Alan is busy cleaning the hairs out of our shower pump. Apparently it is a “Man's Job” (his words, not mine), so I thought I would use the time to tell you all about our brush with Post Tunnel Stress Disorder. This is where we went all clumsy and giddy after having a near miss in a one mile long tunnel and I ended up in the minor injuries unit of Northwich Hospital.
I'd better let you know in advance that we are both alright. Not even a bruise to the upper arm sustained between us.
We have 'done' three tunnels; the Preston Brook Tunnel, Saltersford and Barnton Tunnels, all of which are in Cheshire, which is a gorgeous county, heretofore unknown to me. (I love the word 'heretofore', it makes you sound like a twitarse but it tumbles around in the mouth deliciously like a just-bitten-into chocolate digestive). These tunnels are long and narrow and pitch black and after 25 minutes splishing about in one, the Freudian connotations were not lost on me, no. It was in the second of these tunnels that the bikes on our boat's roof got caught up in what can only be described as the ceiling undulations. Quick-thinking Al slammed the boat into reverse as the bikes crunched their way between the stone ceiling and the roof of our boat. After a sickening wait, they finally ended up teetering over the edge of the handrails like two lemmings that had suddenly thought “We don't have to do this, do we?”. I walked down the side of the boat (only two inches wide, thrills-and-spills-fans) in the dark with the boat now free to float the half metre towards the side wall and crush me. Al's arms were acting as a strut. After close inspection I decided that we might well be fucked. There was no way we could reverse out of the tunnel. We were stuck. So Alan went down the side while I took over strut-responsibilities and after much faffing and fiddling managed to get his bike off the top and here's the impressive bit: one hand holding him onto the side of the boat, the other hand dangling his bike free of the boat and over the canal-water he walks backwards on a two inch wide rail and hands me the bicycle. I thought: Things might be looking up. Unfortunately, just as I thought that, my own bike groaned and unceremoniously plopped into the black waters of the canal. “Shit. Shit”. These last expletives from Alan who never usually swears.
In this moment, I was reminded of how in the previous tunnel I had handed steering duties over to Al when we were ¾ of the way through so that I could look back at where we came in. Everything was black save a little bright green arch gleaming like an emerald ¾ of a mile back and I was busy imagining an out of body experience (“Come to the Light, come to the light” and all that) when I looked round and saw Al's face reflected in the green light of the leisure battery charger. The black waters, the green face, the light ever receding and the ominous swirly watery sound made me suddenly feel like that bloke Orpheus who gets taken by the devil's boatman over the river Styx to the bloody Undeworld. Spooked myself, didn't I?
So when I saw my knackered but beloved bike of 12 years sinking into the black waters of doom I was not only a bit miffed but filled with dread. This was quite bad. We could now not move at all since the bike would damage our propeller and that of anyone who came through behind us. I was beginning to not like this tunnel. But I was beginning to appreciate my boyfriend in a not wholly new, but nevertheless highly pleasing way when he then said “I'll just pole it out”. Steady now. What he did was get the boat hook and, with my verbal guidance (a bit like the Crystal Maze but more dangerous) found the bike in the Death-Black-Hades-Water, hooked it and lifted it - one handed remember, he was holding himself up with the other – dripping like a new born er, bike out of the canal. What a hero. Then he went all funny with the stress and that, so I had do navigate us through that and a third narrow, dark, dread-tunnel.
It was when we got out of the third tunnel that the stress of concentration pulled the plug on my sensibleness and I hit my ankle bone on the cog of Alan's bike. This would've been OK had I not hit a vein – a non-major one thankfully but still with the force of my heart behind it. It was a tiny cut but it spurted claret like a wine taster enjoying a very funny but ill timed joke. It then immediately clotted and the vein began to swell like it was pooling blood. It got to the size of a gobby* before I had to sit down. Then it began seriously to hurt. So that is how we ended up at the Minor Injuries unit. No harm done, I was checked over and told it would really hurt for a bit. It does. But that cannot dull my enjoyment of Cheshire and the intermittent but happily throbbing sunshine as we chug off the Trent and Mersey canal and onto the Shropshire Union in our pursuit of a Welsh August.
I haven't told you about dalmatian man, have I.....?
* for those as bemused as the nurse at NHS Direct, it is a large marble. Not as big as a Queenie, but bigger than an ordinary one.