The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde

Portraits and Pontcysyllte

 

‘Welcome to Chirk’ says a big sign – ‘Home of the Cocoa Bean’. This surprises me, as I thought the cocoa bean came from somewhere even more exotic than North Wales . Still, the sign outside the Cadbury factory does explain why the canal below it smells of chocolate.

On Friday, dear readers, I sat still for four hours. It was a revelation; I must do it again some time. Portrait painter Graham Kershaw lugged his easel down a Shropshire towpath to paint me as part of his Poetraits project. Graham is painting six poets with connections to the West Midlands. Our portraits will go alongside our self-portrait poems. Sadly, Graham did not wear a beret or ask me to stretch out naked on a tigerskin rug, but he was patient and charming, and produced something rather too like me in a single sunny afternoon.

So far so good...

So far so good...

Earlier in the week I went with friend and collaborator Hannah Fox to Derby Hospital, to visit the growing collection of historic medical thingies which we curate there. On Thursday Joy Winkler and I were interviewed on Canalside Radio, which broadcasts to twelve people in the immediate vicinity of Bollington. We plugged Fourpenny Circus and other gigs, including our June 9th appearance at Ronnie’s in Macclesfield (in costume, folks – brace yourselves) for the nice people at the Loop.

The working-and-boating life makes logistical demands at the best of times. This year, my perverse whim to travel down the Llangollen Canal ‘because it’s there’ takes me far from my usual workplaces.

Basking in the Welsh sun

Basking in the Welsh sun

I am now actually in Wales – so I make an occasional foray like those above, dash to the Derby studio to collect books, then return to the boat to work and plan. With internet access I can work anywhere – but that’s sporadic, as you’ll have noticed from the irregular blogs. Is it worth all the palaver of driving to and fro, with early starts and late nights? Damn right it is.

Never more so, in fact, than this weekend. A wide-eyed crew of poets and physicists (no, really) joined me in Chirk to tick off the biggest feature on the Canal Spotter’s Big List of Waterway Wonders – the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.

From below...

From below...

This is the whole reason for travelling down the Llangollen. Tinker inched out into a narrow iron trough of water 127ft above the valley bottom, in broad sunshine.

Bloody hell

Bloody hell

Skipper John took her over the first time and made it look easy; I brought her back and realised just how hairy it actually is to stand on the back of your boat looking right down into the Dee. I’ll do it all again next weekend with a crew of best friends. It’s too much to hope for sunshine again – but I just bought three bags of coal, so (on the same principle that washing your car makes it rain) surely it will be hot for several weeks now?

Boating in the sky

Boating in the sky

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2 comments on “Portraits and Pontcysyllte

  1. Andrew Denny
    June 3, 2009

    You should have given us a link to ‘poetraits’. Harrumph, now I’ll have to do my own googling 🙂

    Not to mention the physicists and canalside radio.

    • jobellonline
      June 5, 2009

      Andrew – have put the links in now! It’s a bit time-consuming to do the links so I’m not always able to do it while the boat is on the move – my internet connection often depends on paid-for access at libraries. But here they are now – enjoy them….

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