Drenched? I was bloody soaked. Wringing wet like a school blazer floating in the Rochdale canal. It got to the point on Friday where, standing at the tiller steering us towards Kinver, I could actually feel my boots filling with water. If my feet could have imagined they were in a film, it would have been the Posiedon Adventure. Except they, unlike Gene Hackman in his white draylon polo-neck, were making no attempt to escape a total drowning. They just sat there – or stood rather - in my boots, taking it on the chin. As it were.
Despite, or even because of the Biblical flood happening in my footwear, I was having a magical time on this particular morning. The downpour started just as we were queueing to go into the brilliantly named Rocky Lock (I dearly hope it was named for the legendary halfwitted Apollo-Creed-mashing boxing champ rather than the fact hat it had been cut out of some big rocks). The rain was sly at first, spitting little spots when it thought you weren't looking. Then, as if realising it was not getting your attention it intensified a little, rhythmically pressing its weight behind the falling drops before going back to a nonchalant sort of spitting; the rainfall equivalent of a ne'er do well shoving his hands in his pockets and whistling up into the air just after he's scratched someone's car or thrown something at a cat. Instead of ducking inside like a sensible person, I gamely steered the boat into Rocky Lock despite the polite but clearly made protestations of Al who, like a cat, hates to get wet especially if there is a nice dry boat he can sit in. His logic became somewhat less refutable to me as the skies suddenly decided they couldn't be arsed with playing it coy and promptly opened themselves onto our heads. As I stood over the lock, laboriously winding up the paddles for the sluices it occurred to me that I might be drier if I just jumped into the canal. It was far from unpleasant, though, being rained on so hard that my head felt like a keyboard being pressed into service by a champion touch-typist in a bad mood. There was no wind to chill the bones and the water itself was not cold. I quite liked it, it felt a little like being very small again.
Alan on the other hand was not quite getting the same enjoyment from the experience. The rain had soaked his woolly hat so that the usually jaunty pom-poms on it were drooping disappointedly, making the whole hat seem to frown along with its owner. The heavy drippage from his hat, hair, beard, coat and shorts made it look as though Alan was melting like a colourful but despondent snowman. The lock navigated, we only needed one person on deck so I cheerily volunteered to stay out and steer. Alan cheerily went to sit in a nice dry boat.
Then the rain decided it was time to see just how much of itself it could throw at the ground in fifteen minutes. The answer is a shitload. The drops were so big they bounced triumphantly off everything, including the roof of the boat which they thwacked with such relentless sibilant force that they exploded into thousands of tiny droplets several inches above where they landed. The boat developed a three inch thick halo of droplet-mist that blurred its edges making it look like it was in soft focus. Visibility was bad and became decidedly worse when the cheery smoke from the fire that Al was so kindly making inside the boat emerged from the chimney and blew straight into my face. All around me trees were bowed under the weight of the downpour. The rain hit the canal hard too, pocking it with craters that were endlessly renewed before the water surface could heal itself again. I began to feel my jeans being sucked onto my legs, clinging to me, slippery and chilly. It was also about this time I began to feel my boots taking on water like a wrecked ship. No other idiot was standing about in this. Even the ducks were giving any stretch of canal without tree cover a wide berth.
I however was grinning like a happy lunatic. The weather – crappy in the extreme on the one hand – was, on the other hand making the world look gorgeous. The drenched dark green leaf canopy glossy and vibrant, the rain-mist rising around a guelder rose tree, is leaves turning an outrageous autumn red, the silvery canal surface polka dotted with raindrops, the boat looking all shiny and clean for once. It was wonderful.
I think I need to get to a city quick and get a bit of my cynicism back...