Wednesday, December 23, 2015

One last look back beforewe present the Big Award


I am so looking forward to Herbie's Special Award tomorrow as it goes to a deserving winner who has given me a lot of pleasure, and it will give me a lot of pleasure to bestow our (admittedly valueless) award on this lovely person. However until then, please indulge me by letting me reprise an old blog post which gave not only me a lot of fun in writing it, but judging by the comments I got at the time, some others enjoyed it too.

I wrote this one in July 2010. Looking back on it now, I think it still holds true.
Judging a boat and its owner by the roof

Can you tell a boater by his roof, or the inside of his boat from the outside.? I reckon you often can. Let's look at some types - well outrageous stereotypes really.

1. The working boat roof.

It will of course have a short roof, behind a large hold, and the roof layout is non negotiable . Stern rope coiled on the rear hatch cover, mop stick raised (I estimate at 27 degrees) at the handle end to rest on the decorated water can (don't call it a Buckby can because it might not be and you will risk looking foolish), then just a pigeon box and of course a tall narrow engine exhaust chimney with brass rings and a chain. Nothing else.

We all know what's inside this boat. A traditional boatman's cabin with roses and castles and crochet and all that, and a big (sometimes huge) engine in the engine 'ole (note no H's allowed here.) If the engine does more than 200 rpm it can't be right. As for the boater, we can even have a good guess at his attire. Corduroy trousers, collarless shirt, maybe a red neckerchief and a trilby or a cap. Strangely this is the only type of boater that may not want to talk about toilets or batteries much.

2. The Feng Shui roof

This long minimalist roof will have merely it's fixed furniture of mushroom vents, a neat rack bearing poles and gangplank and perhaps a pigeon box and then just two rather expensive ropes trailing from the centre stud to the rear.

Inside, all will be spacious and calm. Either light oak or ash. Gentle curves will describe outlines of the granite worktops and sage green dralon will cover the comfortable seating. There will be a wine rack. Miscellaneous belongings of any type will not be seen. Near the rear entrance will be a large instrument panel with LED displays and winking lights. Below this will be a cupboard with lots of bottles of brasso, boat shampoo and all types of polish. The boat will probably have gas central heating, but if there is a stove, it will be diesel fired, for there is nowhere to keep firewood.

The owners, a recently retired couple will almost certainly wear smart fleeces, or if wet, Berghaus waterproofs. They will be pleasant but reserved. On muddy days they may choose not to cruise. A gambler might do well to bet on the boat being built by Braidbar boats.

3. The Garden roof

This has two sub groups

a) the Britain in Bloom roof - a long row of large pots of petunias.

b) the Bob Flowerdew roof - miscellaneous tubs, boxes and growbags festooned with tomatoes, courgettes, and the like. ( I was going to call this the Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall roof, but to be fair, that would have to have pigs and chickens).

Inside the boat will be homely and probably cottagey and in the case of b) probably a bit untidy. The owners of a) and b) are likely to be quite different from each other. a) being fairly conventional folk of at least middle age, and b) in their thirties and much more Bohemian and very possibly vegetarian. They will be happy. At locks and landing places they will get their ropes tangled.

4. The Eco warrior roof

This roof functions primarily as a power station. Older installations will be crowned by a wind generator on a pole. The guy ropes for the pole will prevent any sensible use of centre ropes for boat handling, but this is not important for owner of the boat will almost certainly live aboard and not move much. He or she will not have a television because the noise caused by vibrations of the pole will render the TV inaudible. He or she will either be young and go out a lot, or old and deaf.

Later Eco installations will of course have solar panels on the roof. The more the merrier. The annual mileage travelled by the boat will be inversely proportional to the square footage of solar panel. The owner will have no fear of electrical gubbins and will spend all of his spare time on the internet or in attempting failed DIY projects.

Both types will of course have a roof area dedicated to stacks of logs for firewood.

Eco warriors are , or like to think they are, good at DIY. The inside of their boat will have lots of wire and pliers and a stack of bits of plywood.

5. The Steptoe roof

This is very common on the Southern Grand Union. This roof looks like a local waste amenity only not so tidy. The majority of the objects placed there are either broken or rotten and are piled so deep that there is not the remotest chance that those on the bottom can be retrieved. There will be many spent leisure batteries. Interesting gems of bric a brac, a marble statue or a rare item of militaria nestle among the rubbish, waiting for Antiques Roadshow the make the owner rich.

Rich is the last thing this boater will be. Little does he know he is sitting on a fortune in scrap lead from all the old batteries. Any money he does have is spent on feeding his six Staffordshire Bull Terriers. As the boat will not have a functioning engine, it will never move from its towpath position, so the owner will have claimed a nice piece of ground alongside the towpath where he will light fires and sit through the long evenings with his fellow moorers. He will be friendly to all who pass and call out merrily to passing boats in language that no one can understand. The inside of the boat will be exactly like the roof, only damper.

6. The family roof

This roof will have separate areas. One for sunbathing, one for bicycles and wheelbarrows, one for vegetables (see Garden roof) and one for firewood. Inside the boat will be homely and a touch spartan but will have books and jigsaws. The crew will be large and they will travel the waterways like romanies of old. The children will be home educated and fit, able and intelligent but have no GCSE's. They will posses the rare attribute of being able to entertain themselves without electronic aids. When they grow up they will be entrepreneurs.

As for Herbie's roof, like most others it is a mixture of the above. A compromise between the needs of rope handling and storage, and soon I hope, solar panel. That's what started all this roof stuff off. How can I fit in a solar panel, a roof box (for coal, camping chairs etc), a gangplank and boat poles, Buckby cans and a flower pot in a tidy enough way to allow for good rope handling?

3 comments:

indigodream said...

I'm glad you've reprised the roof post - it's one of my favourites :-)

And the "Special Awrd" is priceless not valueless - I'll tell anyone who listens about our special award for hospitality - lots of people listen, usually because they're unable to run away after being stuffed with cream teas!

Have a great Christmas and here's to 2016 on the cut :-)

Sue, nb Indigo Dream

Vallypee said...

A fabulous post, Neil! I love your assessment of all the 'types'! I have more space on my roof than you do, but being classified as historic and having a museum harbour as my base, I have to keep it clear of home type paraphernalia, so no bikes, plants, veggies etc and definitely no scrap....not outside anyway! ;)

Halfie said...

Thank you for reminding me of this. I enjoyed reading it then and I enjoyed reading it again now. You could add to roof type 1 that the owner would never, of course, call it a "roof" but a cabin top!