We've finally done it. The long awaited Muddy Waters anthology is with us, and I hope you'll agree it's been worth the wait. It's a bumper size, with 84 pages of fun and facts. We even see our intrepid heroes take on their longest trip yet. There's much more detailed information about some of your favourite characters and a new layout to a very familiar story too. We love the new look and hope you will too. Check out some of the content below and get ready for the biggest and best Muddy Waters book yet.
You could be forgiven for thinking I'd missed a possessive 's' from the word swan in the question above, but all is not as it seems. Boaters will know that a swan neck is the swooping arm at the rear of a narrowboat which connects the tiller to the rudder. It's an essential part of the boat if directional control is important to you.
For most boaters, being able to steer in the right direction is quite important, although I have noticed plenty who regard full contact with other boats, locks, bank sides and anything else nearby quite amusing. Well, just how easy is it to bend this robust piece of solid steel? As it turns out, very easy indeed - if you don't pay attention when turning around in a tight spot. Pushing the tiller over and looking ahead is common, and sensible. Arguably, it's far better to see what's in front than worry about what's behind you. After all, this isn't a pantomime is it? Except that sometimes, if someone is shouting loudly, 'Behind you, behind you!', it may not be a warning about some scary monster or Widow Twanky but a fellow boater advising of impending doom.
So, if you happen to jam the tiller on the wrong side of a large fixed object on the bank, don't put full power on in the opposite direction or you'll break your neck, your swan neck that is.
One of the joys of an english summer (sic) is being able to cycle along the towpath. At least, it should be. There seems to be a growing number of canal and river users who really dislike cyclists interrupting their particular pastime. Boaters, fishers, runners and walkers seem to be able to find an accommodation for each other, but cyclists tend to be frowned upon. As a boater and frequent walker of the tow path I personally welcome our two wheeled friends. The more users of the network the better and cyclists bring their own contribution to the life blood of the canals.
It's true that some don't help the cause by riding too fast, failing to give way, or generally behaving badly. I've encountered a few, but the vast majority have been polite, responsible and cheerful. Over the past couple of years, however I've witnessed a growing number of 'angry' people on the cut. They come from all quarters, but they're a particular breed who want to vent their spleen at every possible opportunity. They seize on every misdemeanour as if it were a capital crime. And the cyclists seem to be at the top of the angry brigade's hit list.
I love the waterways and the diversity of users. I love the friendliness of the people and the way they'll say, 'hello' on the towpath when they wouldn't dream of doing it on the pavement. I love the colour, pageantry and splendour of the boats as they glide through the water. And yes, sometimes people do silly and inconsiderate things which might need a word or two, but don't be angry; life's way too short for anger.
It's bedtime. Not your bedtime, the kids. You've had a busy, hectic and stressful day. You're looking forward to finally sitting down, putting your feet up and relaxing in front of the telly. You just need that moment to yourself. Before you can do that, you need to bath and settle the children down and get them safely tucked up in bed. It sounds easy, but as most parents know it can be a challenge, a battle even.
If things aren't going well, some children will sense it, seize on your apprehension and play up even more. It can be tempting to turn to threats, 'If you don't get into bed, it's no story for you!' For some, it will do the trick - children used to being read to hate to miss out, especially if there's a particularly juicy bit of the story coming up.
But some parents, you-know-who-you-are, find it all too much and slip into the habit of allowing the iPad or tablet to do the reading. You know it's wrong, but surely it's better than no story at all, isn't it?
The truth is, that moment, that pause for breath as you open the pages and dive deeply into another world is a true moment of magic for you and any child. In an instant of true togetherness it is possible to fly to other kingdoms of hope and magic, to laugh and dream, and drift quietly into slumber. Of course, it's better if the reader stays awake, but who hasn't been prodded awake by an indignant son or daughter after an especially trying day?
So, however tempting it is to 'give it a miss this time', remember they're not little for long and those bonding moments last for ever.