I am a trickster!
Having set you up for a photo-DIY-before-and-after post this week I am going to disappoint you! Last weekend I spent three days trading, for the first time, from Pea Green. As my memory is so poor, I thought I had better write about it now, rather than waiting.
Bank Holiday jinx
For those of you not in the UK the last weekend was a Bank Holiday, meaning no work for many on Monday. The reputation of Bank Holidays consists of a number of elements: traffic jams (even when going nowhere), over-crowding (everywhere) and ‘weather events’ (as our Met Office likes to call them). The ‘weather events’ usually consist of torrential rain, snow, huge hail or all over the above. Having partially grown-up on the Lincolnshire coast -meaning we moved there when I was 14, rather than not maturing- I have generally been anti-Bank Holidays. The huge, snaking traffic jams passing our Skegness home, the additional litter and loudness have left their scars! As a result, until the boat appeared in my life I would generally hide in the house, so avoiding the traffic, over-crowding and weather of Bank Holidays.
Amazingly the ‘weather event’ this last weekend was sunshine and heat. This is a rare Bank Holiday occurrence, and of course hit the headlines. After the dire winter that seems to have gone on longer than the last ice age, the perfect storm of the sun + long weekend + a long winter seemed to bring everyone out of their houses, in skimpy clothes so ensuring substantial and extreme sunburn in unusual patterns.
Before the Bank Holiday I had decided that if the forecast was looking good I would take Pea Green out of the Welford marina and set up shop for the first time. My plan was to head to the boat on Friday evening with my canal crafty stock, food, the cat, clothes, and the other essentials of wine and gin. However, the best laid plans often go awry when a cat is involved. I got home from work on Friday to find no cat in the house. He was clearly out having a nice time with his cat friend/enemies. I decided not to waste time and to head to Welford anyway. It would give me the chance to take the stock and move the boat ready to start trading on Saturday morning. This is the joy of only living 20 minutes from my boat.
Where to moor
With the stock safely on-board the question loomed of where to moor to trade. The Welford Arm is, as the name suggests a dead-end off the main Grand Union canal. At the wharf it narrows into a finger where two boats can moor side by side. Old wharf buildings are located next to the finger and the remains of the limekilns. These two moorings are perfect for trading as they are a stones throw from the pub and close to Totty Teas, where my work is already stocked. Unfortunately, the downside is that the old wharf buildings are now boater services – a polite way of saying toilets, an Elsan point and an often over flowing dog poo bin. On second thoughts I decided I really had no wish to spend 3 days lingering in bright sunshine with the whiff of other people’s and dog’s effluent! Even more so as I am currently working almost fulltime wanted three days with some countryside around me.
To the lock!
So, instead of turning left on leaving the marina and heading to the finger I turned right towards the lock, where I moored up opposite a copse of oak trees. The trees promised a bit of shade but also enough sunshine to keep my solar panel happy. With the stock onboard and safely moored I headed home to find that Montefiore-Montague aka Monte the Ginger Cat was still out somewhere and didn’t return home again until well after 7pm.
Saturday, I woke up at 5am as Monte began to snore very loudly. I lay in bed plotting how to sneak downstairs and lock the cat-flap so he couldn’t make his escape. I had to make everything seem normal, so meandered downstairs at 7am when Monte dutifully trotted downstairs behind me ready for his breakfast sardines. He saw me switch the cat-flap and at once tried to crack it. Monte has ‘form’ he uses his left paw to bang the flap and then uses his claws on the right to try and lever the cat-flap open. This technique has served him well in the past, however I had the ultimate defence on Saturday as I carried a wriggling ginger fur ball out of the kitchen and closed the door as I had my breakfast. Monte, located on the other side of the door then turned to hurling himself at the closed kitchen door, and wailing as though being badly abused. The best plan seemed to get him out of the house and to the boat asap. As most of my bits and pieces were already in the car, all that remained was fridge food and bundling Monte into his box.
