Monday 20 May 2019

dropping a key down a grating

From Seend, it's an easy cycle ride into Devizes. And an even easier cycle ride back, as it's a long downhill past the Caen Hill locks. And as long as you can ride your bike back.

I was market day, so I browsed through the bric a brac at the Corn Exchange, then locked the bike outside the Shaw Trust charity shop. Coming back to it, I fumbled with the key, and dropped it down the grating that was in exactly the right place to accept it neatly.

I stared down the hole. There was a cone of nondescript grey stuff reaching nearly the top of a quite small space. I lifted the grating and lowered my foot gingerly, in case the grey stuff turned out to be guano.

It was solid concrete. I guess a builder had emptied their leftovers down there.

So I squeezed down into the hole, and reached around, feeling through the litter that had found its way down there. Couldn't find the key.

Tried getting back out. Couldn't get out.

By now a small but increasing crowd had gathered. A practical and helpful woman took my arm and heaved. She was joined on the other arm by a kindly polish chap. 

Eventually I emerged.

Smiles all round, except for an Elderly and Very Proper Lady who scowled at the inconvenience as she walked by.

Oh dear, how to get the bike and me back to the boat, a couple of miles away?

I'd passed the Wessex Rose hotel boat at the top of the Caen Flight about to descend it, and had an idea that I might be able to hitch a lift for the bike if I asked nicely. So I hitched the bike onto my shoulder and set off.

It got heavier and heavier by the yard, and the stops to change shoulders got more and more frequent.

Reaching the flight, I met an ex-boater I vaguely knew, who kindly offered a lift for me and the bike in his van, which was parked at the bottom of the flight. So we carried it between us. 

And so I got home, thankful for the kindness of strangers.

Sunday 19 May 2019

Poets Afloat - an anthology of canal poetry

On Tuesday I picked up the first edition of Poets Afloat, the collection of poems by people living on or otherwise connected to the canals, and most particularly the Kennet and Avon Canal. They offer an insider's perspective on life on the cut, its wildlife, people, and misadventures. 

There's some terrific stuff in there, from poets both known and previously unpublished; Michelle Smith, Audrey Nailor, Christine Rigden, Jinny Peberday, Georgina Beazeley, Fanny Gorman, Emma Whitcombe, Simon Kirby, Sarah Jean Bush, Gail Foster, Sarah Kitcatt, Ann Drysdale, Louise Tickner, Jo Stait, and me.

20% of profits from the sale of this book go to the Floaty Boat Fund, helping keep vulnerable boaters in their homes.

As usual, you can get it directly from my boat (if you can find it!) or in Devizes Bookshop and Ex Libris in Bradford on Avon.