After the thrashing from Storm Doris I'm surprised that there are still hazel catkins hanging limp, waiting. There are daisies too amongst Doris's debris, flowering among storm-strewn branches along the verges. My botanical knowledge is sadly lacking but i do recognise a patch of celandine, like fallen stars, unfolding on the banks next to the canal. Wordsworth was a lover of celandine - seeing them as symbols of the returning sun He used their petals cooked in lard as a treatment for piles and his enthusiasm for them was such that they can be found carved on his gravestone.
As I meander gently along my circular route the early morning sun elicits a kaleidoscopic dazzle of olive, emerald and violet - but on this stretch there's a perishing wind which seems to have persisted for weeks - it pushes through my garments and chills me to the bone. Up ahead I see two cyclists battling the headwind - and although I'm not moving quickly I can see I'm gaining on them. I hang back slightly, not wishing to overtake but soon I'm up behind them. They are a couple, man and wife, he with a large box somehow fixed, precariously, with bungee cords to his bike. He glances round to spot me as I settle in behind and moves into the side to allow me to pass - "It's okay I shout, "just admiring your saddlebag" - he laughs and says something but it's lost in the wind. Then I notice that inside the box is a dog - a Pug to be precise. There is a polythene window at the back of the box and two ventilation slits cut into the sides. The dog looks happy enough though. "He'll go to sleep in a minute" the man informs me.
We chat as we cycle along. The couple have sold up their house and jettisoned their belongings in favour of moving onto a narrowboat moored at Market Bosworth. He tells me how they've spent their first winter cuddled up next to the wood burner that he had installed - "Beautiful warm" he says "Good insulation as well" I'm interested enough to start questioning him about this but unfortunately they turn off at the next junction. As they swing off I can see that the dog has indeed settled and looks to be sleeping.
|The barge man - and his dog-box!|