Arriving at the marina a little after 8am I trundled down the towpath to Pea Green. Once on-board Monte soon settled into his hidey hole, emerging later to eat his sardines. I set about decorating the boat and setting up the stall. With the bunting up, and the shelves hanging on the side of the boat all that remained was to add my stock. Being moored by that lock meant that I shouldn’t have too many problems with speeding boats, but I did try to make sure everything was positioned so that it couldn’t fall off too easily. With everything ready it was just a matter of waiting for people to appear.
Saturday was a quiet day, with a few walkers coming passed and a few boats heading towards the pub. It was perfect for a quiet chat with people. The biggest amount of traffic seemed to be boats heading the other way, out of the marina and up the arm. I was joined by my friend Kate, who brought along a lovely lunch, as well as luck, as I made my first sales with her around – thanks Kate!
In the hedge in pyjamas
On Saturday evening Monte and I settled in, or rather I did, as he tried to make an escape out of the stern doors. Similar to his great escape a few weeks ago, he battered down the cat gate (aka garden trellis) and leapt onto the bank. As it was Saturday night and I had low expectations, I was already in my pyjamas (it was 8.30pm), yet once again was desperately pulling on my wellies to try and coax Monte back on to the boat. I am happy for him to go out, but as he is still crew-in-training I don’t want him out at night. He had headed for the alluring hedge (yum- mice) so I decided the best thing was a stand-off as I headed into the bushes after him. He was clearly hugely embarrassed by his human facing him off in pyjamas and wellies on the wrong feet at 8.30pm on a Saturday evening, he took one look at me and legged it back to the boat.
Sunday and Monday sales
Sunday and Monday really picked up with the trading. The warm weather brought out lots of serious walkers and people who were just looking for a pleasant wander. (Footwear is the give away.) One group had come up from Luton on Monday afternoon and discovered Welford, others were annoyed at finding the reservoir carpark locked and had headed to the canal instead. It was also a happy surprise to see friends from Leicester, Jeffrey and Lily, heading down the towpath – thanks for coming to see me before your lunch! Some boaters also sneakily used the wait at the lock as a chance to run back to my boat and buy some bits and pieces. Lots of the passing boats commented on my bunting – this is not a euphemism – and after the tedium of making it I was grateful for the praise. The selling went remarkably well for a first outing and included three commissions for horseshoes, one with a house name, one with a boat name, and one with the name of three family members.
I realise I could have probably sold more if I had tied up elsewhere, however the oak tree spot is so magical it was definitely worth a slight loss of trade. I had warm sunshine all day, every day, but with enough shade to lessen the intensity of the sun. The sunlight reflected off the water onto the tree branches and rippled up and down looking like an electric current running through the oaks’ limbs. Throughout the day when no boats were passing the trees were mirrored in the still water. I couldn’t help but wonder how old these oaks are, and who planted them. They are, I think, quite mature, but am not sure what that means in terms of an oak.
In the evening as the sun sat lower dancing water ripples were reflected onto my cabin ceiling through the windows and porthole. I am not sure who was more hypnotised by this dancing light, me or Monte! As the sun disappeared the bats then came out to play swooping around the trees and my boat. Whilst in the morning they were replaced by two heron lurking at the lock. (I am sure there was a singing dolphin around somewhere too!)
Being moored not far from the lock I hadn’t anticipated hearing the sound of moving water. More often than not on the canal you rarely hear water moving other than lapping by the side of the boat if the wind is blowing. I experienced this during that first boat move. Last weekend there was a constant background noise of water spilling over the weir and running in the channel alongside. The very tiny River Avon also runs in parallel to the canal at this point too, and with all the rain has been running quite fast.
First weekend of trading done
This first weekend has taught me a lot about trading from the boat. Firstly, it is a marvellous excuse to watch the fun and games of boats arriving at the lock. One rental boat had its engine rev-ing so high I wondered whether it planned to fly over the lock rather than going through it. Secondly, it felt totally legitimate to spend all day just lurking on or around the boat with the radio on. Thirdly, it provided the perfect opportunity to chat with passers-by about my painting and the boat, without looking too much like a crazed lone boatwoman.
I do plan to trade near the lock again soon. Just hoping for more unusual Bank Holiday weather!