It’s been a busy couple of weeks on Pea Green with lots of other boaty and painting things, including a trip to the Crick Boat Show, held annually at the Crick Marina. As some of you are also aware through my begrudging Social Media posts a month ago I managed to trap a nerve in my back doing the thing I hate most in life – gardening. (Admittedly Ten Pin Bowling comes joint first, but I am not compelled to engage in that grim activity – ever.)
The garden has become a sore point after a succession of gardeners who apparently couldn’t understand my simple gardening requests. Examples include: me stating, ‘Please don’t prune that plant’ which was translated into, ‘I dug it up’, along with my request ‘I would like a higgledy patio’ which translated into ‘I have dug a pond big enough for your boat’, alongside my reflection ‘I would like the border to slope upwards towards the fence and away from the lawn edge’ which translated into ‘I have levelled your borders with the lawn, so the lawn now has no edge whatsoever’. I have become increasing exasperated and after a particularly bad day at work I attacked the garden with a spade. This warlike charge resulted in a trip to Corby urgent care, a sack of diazepam and prescription strength codeine plus a large slug of gin and binge watching Peaky Blinders to relieve the pain. Poor old Monte also suffered as I couldn’t reach the floor to put his food down, so had to call in my other neighbour to feed the mighty Monte.
Making it to Crick
I truly believed that this was going to be a long term injury, and had images of signing up for mobility aids including a high, padded, toilet seat.After all given the large quantity of prescribed drugs the only conclusion was the Doctor saw this as being long term! It was then nothing short of a miracle that a week later I could walk without a stick, and drive. As a result, I was able to make it to Crick to the annual boat show.
Take my money but hide me away
I did wonder if they would let me in as I had been sending angry tweets to Waterways World/ Crick Boat Show critiquing the advertising poster with its lack of women…. This was brushed aside by Waterways World who said that one character was androgynous and that their editorial team included a number of women. In my mind neither of these comments made the poster anymore acceptable, but engagement in debate over what equality and equal representation means seemed a waste of time when the response was at best lame. Anyway, on arrival the sirens failed to go off so I could slip in unnoticed – I had clearly cunningly disguised my ardent feminist views. (Though clearly I am still not over the bizarrely male dominated advertising poster as I am mentioning it again here.)
Largest inland waterways boat show
Crick is the largest inland waterways boat show in the country and was previously held at the narrowboat Makkah of Braunston. Like so much of the waterway’s calendar I had no knowledge of events at Crick only 20ish minutes from my house in Northants until I acquired a boat in 2016. Perhaps counter-intuitively I drive to Crick, rather than taking the boat. My slow travel on the Grand Union would mean the journey taking at least two days to travel from Welford, and another two to get back, largely because it’s rude not to moor up for a night at Bridge 36 and even meaner to turn down a night mooring at Bridge 24. Additionally, I like remote moorings and must admit the idea of being triple moored doesn’t really do it for me. It is the same reaction I have to the concept of package holidays, bus trips and participation in team sports – I realise I am painting a grimly anti-social picture!
Front row parking
The gates at Crick open at 10am, so of course I was all parked up by 8.30am – so ensuring front row of the parking, and not three fields away up a 90 degree slope (obsessive timekeeping has its benefits!). By 9am I was in the line, so I was one of the first 100 or so through the gates and the ‘proud’ recipient of yet another plastic mug. I must admit when I received one last year I couldn’t quite work out what it was – this was further hindered by the Lee sanitation advertising on the side, and I presumed with the weird handle that it was some sort of measuring device for ‘blue’ to go into the boat toilet. It was only after a conversation with a Crick volunteer that I learnt it was actually my very own beer mug. Next year I must remember to hand it back, too much plastic in the world and all that….
