Depending on where we are, the Captain usually likes to go out for the occasional constitutional at night, so always has free access to the big wide world. Sometimes he’s out for a quite a while, but he usually stays close to the boat; when it’s cold he often just sneaks into our cabin and curls up on the bed by our feet.
Sunday night / Monday morning was cold, and he snuck in soon after we went to bed after the hard day’s Morris watching. At about 06:00 we realised he wasn’t on the boat, and probably hadn’t for been for some time. A quiet call and whistle unusually had no effect. By 07:30 the towpath rush hour was in full force: lots of noisy trains, lots of people rushing to the station on foot or bike, joggers and dog walkers too – exactly the sort of thing he doesn’t like. So, thinking he might have been confused by us moving the boat, we got up – at 07:30!! – and quietly trawled the towpath and undergrowth for a couple of hundred yards in both directions, to no avail. Even the friendly local winos (or more exactly cideros) already camped out on the bench hadn’t seen him.
By 08:30 and another trawl, there was no sign – not even blackbird alarm calls, usually a reliable indication of his approximate whereabouts – and we knew something was definitely up. Wondering if he’d somehow got aboard another boat, we decided it was still a bit early to go banging on cabin doors.
At about 09:15 there was a knock on our rear cabin door: a young lady walking her dog, (with whom we’d passed the time of day several times before) said “This might sound like a funny question, but do you have a blue cat?”
“Yes!” we said, whereupon she said.
“Is it on board?”…
Moored about 100 yards down the cut, it turned out that at about 02:30am she, her partner and their dog were woken by a pitiful yelling noise, and found a small grey and rather thin drowned rat wailing on their rear deck. Taking him in, drying him off a bit and giving him some chicken to eat, the dog sensibly kept it’s distance, while – normally reticent with strangers – Biggles climbed up on the lady’s shoulder and nestled into her neck the way he only does with people he loves and trusts. And then, after a little doze and further drying session on a hot water bottle, he sneaked under the couple’s duvet for more love and affection, while the dog watched on jealously.
Once back on Song & Dance, Biggles was so appalled at the possible risk to his reputation that he went straight into celeb mode, and applied for a super-injunction to try and keep the names of the couple out of the papers (“to avoid causing them any more embarrassment”), but the judge refused to grant it.
The paparazzi are rumoured to have some photographs of his night on the tiles, but they have yet to reach this august publication… if they do surface, rest assured we will publish and be damned. Any emails concerning this event sent to firstname.lastname@example.org are assured of confidentiality.
In the meantime, our thanks to Kara (Cara?), her partner and dog on Dragonfly for being so understanding with our small grey love rat. He doesn’t seem to be any the worse for his skinny dipping night on the tiles.
Actually, we were rather impressed with the Dragonfly crew: even though expecting their first able-seaman/seawoman trainee in June, they had boated from Cambridge to Oxford in 12 days. It took us 6 weeks just from Ely, last year. Must try harder!