Better than watching paint dry…

     There was one last weekend before Summer Cruise departure date, one last chance to “do boat jobs”. The Captain had been muttering about the front deck. It takes fair punishment – as an overspill catchment area during water tank filling,
 as drop off and landing place for boat crew and visitors, as coal shed and timber store during the long cold months, as storage space for anchor and water pails, as conservatory for summer basil and mint pots…
    So, on Friday morning anchor,
 coal, pails, pots, deck matting et al were relocated. The deck was then swept clean, scrubbed clean with sugar soap and the Congleton scrubber, then de-rusted with Fertran.

    The deck lay empty, a brown smeared ‘Do Not Enter’ echo chamber at the front end of the boat.
    On Saturday morning the Captain carefully applied the first coat of deck paint – a non-slip sand-thickened deck paint, in (the unfashionable shade of) battleship grey. Carefully, as had the professional boat painter before him, the deck edges and the water tank perimeter were left unadorned by the non-slip paint…
    Then what?  Paint must be allowed to dry, allow at least 20 hours, said the instructions on the tin.
    A long day stretched ahead, a day without wheels (Cleddau crew’s car currently being used by the Cheshire Mum) – and a day promising heavy rain showers. What to do? Look at the front deck – and watch the paint dry? Look out of the windows – and watch rain course down the glass?
    Have boots – will travel  is an unspoken motto, so why not walk up into Lyme Park (done several times before, always in winter) and visit the House? The Captain was not at first enamoured by the idea:  “Just look at the weather, it’ll take two hours to walk up there, then we’ll have to get back… We didn’t bring proper walking gear with us!” His opposition was ignored; raincoats, gloves, hats and boots were gathered (and Boatwif fought her way into the one pair of over-long over-trousers kept as spares on the boat).
    It took a mere 45 minute mainly uphill walk to reach the grounds of Lyme Park (a case of slight exaggeration then…?) 
     At the ticket office surplus rain dripped off coats and hats.
“Well thank you for coming,” beamed the National Trust attendant.
”It’s better than watching paint dry,” the Captain replied, launching into an explanation of his recent exploits.
    A truly aged Volunteer creakily took away wet coats and surplus kit, storing them carefully behind not one but two locked doors. At last it was time to enter the grand house at Lyme Park which for five and a half centuries was home to the Legh family. In 1946 the house and large parts of the estate were given to the National Trust in order to secure its future.  Nowadays the Trust presents the house as being occupied during the Edwardian era.
    Visitors cross an enclosed Italian-looking courtyard and climb a grand external staircase. 
     Rooms, floors and even wings of the house have been remodelled many times. The route inside takes you through grand public rooms to best bedrooms, through the Long Gallery, to a nursery and below stairs to the Butler’s Pantry.  Those who wish can gather in a room off the Butler’s Pantry and dress in Edwardian garments; smaller folk might feel attracted to the clothing in the Long Gallery where a stage recalls the annual three night amateur theatricals.
     The beautiful library’s prize possession is the only complete pre-Reformation Sarum Missal (as printed, mainly in Latin, by William Caxton).
     But a highlight for many of a Lyme Park visit is the 1995 Colin Firth dimension: it was across this lake that “Mr Darcy” famously swam, emerging in his undergarments from the water to meet an unexpected visitor, Miss Bennet.
    By early afternoon it was raining again, hard. Helpfully the National Trust provides umbrellas: nowhere else will umbrellas bear this printed message!
    The Orangery (seen in the background in the film clip) is enchanting, apparently unheated and despite its height at 240 metres above sea level, able to support flowering plants.
    Coats and gear recovered from behind the locked doors there was a half hour or so scurry downhill back to the boat, in wind, hail, rain and shine. The crew had been absent from the boat for nearly four hours and their experiences had  certainly been more interesting and colourful  than just watching battleship grey paint dry…
  Sunday: topcoat time on the front deck…
    It should be hard set by next weekend, ready for action south down the Macc, north on the Trent and Mersey, a left at Middlewich and a right at Barbridge – then keep going north on the Shropshire Union for Chester…

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