Posts Tagged ‘canal boat’

on the canal path – Halloween 2009

October 31, 2009

Along the canal path the evening was just turning to a darker, bluish grey dusk – not quite night, and luminous under a pearly-grey cloud cover.  The street lights were on already, though not yet strictly necessary.  As you walk beyond the centre of town, you come to a part of the canal where there are no more street lights.  From the distance I could hear music with a heavy beat – a bit like the sound that comes from the karaoke pub, only louder and more distinctive.  I was moving towards the sound, and it was getting gradually louder.  There were strange unearthly echoing aspects to it, something like a vibraphone or a theramin.  Brief shaking glissandos as if from a musical saw mixed with streaks of thumping white noise.  Blending across all that was a kind of masculine hubbub – if three or four voices can be called a hubbub – of shouting and singing.

A surreal sight was moving erratically toward me: two very bright lights beamed out, dazzling, and a third even stronger flailed around, hand-held and flashing yellow light and huge shadows onto the grey bricks in the curve underneath the bridge.  What was behind the lights was dark and indecipherable – intense and wayward, at first almost sinister.  As we closed, more lights were visible – the canal boat had a brightly lit interior, glowing out like a stage set, unselfconscious and with no attempt to draw curtains or make the interior private.  It was, I suppose, the most un-private human habitation I have ever seen.  Indeed, the interior looked quite bare – as if scarcely inhabited at all.  A hired boat obviously, with a negligently drunken crew moving forward at dead slow.  A stocky dark figure at the front reeled slightly and raised a can in a kind of greeting.  I tried out feeling censorious: no good.  The moving lights, the voices and the music made it seem full of vigour and oddly joyous.

I had reached my turning point, the dogs bounced forward towards home and supper.  A canal boat usually travels at about four knots: a walking pace, which can become a bit embarrassing.  Perhaps these revellers were being cautious – sober enough to know that they were drunk – and moving at about two knots, so we outpaced them easily.  In this week’s local paper there is a report about a drowning in the canal: I wondered whether perhaps this was a wake.  If so, it was a good one.

Behind me, a ragged shouting cheer rose from the Lords of Misrule, who had run their boat sideways into the next bridge.


%d bloggers like this: