Archive for the ‘canal path’ Category

A busy weekend

June 25, 2013
High summer at Burton Dasset

High summer at Burton Dasset

I’ve been dashing around as usual. Friday afternoon was a picnic in the hayfield that is Burton Dasset hills – one of Marion and John’s several farewell celebrations. Followed by a brass concert in the church. I downed an antihistamine and a couple of glasses of pink fizz – survived fine! The dogs had a lot of fun with the kids who were there, and totally ignored the sheep (good dogs!)

Sheep everywhere

Sheep everywhere

John and Marion may need to re-jig their visit to us in France, to fit with their house move. If so, I can linger here a bit longer and maybe do some more boating – actually staying on board for more than just overnight at last , which would be really good.

Then on Saturday I went out to the boat (very reluctantly – feeling tired and a bit scared after all this time) only to find as usual that it was wonderful on the canal path, fabulous on the boat, and terrific going through Bascote locks.

the ladder locks at Bascote

the ladder locks at Bascote

(Another anti-histamine, and a silk scarf to keep the dusty polleny wind out of my hair. Just about an adequate defence.) As I was walking the boat into the first lock (very slowly and carefully) another boat came up behind me, the Tumbleweed, with a friendly couple on board, boating down from Cheshire. So we went through Bascote locks together, and I could stay on board for the ladder lock. The dogs were impeccable again – the Cheshire boat had two beautiful black collie-cross-German Shepherds on board – very calm dogs.  Ours just noticed that they were there and then politely ignored them. Perfect. Then on to moor at the Cuttle Bridge at Bishop’s Itchington, and a celebratory pint (of Eagle, naturally) at the Two Boats.

the Two Boats pub by the canal at Long Itchington

the Two Boats pub by the canal at Long Itchington

that's not me holding it - but it's a nice picture of a pint  Nobody at the Two Boats was dressed like that!

that’s not me holding it – but it’s a nice picture of a pint.  Nobody at the Two Boats was dressed like that!

So boating woke me up – and I charged off to Heydon that evening to stay over with my stepson and his family. Little Jimmy (their new Cavalier King Charles spaniel puppy) is very cute and ebullient.

Jimmy the Cavalier

Jimmy the Cavalier

They are all well and OK, but quite clearly not coming to France this year. They have heard of tick-borne diseases which really do sound nasty.  Maybe we should get tick collars for our three.

Sunday morning we went up to ‘the forest’ (Jubilee Wood, near Royston) – a perfect place to walk when it is windy and hay-fevery, as it’s so calm under the trees. The kids were rather disappointed to find that the log swings that used to dangle from high branches have all been cut down. 9Vandalism?  Health and Safety?)  The dogs gradually got used to one another – going for a walk together is definitely the way to do that!!

Drove back to Leam on Sunday through absolute downpours of rain – and arrived feeling pretty spaced-out and tired all over again. Aahhh.

Good news  here at home on Monday – the builders’ surveyor came, and said that they will build the gorgeous (well, cheap and cheerful) lean-to conservatory beginning on the 1st July. Exclamation marks hardly suffice to express my amazement and joy at this time scheme.

Today (Tuesday) I was supposed to be lunching at The Leopard, at Bishops Tachbrook, (yet another pub where one of my kids used to work) and catching up with a  friend who writes poetry and has had recent heart operations. At the last moment, my beloved VW Passat wouldn’t start – no sound from the battery but a click.  I speculate: flat battery? (unlikely); stuck starter motor? (do diesels do that?); immobiliser accidentally switched on ? (quite likely).  So we met nearby – a short walk along the canal to the (dog-friendly) pub, The Moorings.  We had a conversation about health, rather than one about poetry. –  and the food was excellent. Right now, therefore, I need to choose between watching Wimbledon on TV, and phoning the AA. 

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Walking the Eagle

September 28, 2010

It’s only a short walk from our house to the Eagle Recreation Ground, where the dogs can run freely. We go there nearly every day, via a short quiet street of new-ish development, past the flats and through a clanking metal kissing gate, onto a canal path, then over the footbridge, past the ugliest building in Leamington (and possibly the whole of the Midlands, for its size), and onto the green, littered spaces of the Eagle. 

Today: the canal path.  It passes under a railway bridge and a footbridge.  For years men in grey suits came from time to time, and looked earnestly at the railway bridge from underneath.  They made notes on their clipboards.  There came a time (am I remembering this correctly?) when they wore bright yellow hard hats: the uniform of the engineer.  The bridge was being watched.  You could hear the drivers throttling down, and crossing the bridge on dead slow – another sign of mistrust. 

Passenger trains were on their run-in to Leamington station, but some were massive freight trains that took ages to cross.  Those huge blank-sided freight cars that look as if they are secretly transporting nuclear waste rumbled heavily past in endless lines, or else there were flat-beds filled with cars, or the long chains of exotically-named containers (orange Hapag Lloyd, grey Maersk,), bringing a whiff of the ocean deep into our Midlands. 

