Monday, 2 August 2010

The lockie's lot

First aider, p.r. man, handyman, shopping adviser and local historian - there's a whole lot more to being a lock keeper than you might think if Mike Thompson, one of the Diglis Basin lockies is anything to go by. In fact actually operating the locks is probably the smallest part of his job.
Mike's a quiet affable chap who's a mine of information about the basins and their history - as well as knowing the nearest shops and the best spots to moor.
He can also spin some hair raising tales of accidents - only the day before we arrived a woman slipped when jumping off her narrowboat on the river landing stages, cracked her head on a stanchion and fell into the river. Luckily she came up conscious - and even more luckily Mike was working nearby and able to haul her out.
"She had a massive gash on her head," he recalled."I told her it was only a little cut to keep her calm - and then the ambulancemen came and said 'ooh, look at that huge cut on your head!"
He's seen many similar accidents - often to kids who dangle arms or legs over the sides of the boat as it goes into the lock. Another happened to a boat on the river: a boat went too close to an overhanging branch and swept the helsman straight off the back -- two women were sitting on the front chatting and completely oblivious. When they looked round, he wasn't there: fortunately after they turned round they found him in the water clinging to the branch.
On Sunday afternoon we spotted Mike heading off on his bicycle - I thought he was going home for his lunch but later we ran into him higher up the locks. The levels had got low in the basin and he'd been up the locks shepherding extra water supplies through. His 'patch' goes right up to Lock 8 and he can get more water sent down from higher up if needed but he has to see it carefully down through his locks to avoid wasting any 0ver the weirs.
It's a complicated business - and Mike does it with tact and good humour. It's people at the sharp end like him who keep the waterways working.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A dying breed, if BW has its way !!