Today's Canal People

 The sorts of people who you may meet on the canals etc.

Most people you see on the canals will be going in the opposite direction on boats or on the towpath. You should give them the "nod", tilting your head to one side, head top to the left and chin to the right if you’re right handed, and open and close your mouth slightly as if saying Hi or Hello. Then look away. However, if you meet people at locks where more interaction is unavoidable, just how you respond depends on what type of boater they are. Here's how to recognise some of them.
FamilyFamily on hire boat. You can often recognise them by the identical yellow waterproofs and sou-westers they are all wearing. Smaller ones may have matching lifejackets and be quietly sobbing while holding on to numerous ropes which may or may not be tied to the boat or the lock or each other. One individual will be bellowing instructions at the others. This is the dominant male or "father" and he is completely unaware that you can hear or see him behaving like a tyrant. His eyes may be bulging dangerously. Use the "nod" to anyone but him, and then leave them to it. (How to work locks correctly!) GangGang of friends on hire boat. These too may be in matching waterproofs but there may be any number of bellowing males and they will be working at least three locks ahead because they are in a hurry to get to the next pub, and the one after that. Empty lager cans may be scattered across the boat roof. Sympathise with some of the females who thought they were coming on a nice quiet holiday, they have probably packed party dresses and high heels, and then stand back and leave them to it.
Live-aboards. You’re more likely to see them moored up, recognise them easily by the firewood stacked on the boat roof. Nod and refer to the weather but don’t comment on the washing hanging from the tree or ask them where they live because, believe it or not, they often think that them living on their boat is a well kept secret! Ask if the water level is down. Wealthy family. Recognise them by the wine cooler and glasses on the roof, the matching sweatshirts with the boat name and a general nautical feel more often seen at the yacht marina. Compliment them on their boat, help with the lock if you like and you may get offered a can of lager (specially carried for such situations) or a small coin.
Retired folksRetired couple. These are nice people with lots of time who have sold their house and now travel the canals going to rallies and showing people pictures of their grandchildren. You can recognise them because they have brought their garden with them and it now covers the boat roof. Talk to them about their garden gnomes and grandchildren and think of kind excuses to get away, unless you really have lots of time. EnthusiastsCanal enthusiasts. Recognise them by the uniform, brown cord trousers, white collarless shirt with red neckscarf and wide leather belt with a windlass pushed dangerously through it. Sometimes they even wear blue overalls! They are important people busy keeping a tradition alive, so look impressed and ask if their boat's a Josher and has a JP. (Don't worry about what it means - it's actually a type of traditional narrowboat and a diesel engine.)
The rest of us.... are nice people who like to talk about the weather, water levels, cricket and the best local supermarkets. You'll need to think of more excuses to get away again!

(Many thanks to Shirley Froud for the rather fine drawings!)


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