Monday, 17 September 2007

The horror the horror

Never get off the boat!

Well, where was I, oh, yes, NEVER GO TO BRITAIN’S HEART OF DARKNESS (the MIDcockingLANDS). I went there for 5 days came home and have been sick ever since :( !

It was all Britain’s leading beer writers fault, he’s writing a new book about Indian pale ale (sorry for sending you to a beer blog they are really strange people aren’t they and so very intense but at least you now know what’s happing underneath all that hair!) and to avoid spending too long in the British library BLBW had the idea to take a barrel (don’t you mean actually a PIN say the hoards of hairy leather flagon wielding beerspods….)of the stuff from Burton on Trent to India by surface (sea) travel to recreate the original 18cth trip. Which is a very long winded reason for why I spent 4 days in a barge going slowly northwards from rugby.
(Sorry for the lack of original pics a pile up between a camera phone and a dodgy lap top etc.)

Messing about in Boats…
On the whole barge trips are good, once you are use to the slow pace. It’s all quiet calming. The countryside from Rugby to Burton is a pleasant mix of fields, woods and edgeland (the limits of suburbia, Brownfield sites. slag heaps etc).
The country was turning to autumn, literally one morning the leaves started to fall. Every bush was covered in blackberries, apples or sloes all very mellow and fruitful.
So we had a jolly time.
I do have few gripes/observations: you don’t really want to hear long boring lists of the cheese and beer we consumed or long evocations of the “in jokes” I re-heated over and over with some of my oldest and best friends, do you really.

Observations & Gripes
Narrow boaters are the provisional wing of the camping and caravanning club.
On the face of it full time Bargees are a friendly and jolly bunch. Except they never give an inch, I don’t know if its their old shoulders that doesn’t let stir out of the way but they will happily mow you into a hedge rather than give an inch of water.
Also they all seem to exist in a strangely Daily Mailesque mini world; Victoria Wood once said that caravanning is for “people who can’t bear to more than 10ft from their own dish cloth” but living in narrow boat is this to the very max, plus everything is painted with flowers or is on a doily.
One other strange thing was that almost every other boat we passed had a half life sized knitted Rosie and Jim dolls in the window. Now having watch r& J with my nephews I can’t see what the fuss is about yes it set on narrow boat but it’s a rubbish kid’s show, certainly not anything adults should celebrate. Except and perhaps here’s a thought, that much like pampas grass in 70’s use to signify the homes of “swingers” maybe, just maybe these dolls are code for something…..

Julian Cope tribute gardens
One of the enjoyable and fascinating things about railways and canals is that they are the backdoors of the UK. When they were built we turned our backs on them and in doing so revealed our most private quarters. We all enjoy staring out train windows at the backside of Britain but on the canals you get a longer look due to the slow speed. One of the most interesting things is that contrary to what the colour supplements etc say Britain isn’t garden design mad. If fact out of the several 100 back gardens we glided past, very few looked like they had any over all thought to them at all. Middle England seems to like random borders, scratty grass, plastic patio furniture, broken shoddy concrete steps, horrible blue slate mulch and concrete cocking garden ornaments. The latter I’ve seen in garden centres but wasn’t aware how many people like them. There are more comedy herons, owls and frogs than people in Britain. Also did I turn over two pages at once again and miss the memo about mooning or worse flashing gnomes being funny?
The other thing that was strange was that most of the gardens didn’t seem to refer to the canal at all a few had seats etc next to the water but not many seemed to want to show the canal boaters their best side unlike one imagines their front gardens.
One last thing in about 1-3 to about 1-8 gardens all along our 60 mile journey were afflicted by a strange blue plague; we noticed it first in Tamworth. This contagion comes in the form of garden trampolines; virtually every house with kids had one. This may be old news but it was astonishing how prevalent they are. On slight thing that occurred to me as we passed through Tamworth was that the only thing I know about the place other than something about pigs is that it’s the birth place of Julian Cope who had a hit with a song called …………”trampoline!” May be to celebrate the Arch Drood these are a modern form of earthwork which observed from a projected astral eyed spells “fried” in giant bright blue plastic letters.

Next time: were not to eat in the Midlands and what a 140 year pint tastes like…!

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