Over the last couple of days we’ve watched boats come and go. People have been choosing where to sit out storm Ciara. We decided to stay put. The lack of trees here is appealing although there is Tilly’s giant climbing frame outside. Here’s hoping the chaps have secured it very well!
The white card model for The Garden has been started and will be continued today. The theatre it’s in is a cellar which has a vaulted roof and maybe I’ve got a touch carried away recreating a suggestion of this. It may have been a waste of time as the pillars may end up just being covered by a black serge curtain, but it’s more fun to make.
Ballet shoes have arrived in Huddersfield for the actors, six months before the show. All fit apart from one actor who despite having size 6 feet in width they are around size 5 and 4 in length. This of course means his shoes are a touch dangerous as they are a bit like flippers. He has two pairs of shoes in normal life which have been made for him. Our budget will not spread to custom made shoes, so after asking various of my Costume friends for advice a few wider fitting pairs will be ordered in smaller sizes and maybe a combination of pairs will work for him.
Yesterday evening the winds began to build. Mick had tied all the planks and poles to the roof and brought the life buoy into the cratch to save it blowing away. We were then reminded about our ash can as we heard it’s lid blowning across the towpath! Thank goodness it wasn’t blown into the cut. It is now stowed under the pram cover.
Overnight the wind has blustered us on and off. The gusts increasing this morning. On Thursday we’d been to stock up on water and diesel at The Distillery and when we’d returned I’d used the fair leads on the bow to help us achieve ‘outies’ as the bollards are a touch too close together here.
There was concern for the fair leads this morning. So Mick has been out to brave the gusts and rain to retie us straight to the bollards. He’s also added a spring line with the hope that this will stop us from bumping around all day.
Unless anything else outdoors requires attention we shall all be staying inside for the day. Especially Tilly as we really don’t want her to get blown away.
Stay safe my friends, stay safe.
0 locks, 0 miles, 1 boat remoored, 1 spring line, 1 model on it’s way, 2 pairs to make one, 3 years since broken ankle, 5 years since first contact from CID, 0 shore leave, 1 protesting cat, 1 flood siren sounding in Hebden Bridge, Aire and Calder closed, Calder Hebble closed, 1 boat under a tree on the Shroppie, 15 inches down on the Bridgewater level, 31 yellow 5 white reaches on the Thames yesterday, but will they survive the storm!
Time to dig out the model making and paint box from under the dinette. With cushions off the corner of the dinette, top of the seat lifted and the freezer pulled out I could access the boxes below. As soon as there was any gap Tilly made sure she filled it and had a good explore.
Asking her to vacate such interesting places doesn’t work, but closing the door or putting the lid on for a few seconds usually works. The wood covering the storage has two large holes cut in it to aid air circulation, they are also used as hand holds. They are just about the right size for our mini cat to come through too!
With my boxes out I was able to start on the next part of my design for The Garden. The auditorium layout. The Lawrence Batley Cellar Theatre has no fixed seating, they have different ways of laying the room out for performances, none of which quite meet our criteria. 60 seats with good sight lines to the floor, a playing area of 4.5 to 5m, wheelchair access for both performer and audience.
I then could start to draw up the basic set using pre-made fencing panels and a gate. I’m hoping this will keep the build costs to a minimum. Everything was looking like it fitted perfectly, but then I checked fencing posts dimensions, each an inch smaller. I decided to see what happens when it’s built.
By now it was time to high tail it to the cinema. The prices around here vary quite a bit. The Odeon Luxe £12.50 another £15 each, we opted for the dated Odeon at New Street £5 each if you don’t book in advance. With a late afternoon showing we hoped we wouldn’t be fighting for a seat.
How few people work in cinemas these days? You buy or collect your ticket from a screen and printer. Two people were on the concessions stand, 1 checking tickets, a cleaner and someone to keep an eye on the projectors. 5! It also seems almost impossible to see what films are on. If you know what film you want to see it’s easy, but if you just fancy going to the pictures, does anything take our fancy? Well that’s a hard one.
Today however we knew what we wanted to see, 1917.
Set, obviously in 1917 during WW1, two young British soldiers are tasked with delivering a message calling off an attack doomed to fail soon after the Germans had retreated to the Hindenburg Line. The retreating forces had cut the phone lines so the only way to get the message was by foot.
