Monday, 11 May 2015

Paddington Basin

We dock, twice. 

Technically with canal boats it’s called mooring, but this time not so fast - we’re on a wharf - so we’re docking. God. You pop your head out followed by a foot and then with me usually a rucksack; out of this rickety old sail boat, still a tiny floating beauty with a flakey coat of blue paint licked around all sides and her underbelly. Christ. We’re in the midst of big proper decent hardworking buildings, like the sturdy St. Mary’s Hospital where the new ickle princess was delivered, and sharp sleek phat-looking offices made of shatterproof glass with the cold tint of ice imbued within.

The first attempt at docking saw the boat veer left then backwards almost crashing slowly and dreadfully in to the side of one peaceful boater’s home. Thankfully, the wind just nudged it clear and some of my die-hard shoving and gentle kicking off the dock via the nose of the boat made some impact. The boat’s engine whirred and I could hear Mer shouting tribulations of “crap” and “oh bollocks” from inside the hull. 

The wind you see, it moves boats. 

So Mer drove on and did a U-turn at the end of the basin. These steely blocks of professionalism slumming over us and watching us in an all-knowing judgemental sort of way, I felt it, looking pitiably at us scrabbling and the little guy’s battles fought on in this basin, our small corner of ocean. Once we'd docked I had hold of the rope in a lunge position trying to heave her closer in to be tighter with the wooden slats. The air is brisk and Mer says to me with hair in her face - 

‘It really feels like we’re out on the sea here hey!’

‘Yeah. Windy.’

Later on our new neighbour Wendy from somewhere past Brentford who goes holidaying with her husband every summer will tell me that it’s always windy here.

‘Have you been here before?’

‘No. I’m new to it all. Have you?’

‘Ooh yes. Me and him, we go on holiday every summer on the boat. It’s like our holiday home’ she breaks off for a manic chuckle, ‘we ever so like it. Can you believe we’ve been doing this route for the past thirteen years!’

Thirteen years’ I say.

‘And every time it’s been windy down here. When we first came there weren’t these tall buildings everywhere. The security’s very good too, they have these men in hi-vis jackets checking on your boats. It’s ever so safe here, not like the other parts of London which can be a bit, you know…’

I smile and don’t really know what to say so she finishes off her sentence with the maternal tones of someone who hates being prejudiced.

‘… rough.’

As we’re unpacking the boat and Mer is unfolding her new contraption that is the white foldable bicycle, some more neighbours arrive to our right in a rambunctious barge of navy blue with port holes. A lad with one un-cumbersome languid accent only available in the West Country strides out in that manner which reminds me of Aussies, and bounces his head towards our boat.

‘He-llo. How is it here?’

Mer in her sparky note says, ‘We only just got here like you!’

‘Did you?’ A pause drawn out by this boat-lad’s smile, ‘How did you find it? It’s quite windy.’

‘It’s really windy’ I concur at best.

‘It wasn’t forecast to be windy’ he mumurs.

‘No I thought it was going to be windy yesterday so decided to move today - big mistake that was!’ Mer shook her head and I guessed she was probably remembering the swearing and the near-crashing.

‘Was it trouble for you guys?’

‘Sort of, yeah.’ I concur again.

‘More windy than I thought it would be... weren’t expecting it.’

And the conversation of boaters goes on oblivious to the clockwork precision of these stark buildings and their inhabitants that surround us all bobbing up and down in this basin. Even the ducks that swim past my window look more together in this area, formations of four or six drakes only quacking intermittently, so as not to disrupt or disturb the order. One thing is it’s clean, the other bonus is, I get to use the hospital’s free wifi.