keep an on-line log.
5th-Jun-2005 02:17 am (UTC)
They certainly used to appear there on occasion. In the days when I'd cross the common most days, they'd be there about every coule of months.

That was quite a few years ago now.

And we skipped SF this year - when we looked out of the window and saw one heck of a rain storm down this way.
5th-Jun-2005 09:04 am (UTC)
We only got about 45 minutes of drizzle here yesterday, it didn't seem to interrupt proceedings too much. But it does look to have been one of the more raucous in recent history. The police had lots of streets near the Common blocked off last night.
6th-Jun-2005 06:40 pm (UTC)
Heee, that made me giggle. :)
“Not drunk, no hallucinations. One of them’s heading for your end of the boat – and he’s carrying an axe.”
That would have made me leap from my bed too :)
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