"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde
The Caldon Canal is six inches deep and was built by the same sort of engineers who thought it would be a good idea to have five roundabouts in a single chaotic group in Swindon. It steps through the Pennine foothills in high-heeled shoes, wiggling like mad and hoping that its beautiful locks will take your mind off the next hairpin bend. To get here, I had a week-long holiday, boating with a constantly varying crew. It was bloody marvellous. The sun shone (mostly), the rain was short-lived when it came (in torrents), the landscape changed constantly and every other day brought good friends to share it with.
The canals of the Midlands are very busy. There has been a serious breach (that’s a ‘hole in the bottom of the canal’ to you) which like an accident on the motorway, backs up all the traffic as people try to find an alternative route. On the waterways, that can stretch your journey by a week. So it was exactly the right week to have time on your hands, and a stream of good company.
First I reached Penkridge with Russell, Fran and Boat Dog Bramble – then on to the quiet open water of Tixall Wide and to Stone with Shelley and Gilly (who threw up, I may have poisoned her). At Stone, a lovely reunion with boating friend Skipper Jon – then through Stoke with John Wood, and a sharp right onto the Caldon where cousin Andy and Sue joined us at the Hollybush for beer and wasps.
On the way I passed poet Emma Purshouse on her own boat: and all unexpected, I finally had the rendezvous I’d been wanting for five years – with Joe Hollingshead, a proper boatman who always said he’d ‘make a boat girl of me yet’. It was lovely to pull in on my own boat and have a chat with him.
Saturday brought another reunion with more boaters – Jon and Jayne in Birmingham, where we celebrated Jon’s 40th birthday and watched a gondola go silently by in Gas Street Basin. No, really…
Of course it’s back to work now (hence the late blog) and next week’s will be all about work… but meanwhile I’m moored at a mystery location on the Caldon. The nights are silent, the days are full of sunshine and wasps, and the natives seem friendly…
* You had to be there.