The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde

The Slow Machine


It’s not all like this, you know. But quite a lot of it is.

‘Can you write a half-hour ‘docupoem’ about your life on the canals?’ said Mair Bosworth, the BBC producer. Yes, I thought. Of course I can. Piece of cake. Easy.

Reader, it wasn’t easy. There were too many stories to tell. Broken rudders and glorious adventures; hangovers and heartbreaks; comical interludes with rude mechanicals (some ruder than others); moments of stillness in city backwaters; exhilarating trips and giddy canalside pubs; hearty adventures that nearly sank my boat. Which journey would tell the whole story of thirteen years afloat?

I explained the difficulty, and in passing mentioned my own recent commission – I had just ordered a new boat from X R & D. As its completion date got closer, I was getting ready to say goodbye to my first boat. We talked about falling in love with Tinker, about how much boat and skipper have changed together. ‘That’s your journey,’ said Mair. ‘Right there. Your time with Tinker, and how it feels to lose her.’

So that’s what I wrote. In mid-June the programme, Slow Machine went out on Radio 4 at 4.30pm. The response from boaters and bank-bound humans has been just amazing. If you want to hear it, it’s on iPlayer until mid-July – click here. Or if you’re reading this in time for the repeat on Saturday 25th June, it’s on late at night, 11.30pm.

In the meantime, here’s a little taster of those thirteen years, with thanks to all who have joined me on the journey so far. And if you feel a powerful need to buy my book, which includes some of the material from the show…. find it here.


The Tinker Years from Jo Bell on Vimeo.


5 comments on “The Slow Machine

  1. Peter Raynard
    June 11, 2016

    Looking forward to it. You are such a good writer of prose, any plans of a poetry/prose memoir?

  2. Jo Bell
    June 11, 2016

    Oh I say. Yes and no. But mainly no at the moment 🙂

  3. wyldegreen poetrywriter
    June 11, 2016

    I’m looking forward to your radio broadcast next week Jo! Usually at that time on a Sunday, I’m ironing my shirts for the forthcoming week.

  4. What a lovely life with Tinker. We tend to remember the disasters (eg arriving at the boat to find 9″ of water in the cabin; getting wedged end to end against the banks and the pole breaks) but my overall memories are peaceful, studded with herons.

  5. Jude Shields
    February 16, 2017

    great action and poetry on nationwide advert brilliant jude x >

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on June 11, 2016 by in Boating life, Readings and writings and tagged , , .
%d bloggers like this: