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The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

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Odds Blog: Boats, planes, trains and automobiles…..

Posted by indigodream on 18 April, 2010

Friday 16th April

Starting with boats………

Richard went up to the boat on Friday afternoon with a little list of chores to do before I joined him on Saturday. Unfortunately he just had one of those evenings, with the usual trial of the M25 which meant that despite leaving work early, he didn’t get to Indigo Dream ’til after 5pm. He was surprised to find that the Globe Inn moorings were nigh on empty – just as well, that meant he’d be able to get a space here later on, though he was concerned that they may have run out of beer!

His first very urgent job was to get Indigo Dream back up to Leighton Buzzard to fill the water tank. He’s really got the hang of this single-handed locking lark – up and down Leighton lock without a drama, though he says he could have done a lot lot better on the way up. Once in Leighton Buzzard it took him 3 attempts to find the waterpoint, coming from the north the pillar you first see is not a water point, nor is the waterpoint like box, the waterpoint is immediately south of the bridge.

The water tank took ages to fill – so long, in fact, that he was tempted to leave her filling and do a quick run to Tesco. He resisted the temptation, but did drop into the store afterwards to stock us up for the weekend (and to get the whinging dogs a hot chicken). But it was almost 9pm by the time he got back to the Globe Inn and by the time he got to the bar, via getting the dogs settled and a lengthy conversation with some people who were contemplating adopting a greyhound, they’d stopped serving food so he just had to have an extra half pint. Just as well he had provisions on board then!

After a wearying evening he went off to bed. In the meantime…….

Planes, trains and automobiles…

I’d flown up to Edinburgh on Wednesday evening, blissfully unaware of the cloud of volcanic ash drifting this way. I picked up a hire car and headed off to Auchterarder where I was to deliver the first of two 1-day training courses. I’ve done a fair bit of driving in Scotland over the last couple of months, and I have to say that the roads are great – partly because of good maintenance and partly because there’s just no traffic up here compared to the Southeast. The following morning, the sunlight woke me at 6am and I groggily turned on the TV in my hotel bedroom and heard the words “Iceland, volcano, Scotland….” I came to quickly – had the recent volcanic activity in Iceland set off a volcano in Scotland? No, it was ash, and that was dramatic enough! Neven mind, I thought, I’m not due to fly home until Friday night……

I had a good day with my group and then had to drive up to Banff, well North of Aberdeen. The trip started well, fine dual carriageways then a motorway, then increasingly small roads until I realised, with some horror, that I’d blindly followed the satnav into the middle of the Grampian mountains and was soon lost in the Cairngorms National Park. Well, not that  lost – there’s really only one road (the A93) – I followed it in the hope that I would eventually arrive at some destination, preferably the one I was aiming for! I will take the opprtunity to thank Braemar town council for their excellent public loos, without which the trip would have seemed even longer!  In all fairness to the satnav, it was a straight line route from Auchterarder to Banff, but the road was soon so high that there wasn’t even a crow flying 🙂

I’m not at all religious, but I can understand why people might be – the landscape was divinely beautiful considering the spare colour palette – the chilly blue of the sky, the stark grey and black of the rocks, the loamy brown of last year’s heather and the startling white of the snow, reflected in the fast moving puffs of cloud above. The landscape was so spare that you could imagine a mere mortal’s need to fill it with some supreme being – it’s too much for a small brain to take in. The satnav took me on a merry shortcut along a single-track road which took me to the most remote place I’ve ever visited in Britain. Don’t ask me where it is – I could point to it on a map but there were no other roads, houses, people or other landmark – just sweeping valleys surrounded by layers of mountains – like some great….artichoke – all spiky on the outside and sweet inside! I stopped the car and stepped out – I couldn’t help myself. I was astounded by the silence – my head had been loud with the noise of the engine and my own thoughts; when I got out of the car it was so quiet I thought I’d gone deaf. The only place I can compare it to is the Australian outback – no sound at all, not even birds……

I’d been on the road for almost 4 hours by the time I arrived in Banff. By now I’d worked out that the volcanic ash wasn’t going to go away anytime soon and that I’d have to spend a large part of the evening sorting out my travel arrangements. Ah well, could have been worse, I might have had to watch to BIG political debate otherwise (ok ok I’m not a complete heathen, I did watch a bit of it – don’t ask!).

Needless to say, my dongle didn’t have a decent signal out in the wilds so there followed some frantic phonecalls to Richard. By 10pm my flight was cancelled; fortunately Richard found me a cabin on the sleeper train from Aberdeen to Euston so I was no longer trapped in the north. I got through Friday’s training before driving down to Aberdeen Airport to drop off the hire car. The airport was eerily deserted apart from one hopeful family sitting in departures with their suitcases – I hope they left soon afterwards – none of the shops and restaurants had bothered to open, though fortunately the loos were still accessible. I headed off to Aberdeen train station, with the prospect of a four hour wait for my train. Luckily there’s a huge new shopping centre next to the trains station, well supplied with a Costa and a Handmade Burger Co (as per our favourite restaurant in Brindley Place in Birmingham). Fortunately I quite like my own company so the time soon went; I had a truly terrible novel on the go so although I hated the read I did enjoy mentally abusing the author for the waste of ink and paper!

I was pleasantly surprised with the sleeper – I had a cosy cabin with a comfy bed, fluffy duvet and, my personal ‘thing’, very good pillows; there was also a washbasin and a solicitous attendant who took my order for breakfast and then delivered it many hours later just south of Rugby. It had all the ingredients of a good night’s sleep apart from the fact that it was on a moving train which ground and lurched its way over joints and points in the rails. Every now and then the train had long stops at anonymous stations – the perfect opportunity to sink into a proper sleep before the tilting started again – it’s a strange feeling to be compressed by the tilt one way, then equally stretched when it tilted the other way. Nonetheless, I arrived at Euston at 7.40am on Saturday, strangely (and unusually) refreshed. Armed with a large latte, I changed platform for a train to Leighton Buzzard to join Richard for a weekend’s boating.

3 Responses to “Odds Blog: Boats, planes, trains and automobiles…..”

  1. greygal said

    Ohhhh, I am so jealous!!! An overnight sleeper with brekkie in the morning! I’ve always wanted to do that in the UK. Did it in Thailand once and was ill all the way but that was just bad timing. Bloody bed creaked all night too. V. impressed with your resourcefulness though – LB must have seemed like a very long way from Banff!

  2. indigodream said

    Banff is a long way from ANYWHERE!!!!!

    I was very impressed with the sleeper – is was so much nicer that I expected, though I did travel 1st class! I’d recommend a cabin each – it would have been a big squash if Richard had been there as well. Obviously the greyhounds would need their own cabins 🙂

  3. Greygal said

    Cripes, a cabin each? That would cost me two arms and two legs!

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