This morning, after breakfast, I opened the hatch of our lovely boat Hawisia.
To my surprise I saw something in the late-September sunshine that I did not expect to see: two men outside on the tow-path, right by Hawisia’s cruiser stern.
It was almost midday. I had some housekeeping tasks to do, but I noticed that these men (Cockneys by the sound of it) were still lingering on the tow-path beside the boat.
A few minutes later, after putting on my blue linen smock coat, I locked up the boat and approached the men who were where I had seen them last. They were talking eagerly, but they had also seen me emerging from the boat galley and clearly expected me to say something to them.
Cued by their eyes, the words tumbled from my mouth,
“What have you found there?”
No sooner had I said it than my eyes were directed away from their faces, towards the boot of the second man. His foot was delicately poised beside an object nestling on the grassy bank.
“A hand-gun,” he said. “Forty year old.”
“We called the police. They’ll be here soon.”
The gun was small and rusty, covered in a blanketing of furze and underwater slime. It did look ancient – perhaps the guilty partner of some long-forgotten crime chucked anxiously into the canal to avoid detection.
“Where do you find it?” I asked, amazed.
“Right by your boat!” One man replied jollily. “Maybe it’s yours!”
“It’s not mine – I’m a pacifist!’ I replied, not knowing what else to say.
We all laughed. I unlocked my bicycle from the rack above the boat and slung my lock round my waist. What a find! And right by the abutting rear-end of our Lister engine compartment.
The water is very shallow in this part of the Grand Union canal and in good weather you can see the sediment and murky detritus on the river bed very clearly from the bank. They had seen it, and plucked it from the gloomy waters like oyster catchers or divers. Who knows how many years it has lain there, unremarked, at the bottom of the Regents Canal?
N.B. Since writing this blog entry I had noticed several interesting objects languishing at the bottom of the canal in states of semi-liquid preservation. The River Lea, where the waters are deep are especially good hunting grounds. Once by Fish Island I noticed an entire sofa-bed, motorbike and car sunk to aqueous depths, their presence half-revealed and half-unannounced by the rippling water.