Early bird on those wide beams
I know boaty folk have a bit of a Marmite reaction to the Crick Boat Show. For me it is my annual boat fix – a time to ogle the wide- beams amongst other things. This wide-beam ogling (boats that is) is made all the better because as one of the first through the gate I dash down to the marina first to have a look around the show boats before the marauding hordes arrive. From about 10.30 on-wards you have to book a slot to be guided through. I waft onto the £200,000 wide-beams, pretending this is my new place, though admittedly the plastic bags over my shoes detract from this delusional practice. The fakery of the situation goes further than the shoe -bags as all of the show boats arrive on lorries and are craned into the marina, after all the wide-beams wouldn’t be able to make it through the narrow locks that are a feature of the Leicester Line. I love the moment of madness on the wide-beams but in all honesty the shiny, show-home, marble kitchen worktops with dinner set for 8 probably isn’t for me! (Not a scratch on my shed roof worktop and splash back.)
Much more to my taste was a one-off narrowboat being refitted. This particular boat was still a work in progress, and being lovingly lined with reclaimed old oak panelling taken from numerous sources. This narrowboat was also home to some lovely Arts and Crafts style wood-work and furniture. Much more up my street. (I would provide a link to the boat-fitter, but having just gone through the Crick brochure I am beginning to wonder if I imagined the whole experience – or perhaps I had just wandered onto someone’s boat?!) Alongside the show-boats there are also a handful of old working boats, one maintained by the Dudley Canal Trust another nb Sculptor now moored at Stoke Bruerne canal museum and maintained by the friends of the museum. Alongside were nb Raymond and Nutfield, again maintained and funded by volunteers.
This year my visit to these huge old boats was a chance to collect photographs of the canal art on the stern doors and inside the ‘back cabins’. My plan is to collect photos of old artwork and build up a collection to refer back to as I paint pieces. Although there are those who will argue there being a wrong and a right way to produce canal art I can’t help but feel it is is a constantly evolving form of folk art, which has continued to develop over two centuries.
Catching up with people
This year Crick also gave me the opportunity to catch up with some customers and handover recent commissions. Judith Matthews who takes some fabulous macro photographs on and around the canals had ordered a tilly-lamp for her engine room (albeit a safe LED battery operated one). It was a pleasure to meet her and hand over her lamp. I also spent time with other lovely customers Lynn and Chris, who I had met during one of my anti-social trading weekends at Welford. I was able to hand over the horseshoe I had painted for their boat. They also acquired a new rosy teapot and lantern. As most of my sales are internet based or revolve around online conversations it was a treat to get to meet such lovely people. And after my visit to Crick fabulous when another of my customers Rachel and Colin took a detour from their boat viewing and managed to find me at my anti-social trading spot at Welford the following day. (Rachel is a star crocheter – next time I will lock her in the boat and make her teach me how!)
The challenge of Crick for a boat owner is not to spend any money. Last year I did quite well, just buying a hat for my chimney, this year was a catastrophic disaster, with credit-cards and cash flying. I did take River Canal Rescue (RCR) cover – after last year’s incident (perhaps more of this in a future post), I felt I should and as they had a show discount it seemed rude not to. Plus, despite the age of my Sabb engine they assured me parts would be found, made or reconditioned if something goes wrong.
I also invested in two new fire-extinguishers. The horrific boat fires and deaths over the winter have rung alarm bells, especially as I realised my two extinguishers were dated 1996. The problem is there is no way to test whether they will work, all you have to go on is the pressure gauge so although both my current ones were in the green and had passed another safety certificate last year I was beginning to feel uneasy about their condition. For £30 it seemed worth buying new ones.
Meeting social media celebs
I managed to escape buying too many fripperies – the temptation to buy yet another tiller-pin loomed large, but I resisted, as was the temptation to load up on fudge, books, random little brass things that will sit in a bag and never get fixed to the boat, and a rather nice 1930s copper kettle! I did buy a myself a little treat from the lovely Anna-Marie and partner Kath of Narrowboat Experience fame– although I had to fight my way through the hordes of rightly adoring fans to pay for my greetings card. They were so fabulously busy that we didn’t really have time to talk art. (Or in my case putting the blobs in the right place!)
Too many orange creams – time to leave
By 4pm I was pretty much overdosed with the boat show, a bit like opening a box of chocolates and eating the entire selection in one sitting and then wondering why on earth you feel so violently sick! So, I meandered back to my car and onto Welford to move Pea Green ready for a couple more days trading under the trees near Welford lock.