It had been a particularly cold February. There had been weather warnings galore issued to expect it to be very cold. Grimble shuddered and shivered in anticipation of conditions that she described as Baltic. G noted that it was February, it was winter, what exactly were people expecting?
Then came the news and Met office warning: the beast from the East. This announcement of cold beyond cold started a full week before its arrival on our weather weary shores. With each day came further details of an imminent Siberian winter, akin to a disastrous Brexit, and, such was the potential disruption, that the Grimbles decided that their boat needed to be moved before the onslaught of the next Ice Age. This gave one weekend to perform this task. Strategic planning on the scale of the D Day landings came to mind.
No ordinary move
Of course, normally, such a sailing would take place in Spring, when the temperatures were more clement and there were sunny daffodils and joyful lambs in the freshly green fields. However, this was no ordinary move. In some ways, it was a moonlight flit performed during the shortened winter daylight hours. Initially, they were going to remain at their bargain rate Thames mooring but certain factors meant Grimble wanted to leave forthwith in a way akin to a Dunkirk evacuation, as they were escaping the enemy.
There had always been issues with a long standing couple who moored there. This couple had appointed themselves as the mooring’s security, font of all knowledge and givers of unwritten rules. Their aggrandising of their role beyond normal boaters sat uneasily with Grimble who was all about equality, especially when it came to the hobby of boating. Clearly, this couple were the new added Cockney term, Gilbert Grunts of the boating world (for definition read ‘Sunbathing by the Pool’ blog or try rhyming it…) and Grimble would have happily ignored them. However, as is often the case with irritating pricks, they weren’t for avoiding the Grimbles. In fact, the boat wankers took charge of the grass cutting for the mooring which gave them a reason to communicate, nose into other people’s areas with an excuse of gardening services.
Gilbert Grunt vs Grimble
In a ideal world, Grimble would have liked to have cut her own grass but this mooring had no power and she only had a set of shears. She could have purchased a scythe or a sheep but neither would have been as proficient as humans with a petrol mower. So, begrudgingly, she paid them the annual fee of £50. What made G and Grimble different to all the other boaters was that they actually sailed their boat…a lot. The Gilbert Grunt boat wankers didn’t particularly sail but they did seem to reside there. In fact, the only time they’d been seen sailing, they oversteered their mooring and anchor hanging off the bow, they effectively speared their neighbour’s boat like a kebab. Their authority clearly didn’t extend to actual sailing. What was evident was that they were used to having the whole 500 foot mooring to themselves as most boat owners bought their sailing craft and then let it languish in the water, unattended and unloved.
Along came the Grimbles, accompanied by friends, and loved the whole boating thing. They had BBQs, camping trips, picnics like they were in an Enid Blyton story. They always incorporated a good playlist which they happily sang along to. The boat wankers had a guitar to which they strummed indecipherable folk sounding music. There could have been an uneasy peace and a mutual tolerance of folk versus Sinatra but these Gilbert Grunts had to stamp authority and when Grimble continued to ignore them, they tried another method. They complained to the mooring manager. Apparently, Grimble once kept them awake with a powerful rendition of ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ at 22.30. Three weeks later, they erected a huge marque, several portaloos and camper vans for some sort of shit folky Glasto but Grimble just ignored their constructions, knowing that weekend in June had a severe storm warning which was revenge enough, especially as the weather delivered what it promised.
However, as mooring renewal approached and, despite it being mid winter and not exactly boating season, the Gilbert Grunts sent several January texts to request the following summer’s gardening fee. Grimble responded politely that all mooring fees would be settled in due course. However, when the mooring invoice arrived by post, the manager added a note about tidying the area and there was another letter from the Gilbert Grunts requesting the fucking money once again. Grimble saw red. The mooring manager had issued her private address to these boat wankers. Plus, he’d the affront to demand they tidied a water logged, inaccessible mooring when he’d left dismantled jetties everywhere and, more dramatically, he’d abandoned a bloody boat in a farmers field. Her immediate thoughts were, “Fuck this shit!”
When Grimble got into a fury, there was little that could stop her. As G slept after a long work night, she contacted another mooring right by a pub and arranged a viewing and reserved a space. It was twice the price but it had a pub, and therefore pub toilets, a summer festival, their own jetty and an awesome garden. With their Spain trip taking a week of time, and the old mooring invoice due the last weekend of February, they had one opportunity to move the boat: the final February weekend before the UK was being plunged into an Artic Winter. Her decision to move moorings would be communicated to the manager in a scathing and savage letter posted straight after they’d shifted their boat.