 I felt well justified in running through under the bridge if a train was coming, and found myself thinking in newspaper headlines (‘Freak Bridge Collapse’ or ‘Dog Walker Killed’).  A train that fell through the bridge would drop a carriage, slanting down, jagged and awkward.  It was always a plunging carriage that my mind’s eye offered, never a locomotive.  And of course it would be the gruesome deaths and the injuries to the passengers that would be reported, not the dead dogs underneath.  We would be small fry to them.  

the Tay Bridge disaster -

Primitive gothic  images of  rail disasters flickered in my mind.

Superstitiously – that primitive belief in sympathetic magic – I tried not to think these thoughts, in case they brought bad luck and actually made the bridge collapse.  Then my son started to be afraid of trains: he was lying awake at night, listening for them, and it turned out that he actually knew the timetable – knew when to expect them.  Goodness knows how long that had been going on for.  How long does it take a nine-year old to detect these things?  So I had to start to conceal my fear – maybe I had created his.  Long afterwards, out at the stables where I rode, my horse started to refuse to go under the railway bridge there.  One day I tried to make him go underneath it while a train was crossing, and he bolted with me.    A complex and humiliating experience – matter for another day. 

Then the day came when workmen arrived, tearing up the Eagle to make a road, ripping out the fine lime tree that stood by the railway line, cutting through the pleasant bank of silver birches that gave the Rec its sense of privacy and enclosure. 

 I chatted to workmen – they were busy but friendly.  The bridge was being replaced – they needed the road the bring through the biggest crane in (somewhere – the world? The Northern hemisphere?  The UK?)  Anyway, it was going to be enormous. 

monster crane

The change could only happen on Christmas day as that’s the one day of the year when the line could feasibly be closed.  They would work all night and in twenty-four hours it would be running again.  It felt like something from myth – a heroic feat of co-ordination and planning, of skill and machinery and sheer manpower.  And on Christmas Day, too, that central mythic moment of the turning year.  Would the crows or the odd late rat speak to them as they worked? 

“That’ll be good overtime” I said, not wanting them to claim too much martyrdom.  “Quadruple?”

“Oh, more than that,” they happily replied. 

“But what about all the destruction?  This damn road?”  I was starting to feel more accepted – courageous.

“That’ll all be put back, good as new.  That’s part of the contract.” 

“You can’t put that tree back – they take fifty years to get to that height.”  It had been at least ten feet around the base, and the stump had a raw desperate look that made me feel sad and angry, both at once.

They weren’t embarrassed – something else could grow there.

It was exciting then: to have this inside information.  I planned to go out late on Christmas Eve and then early Christmas morning.  Such a marvel of engineering doesn’t often happen locally.

Late, in the dark and cold, all that very still evening, their arc lights made the scene brilliant.  It wasn’t even very noisy.  The canal path was roped off, and so they were working in the distance, tiny yellow figures clambering about on their coldly-lit stage, and the crane moving infinitely slowly through its parabolas of lifting and lowering.  Dismantling was taking a very long time. 

Xmas Eve demolition

slow demolition

Christmas being what it is, I didn’t actually get up quite in time to see the climactic moment when there was a gap – when the bridge was down and nothing at all could cross it.  It must have happened around five in the morning, I guess.  By the time I was there again, great dark green pieces of metal were being tenderly swung into place, and already it was anticipating completion.

lowering gently - seen through wire mesh

on the canal path – Halloween 2009

October 31, 2009

Along the canal path the evening was just turning to a darker, bluish grey dusk – not quite night, and luminous under a pearly-grey cloud cover.  The street lights were on already, though not yet strictly necessary.  As you walk beyond the centre of town, you come to a part of the canal where there are no more street lights.  From the distance I could hear music with a heavy beat – a bit like the sound that comes from the karaoke pub, only louder and more distinctive.  I was moving towards the sound, and it was getting gradually louder.  There were strange unearthly echoing aspects to it, something like a vibraphone or a theramin.  Brief shaking glissandos as if from a musical saw mixed with streaks of thumping white noise.  Blending across all that was a kind of masculine hubbub – if three or four voices can be called a hubbub – of shouting and singing.

A surreal sight was moving erratically toward me: two very bright lights beamed out, dazzling, and a third even stronger flailed around, hand-held and flashing yellow light and huge shadows onto the grey bricks in the curve underneath the bridge.  What was behind the lights was dark and indecipherable – intense and wayward, at first almost sinister.  As we closed, more lights were visible – the canal boat had a brightly lit interior, glowing out like a stage set, unselfconscious and with no attempt to draw curtains or make the interior private.  It was, I suppose, the most un-private human habitation I have ever seen.  Indeed, the interior looked quite bare – as if scarcely inhabited at all.  A hired boat obviously, with a negligently drunken crew moving forward at dead slow.  A stocky dark figure at the front reeled slightly and raised a can in a kind of greeting.  I tried out feeling censorious: no good.  The moving lights, the voices and the music made it seem full of vigour and oddly joyous.

I had reached my turning point, the dogs bounced forward towards home and supper.  A canal boat usually travels at about four knots: a walking pace, which can become a bit embarrassing.  Perhaps these revellers were being cautious – sober enough to know that they were drunk – and moving at about two knots, so we outpaced them easily.  In this week’s local paper there is a report about a drowning in the canal: I wondered whether perhaps this was a wake.  If so, it was a good one.

Behind me, a ragged shouting cheer rose from the Lords of Misrule, who had run their boat sideways into the next bridge.


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