Posts tagged ‘Dentures’

March 17, 2012

Trials of an (almost) Honest Soul







Writing about boats recently (in another forum) brought to mind an incident involving a canal boat some time ago. An incident that was at the time witnessed by the-blonde-with-the-legs. An incident, the memory of which, sent her off into hysterical giggles on the one occasion when she let me get close enough to nibble her ear and harbour thoughts of Percy Filth without her clobbering me and going off home in a huff.

I don’t know if you are aware of it, but here in England we have the same problem with travellers (or tinkers) on the canals as we have on land – fortune telling, scrap metal, etcetera – basically they make a bloody mess where ever they go. Now I know that it was not so long ago that I was singing the praises of ‘Jess Smith’ and her wonderful poem ‘The Scotia Bairn’ and there are, without doubt good and bad in any society – Jess Smith left the travelling life a long time ago.

 It all started in a pub down on the canal, where some of the locals, so called friends of mine, decided that it would be a good idea to put one over on me…

 A guy had been in the pub asking if anybody knew anything about diesels as the engine on his canal boat was running rough and had taken to giving up the ghost at awkward moments. Anyway, to cut to the chase, I ended up one morning bright and early on the canal bank with my toolkit and a look of despair on my face as I realized what they had set me up for. The boat was a seventy-footer, six feet six inches in the beam with a family living onboard that consisted of grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, five kids, a dog and a cat.

The-blonde-with-the-legs, Samantha, had graciously consented to have lunch with me and we were due to meet up at the pub when I had finished.

The problem was that the grandfather and grandmother were the only adults onboard at that moment and unfortunately both of them had dentures. The National Health Service had issued the said dentures back in the days when they were called false teeth, this was about the time when the old king was a lad and in both cases the teeth no longer fitted.

 I tried to ask what was wrong with the engine and all that I got in reply was ‘gumph umph click whistle, click click mumph whistle.’ The kids were also onboard and they ranged in age from about twelve down to about three – so I got the oldest one to translate.

 Now aware of the symptoms, I got to work in the confined space of the companionway to the tiny aft deck and quickly stripped the top off the engine and removed the injectors and the pump. The injectors were send off by fast child to a local garage to be blasted while I cleaned the filters and replaced a couple of seals on the pump. I wanted the job done as quickly as possible as it was abundantly clear that both me and the garage were working for free – and I had a very important date.

 The injectors were back in, the pump fitted and bled in record time and I was ready to begin trials. During the time I had been working the cat had hissed at me, the dog barked at me and the kids had done their very best to get their thievin’ flamin’ hands on me tools.

I finished off putting it all back together and informed Fagin and his gang that I was ready to fire it up – it was 1140 am. The key was turned, the button pressed and the engine coughed, blew out a puff of smoke and started. I got hold of the tiller and shouted for the lines holding the boat alongside to be let go.

 There are no side decks on a canal boat and it is difficult to see over the cabin roof to the small fore deck and that is where grandfather and grandmother where. Four of the kids were in the cabin creating havoc in the living area, the three years-old was standing by me with a comforter in her mouth making sucking noises, the cat was on the cabin roof hissing and spitting at me and the dog was at the bottom of the cabins steps barking its head off after skilfully dodging me boot – it was 1145 and the exact moment when I saw Samantha approaching along the toe path. I cast off the aft line myself, leaned on the tiller, saw a hand raised on the fore deck so opened the throttle. The engine was quite powerful and was singing like a bird and the many tons of steel boat pulled away at a reasonable pace and headed off down the canal.

 Now, what I didn’t know at this stage was that it was the custom for the old boy (grandpa)  to let go the line then push the boat off the bank before jumping onboard. When I opened the throttle he had his feet on the towpath and his hands on the grab rail on the cabin roof – you’ve guessed it. The hand in the air was, in fact, his wife trying to signal me to stop as she held on to her husband with the other, and not as I thought a signal that they had let go the line.

The three years-old was able to see down the length of the boat from where she was standing and could see her grandpa, hanging on for grim death with his lower half in the drink.

‘gluggle, guggle suck suck gubble’ she said, just then the old woman’s head appeared over the cabin roof, ‘mumph, click click mumph grumph whistle click’, she said.

 The kid next to me took the comforter out of her mouth and gesticulating with it said ‘glug guggle guggle goodgy goo goo.’ By now I was convinced that she was trying to sell me the bloody comforter and I wasn’t buying – besides which she looked a bit shifty so I nudged her with me knee and told her to bugger off.

 Somewhere in the next few yards or so the old guy lost his grip and slipped into the canal and his wife stood up on a locker and ‘mumph, whistled and clicked at me at the top of her voice.

The engine was going like a song and I was feeling pleased with myself when I spotted the mother and father stood on the canal bank at a point avout a hundred yards ahead waiting for me.

 At this point I caught sight of the old boy in the water and the-blonde-with-the-legs rushing to pull him out.

So, I had: the cat hissing at me, the dog barking at me, granny ‘mumph and whistling at me, the kid bawling and the old boy doing a fair impression of someone drowning while doing the backstroke. On the bank was the mother and father, she looked like a Russian tractor driver on leave from a Siberian collective and he looked like something dark that I had once seen on a dockside in Marseille – smelled much the same too.

 They were not looking pleased with yours truly so I grabbed me tools, closed the throttle, put the boat into the bank and jumped ashore. Being fairly nibble, I had it away on me toes while they were trying to stop the boat drifting back out again.

 It ruined my lunch date, of course, The-blonde-with-the-legs couldn’t look at me without bursting into giggles and spilling her drinks.

Never saw that boat again, never got paid and to top it all they pinched me compression tester!

Soctia Bairn