The heavy darkness of winter is receding. Stirring in the morning to natural daylight gives a lift to the spirits and an incentive to be outdoors.

Still boatless, Cleddau’s completion date has now been delayed to the second week In April. All the home-based boaty jobs have been completed, any enthusiasm for a pre-spring turn out of redundant items has faded, domestic duties hold no attraction – but meanwhile the lure of life afloat grows stronger…

There was a very early morning trip to London for a day’s conference. “I want to sit on this side of the train,” Boatwif confessed to her travelling companion, “so I can see the boats…”  Slowly the train approached St Pancras International Station – and, a minute or two before drawing up beside the platforms, there they were, narrow boats nestled at St Pancras Basin.  In these boatless times just an occasional glimpse of a boat, narrow or otherwise, is a reminder of times past and a hint of what may lie ahead…

Three days later there was a second train trip, to Verulamium (now known as the Roman town in St Albans in Hertfordshire).   It’s a hilly city, St Albans, and a path down from St Albans Cathedral to Verulamium Park leads to a crossing of the River Ver and a walk beside a glorious lake. (Plenty of waterfowl, but no boats.)

There was, however, one boat reference inside the Verulamium Museum:  a ship in Roman times being a faster mode of travel than by foot or by carriage.       How else did these goods arrive in Britannia other than by sea… 

There is much to hold the attention in the Museum: carefully displayed items of jewellery,


a Roman soldier’s helmet,      a skeleton        in a lead lined coffin     with its skull reconstructed,     impressive wall paintings     and stunning mosaics.


Across a busy road (the A4147) is the Roman Theatre.      Roll back time by about two thousand years and right here plays would have been performed, religious ceremonies held and wild beast shows presented. 

Verulamium’s theatre is unique in Britain    in that it has a stage for performance whereas the other known Roman-era structures for outdoor celebrations are amphitheatres.


 If populations were to be kept happy   2,000 spectators a time could be seated here at Verulamium.

Only the evening before there had been animated Facetime conversations with Cal Guy Snr and Cal Gal. Both in their respective schools are committed to backstage work on upcoming productions. Their school theaters (deliberate US spelling!) are equipped with lighting rigs and sound systems: how well would a Roman voice have been heard in an open air space like this…?  

Two days later boats returned to the agenda. Up in Cheshire members of the Macclesfield Canal Society gathered for their annual dinner. It was a delightful evening of boating anecdotes, lock stories and favourite voyages; the food was good too. Well done to the Church House Inn in Bollington .

Over in West Cheshire Cleddau has been moved out of the hull blacking shed. She is back outside, balanced on wooden blocks on the hard standing.     She has a shiny black hull now, painted with a 2 pack epoxy coating. The hull’s surface gleams clean and bright but unencumbered by other items…     What’s different? What’s missing? Anodes, anodes. The sacrificial metal attachments that reduce any corrosive effects on the steel hull had been removed.      Will the original ones be returned to the hull or will they need to be replaced by new ones…?

Cleddau is subject to a conveyor system, boats being painted are processed through a string of stages and work spaces. The conveyor seems to have stopped as a Dutch barge ahead requires extra work and is clogging space in the blast shop and then the paint shed…

From the marina to nearby Nantwich. A postcode punched into the car satnav provided easy access to the Shropshire Union Canal and a lunch afloat nb Valerie with Jaq . Those who remember the steep Welsh Row steps might be pleased to know that further along (in the Audlem direction) there is a gentle slope down to the road.  While aboard Valerie a boat chugging past was a cheering reminder of the pleasures of slow travel.

It’s just a frustration that there are still several motorway and four wheeled type journeys ahead before the return to slow floating can begin. It’s not easy, managing impatience…


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