The Menace. 15th February


Dennis to us is an inconvenience, to others a very serious worry. Whilst others around the country today have been preparing for their houses to flood for the second time this month, boat owners are wondering if their homes will remain floating and the army are out extending incomplete flood defences, we can’t head off to where we’d planned. Well we could but Dennis has brought stronger winds and more rain than Ciara last weekend.

So today was a perfect day to head to the Library for me. I stood in line on the escalators behind some Japanese tourists who were obviously there for the views, following them up to Level 2. Here I headed in a different direction, I was actually going to use the library for what it was intended, reading!!!

Up into the library

Last night I’d had a look on the internet to check that the book I wanted was held by the library and was on the shelves. I was in luck, they had two copies. The website also gave me the Level of the library and the Dewey Number. When I was at school I was a librarian, a good way of not having to go outside when it was raining, so I understood how to find the book I was after.

822.9 AYC

A few of the 84 plays Alan has written

A line of Ayckbourn scripts ready for the reading. I picked up the play I was after and took a seat in the window looking in the approximate direction of the Farmers Bridge flight. Outside it was miserable, inside a touch damp along the way from my seat where a line of buckets caught drips.

A couple of weeks ago I’d been asked if I thought one of Sir Alan’s plays would fit on the stage in Vienna. Other designers have said the stage is too small as the said play requires quite a few doors, a balcony and a bathroom to be in view. If you know your Ayckbourn then you may be able to narrow the play down. A few more clues, a dominatrix, 2 wives and time travel.

I’m not alone in my opinion of Schoenberg!

I’ve seen the play at the SJT after I finished working there full time and it was in rehearsals for it’s London premiere when I was asked to go along to meet Alan in 1995, he was getting a bit twitchy about all the new staff coming to work at the new theatre. So I was aware of the basic story and how it had been staged in the round, today I took notes and got to know the play better, hearing the actresses I’d seen in Scarborough speaking the words in my head.


First thoughts, maybe it’ll fit. But I’ll need to get a scale rule out and look at their plans before I add my verdict to those given previously and I’m sure I know one of those designers, so I’m not holding my breath.

Our plan for today had been to head out along the new main line, hang a right at Smethwick Junction, up the three locks, then a left at Spon Lane followed by another left and up the six Oldbury Locks to find a mooring at Tat Bank so that we could go to the theatre this evening. But due to the Menace we caught the number 13 bus instead, which only took around half an hour and dropped us off at the end of Engine Street.

Titford Pump House during storm Dennis

At the far end a group of cars then a C&RT sign signalled that we were in the right place. Through the car park we then wondered where to go. A large door was open as the rain came at us sideways, but this was the C&RT services. We tried up some stairs, no joy there. Then a group of people came who looked like they knew where they were heading, the far end of the building, Titford Pump House.

Tonight we had come to see Alarum Theatre Company and their show Acts of Abandon. Alarum is made up of Kate Saffin a playwright, performer and amongst may other things a doyen of waterless toilets (composting toilets) and Heather Wastie, a poet, song writer and performer. Back in 2017 they toured their Idle Women show around the network with NB Tench recreating the journeys of the women who worked the boats did during WW2.

Tonights show had limited numbers (about 50) so we’d had to reserve our place during the week, this was due to the size of the room inside the pump house. This is where the Birmingham Canal Navigation Society meets, it used to house an old beam engine but now an electric pump does the job of pumping water back up the flight. We hope to get here during daylight hours soon and when it isn’t blowing a hoolie to be able to look round properly.


‘The Muck and Shovel Brigade‘ is a mixture of poetry, song and the history of the Droitwich Canals. How an act of parliament closed the navigation and a team of volunteers dug the canal back into life again after it had been abandoned. A programme is essential so that you can join in with the songs.

After a glass of wine in the interval, Kate took to the stage to recount the tale of ‘The Mary Rose, a boat of ill-repute’. A one woman show she plays all the parts from the two ladies who move onto an old work boat in Wolvercote on the Oxford Canal to the local landowners, police and punters following WW2. No-one had got round to repealing an 18th Century law that allowed a brothel to be on a boat. Armed with her trusty tea chest and an armful of costumes Kate tells a lively tale.

Heather and Kate at the end of tonights show

A very fun evening in an historic setting during Storm Dennis. If you fancy seeing the show then head to Tipton Green Methodist Church Hall on the 25th February after you’ve had your pancakes. They will be touring the show more, but in small chunks.

If we’d have gone by boat we’d have stayed for a drink but with one bus back an hour we headed to the bus stop and waited in the rain. Back at Sheepcote Street Bridge the level looked like it had come up, but Tilly had been keeping an eye on everything and all was well on board.

0 locks, 1 spotted in the dark, 0 miles, 822.9, 46th play, 4 doors, 1 bathroom, 1 balcony, 3 times, 2 buses, 2 shows, 1 tea chest, 1 windlass, 1 squeeze box, 1 glass of wine, 50 including 2 dogs.

What I’d come to read, Communicating Doors