Monday, 10 October 2016

Catching up

That's a nice tug – oh it's attached to something big
We've been doing some catching up so now it's time for the blog to do some catching up too.
From Rugeley we headed down to Fradley Junction and turned right onto the Coventry Canal by the famous 'Mucky Duck' –'The Swan' to non-boaters. Few boats were moving through the Fradley locks – they were all moored up, leaving no space for us so we had to press on.
We just cant seem to keep away from this place
We were only heading three miles down to see our old mates at Streethay Wharf but they were some of the slowest miles yet. Boy, does this stretch of the canal need dredging: it's never been deep but it's a silt soup these days. And not helped by some notorious nasties like the narrow Dutch barge by the A38 bridge which hasn't moved in at least five years – and hasn't had a licence either. It's been there so long nature is starting to reclaim it: trees are growing round it and the canal bottom is building up a mudbank round it. Handy for those of us who do enjoy moving.
It's been here so long, nature is reclaiming it
But it was good to be back at Streethay for a couple of days and see some of the same old faces still there from the days we refitted Harry – Mark and Andy the fabricators, Gareth the joiner and, of course, Tina, Terry and Nick Bellamy.
We went for a meal with Tina and Terry down to The Plough, canalside at nearby Huddlesford. It was a pub which opened up and shut down with depressing regularity in our day but is currently thriving. And, judging by the Range Rover Evoques and flash Audis in carpark (as well as the price of the beer) it's not thanks to us parsimonious pensioner boaters either.
Goodbyes said at Streethay (I'm sure not for too long – we can't keep away) we retraced our route back up the sludgy canal to Fradley and then up the Trent & Mersey once more.
Fendermaker's boat with a see-me-at-work interior
Along the way I admired a fendermaker's boat with a big glassy workroom in it. A bit further on I started to admire a handsome old tug coming round a bend towards us before I realised that it was attached by a long line to a butty it was towing. Which if I didn't stop admiring and start steering I might likely hit. Which wouldn't have been a good thing as it was the famous Saturn, the last horse drawn fly-boat in existence. A fly-boat, in case you don't know, was intended to travel non-stop day and night with teams of crew and horses to deliver perishable or urgent cargo along the canals. This one was being crewed by an old uni friend and his wife – but no time for catching up as we passed with just a wave.
At Great Haywood we left the T&M, swinging left under the narrow bridge that takes us on to the Staffs & Worcs Canal. But we didn't go far - stopping to walk back and take a browse along the trading boats grouped at the canalside. Among them were more old chums, Jo and Keith Lodge of Nb Hadar. They were selling Jo's delightful canal and wildlife cards and Keith's colourful rag rugs – more traditional canal crafts than the next door Pirate Boat's plastic swords and skull and crossbones flags.

Shall I buy a plastic sword or a pirate bandana for Seadog Brian?
Paths crossed and news exchanged for another few months we moved on a short way to the wonderful Tixall Wide – a stretch of canal made to resemble a lake to appease the local nob whose land the canalbuilders' wanted to cross. And good for Lord Nob, it's a terrific spot. And very handy for practising your 180 degree turns.
Then, to end a weekend of catching up, who should hove into sight from the opposite direction but Sue and Paul on Nb tug Chug. We'd met them for the first time back in June at the classic transport rally in Lymm, gone our different ways and spiralled serendipitously back together here four months later.
And and as Mrs B had just cooked a family sized chicken and ham pie and Sue and Paul had some wine that just had to be drunk, we all squeezed round Harry's table and caught up with a summer's worth of news and gossip while reducing a fine pie to crumbs and some bottles to recylables.
That catches up our catching up.

...and finally:

Gives a whole new meaning to the notion of a bath chair

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