Thus, accompanied by their friend CB, who’d assumed she was having a weekend of prosecco and PJs, and all dressed like Scott embarking on his trip to the Pole, they waded through fields, past the abandoned boat, to their mooring. It was cold and breezy and not conducive sailing conditions. They were amazed to see the Gilbert Grunts aboard their own boat. Bloody hell thought Grimble. She knew from their letter that they resided in Stroud, which was marginally less of a shit hole than Swindon, but no one would want to be on a small summer cruiser in this weather, unless they were fucking insane, which sort of explained it. There was no communication but there was close observation of the Grimbles. It looked like the Grimbles were finally compliant, tidying up the mooring when actually they were buggering off. Smugly, Grimble knew she had dedicated an entire paragraph of her termination letter to the Grunts.
They loaded their boat with their bits and bobs. They endeavoured to stuff a pop up tent, that had never fully popped down into a large storage box. As G attempted to place something nearby, the tent, caught by a draft of wind, bounced out like a giant jack- in- the- box, startling him. Grimble found this excessively amusing even when it happened a third time: G less so. Finally, tent secured with pots of maritime paint, they were ready to set sail, still spied on by the boat wankers. Luckily, it was a bright day even if it was mercilessly cold as they bade farewell to their first mooring.
On a summer day, this trip was a leisurely two hours, assisted by lock keepers and good conditions. This journey took them four hours. The wind made the Thames almost tidal and, as this was nearer to the river’s source than the barrier in London, riding the waves was unexpected. There were lock keepers but there was always a desire in Grimble to help and be useful. She was out of practice. At one point, she found herself assisted by five or six pre school kids, who were so excited to see a boat sailing in winter and wanted a full, largely irrelevant explanation of how and why locks worked. Normally, at locks, Grimble liked to happily swear to herself but she had to curtail such profanities.
At the last lock, there was a terse Grimble and G moment. For her, this lock had unfortunate memories. The previous summer, she had tripped off the boat and had face planted the land whilst still admirably continuing to pull the boat in from a reclining position. This time she dismounted the boat successfully and gracefully and held the rope firm. What happened next was a matter of dispute. G blamed the wind: Grimble the fact the engine was running and the truth was possibly a mix of the two. Grimble held fast but the boat didn’t want to moor. Instead it was heading out to the river and she found herself being pulled at speed towards the edge like a water skier without skies as the rope followed the boat. With seconds to go before she joined the boat in the Thames, she released the rope and the boat was now a free radical, open to the elements. There was some cursing and profanity at this stage.
Chips by the fire
Onwards they sailed towards their new boat home. The sunshine belied the sharpness of the icy air. Their friend, CB probably regretted her decision to visit as the prosecco was not flowing and the cold was biting. In an act of gratitude for CB’s selflessness, Grimble had reserved a table at the pub for 2.30 but it was 3.30 when they finally landed. Raw from cold, they ordered hot coffee and asked about the possibility of hot food. They were to be disappointed. However, when Grimble requested the one remaining slice of fruit cake and three forks, the manageress overheard and intervened, offering to fry up three portions of chips.
Contended, they sat by the fire, using the chips as sustenance and finger warmers. Grimble wasn’t sure if the ruddy glow on G’s cheeks was contentment but, as they thawed and the red colour remained, it was clear that G had a sun tan which surpassed his Spanish one. They felt a sense of contentment already at their new mooring. It was welcoming and easy and no boat Nazi in sight.
The price of prosecco
Now a week later, formal letter sent, G and Grimble were hunkered down. The storm did hit and then some. The Beast from the East collided with Emma, which sounded like a bad sequel to a Jane Austen novel. Their village was completely shrouded in a frozen white sheet of ice. The BBC news went almost apoplectic with tales of woe, misery and distress as the country attempted to pursue normal daily activities, like work, in the equivalent of the Antarctic or just winter. Grimble and G had enough food, though wine supplies were depleted. In recompense for her services, CB had been permitted open access to the prosecco top shelf in the fridge. A half bottle with a spoon inserted remained on the milk shelf and one red was the rack. As the storm continued unrelentingly, G and Grimble contemplated leaving the security of heat, PJs and the sofa, to trek the ten minutes for supplies. Grimble checked the town’s online Facebook messages where kindly souls were offering 4×4 trips to the shop to bring necessities of milk and bread to others. Grimble mused as to whether one of these Good Samaritan trips could include getting a few bottles of the Co Op’s palatable red.