Up bright and early this morning - as I have been every morning, in fact, since this summer finally began - and set off with my bag full of clean boating undies, and another one containing the contents of my Beanies organic vegetable box (did I mention I accidentally landed in the painfully trendy bit of Sheffield?) down the hill to the station. Even at eight in the morning it was sweltering, and I would have succumbed to the temptation of getting on the bus, only I didn't have enough change and I couldn't face the bus driver's look.
This time I was off to Watford Junction, where Iain verybkindly met me and took me to meet Chertsey at Cassiobury Park, where we are attending the IWA National Festival (or 'The National' as the cognoscenti know it). You may recall that I was not relishing a weekend of being entertained by Sheridan the Robotic Sheepdog.
I've not been to many Nationals - we went by car to Beale Park and Preston Brook, and in Warrior to St Ives, and that's it. The thing thatnpeople are noticing about this one is that there isn't actually very much emphasis on boats. Cassiobury Park is a lovely park, but the main festival site is a long way from the canal. There are only about eight historic boats here, and we're not really displayed to best advantage. I don't know how many other boats have come and are strung along the towpath, but they certainly don't feature heavily in the publicity material.
On the field there are some of the usual stands, but I don't think it's my imagination that there are fewer than in the past. No Waterways World; no boatbuilders; strangest of all, no CRT fundraisers... There are lots of food stalls and a beer tent with about half a dozen real ales.
There is no mud, which must be a disappointment to the Wergies (or is it spelt WRGies?). The whole site is very pleasant indeed, and our towpath mooring most agreeable. The temporary infrastructure that has gone into this weekend is very impressive, and there are dozens of volunteers making sure no one leaves by an incorrect exit. The are some nice little bits and bobs to buy (but the best ones have already been snapped up of course). Best of all we have met up with the Plovers and the Owls and the Warblers (Izzie on Bath has accused me of having a bird fetish and this will only bear it out).
As for the festival itself, I shall reserve judgement until tomorrow at least.