Co-written and directed by Sam Mendes, the film is based on an account his grandfather told him. Filming took place last year over three months, the film to be shot in what appears to be one continuous long shot. I was aware of the long shots before seeing the film and was amazed when the first shot just kept coming and coming and coming, in and out of dug outs along trenches, up over the top. To start with I was watching out for where a shot might end and the next one start, but the story of these two young soldiers took over.
The camera work is amazing, how did they get the camera up over obstacles, across mud that the actors were slipping and sliding in along trenches amongst hundreds of soldiers and it all to be seemless. If you are interested here’s a link to how it was done.
Two credits at the end surprised us, a Midwife and Weather Consultant. There is a baby hence the midwife. The weather also played an important part. With filming as if one continuous shot there had to be constant weather for continuity. With the camera able to swing to an angle no lights could be used, so natural light became even more important.
The cast is made up of well known British actors, the bigger names having higher ranks in the army, but far smaller roles in the film than Dean Charles Chapman and George MacKay who play the two messengers. What a performance by MacKay. No wonder it’s getting lots of awards, highly recommended.
On our way back to the boat we popped into Tesco for some broccoli to accompany our meal, but then realised it was already quite late and mackerel bake takes getting on for an hour in the oven. So instead we took our head of broccoli for a Nandos, we know how to show greens a good time!
0 locks, 0 miles, 60 seats, 1 small off cut, 1 smiling man, 2 x 3ft, 1 x 6ft, 1 x 3ft x 6ft gate, £5 each, 4 annoying teens, 1917, 1 landline cut, 1 extraordinary length to deliver a letter, 61 plasterers, 60 carpenters, ????? computer animators (we lost count), 1 midwife, 1 Dr weather, 1 familiar face in the background, 1 broccoli head wined and dinned, 0 cats harmed in the taking of photos.
We’re here again! I’ve nearly finished mapping out all the good bits of the sideways trees around here, at least it isn’t the severe BUMingham with only bricks! She says we might be here for a little while so I shouldn’t use this outside all up at once. Well I’d nearly done that the last time we were here!
But I do have extra bits to explore. This outside has grown a climbing frame, most unexpected.
There has been a group of Toms expanding it today. It’s going to take some calculations but I think it shouldn’t be beyond my abilities. The bottom bits have had nice spongy things added to them. These are not quite as good as tree trunks, but quite good to claw, a different texture. More importantly they should be able to give me good grip whilst I start my ascent up the poles.
My Feline Design Assistance is also going to be needed very soon. ‘The Garden’ is my kind of show, sideways trees and a fence to sit on. She has got the go ahead to make her model so I’m going to be busy helping. Apparently this model won’t have any poisonous chairs in it.
Lower Ocker Hill Branch to Cast Iron Roving Bridge, Birmingham
We popped back out onto the canal shortly before 11am, heading eastwards towards Birmingham. The hope was to get up Ryders Green Locks before too many people were about, the area has a reputation.
Below the locks had far less rubbish than I remembered when we came through in June 2018, it being earlier in the day might have had something to do with it. The bottom lock was empty waiting for us, a good sign, maybe.
The first pound on the flight is longer than the rest and goes under several bridges before reaching the next lock. Mick took it steady under them. The middle bridge is a foot bridge leading across to Poundland and Asda. Asda may have a shortage of trolleys at the moment as most of them seemed to be in the canal! A few more stood close to the bridge awaiting their turn.
Wheels and legs of trolleys appeared just below the surface a couple just rising far enough to grasp a gasp of air. The sedimental trolley layers seemed thicker towards Asda, deeper water could be found towards the centre. However the depth wasn’t quite enough for us to just glide over the tops with the occasional bump or scraping.
A few attempts of forwards and reverse were needed to help settle the metal wheeled cages below to give us just enough depth to pass on wards. It took a little while but we made it. C&RT will be well aware of what lies below the surface here, but we’ll double check with them when the office is open.
At the next lock I walked through the boat to reach the bow to get off, not wanting to risk getting stuck on more trolleys. Here the local drinking club had already convened. As I walked up I said a jolly ‘Morning!’ to them. One chap congratulated us for having got through the last pound, but wanted to show me something. He walked me to the top of the lock and pointed across to a low wall by Poundland. Here a fence had been broken and part of it was floating just above the lock. ‘When we left last night it was dark, but the fence was still there’. ‘I’ve tried to get the wood out of the canal, but not managed yet’.
He was very familiar from when we came through last time. Chatty, helpful and on at least his second can of Scrumpy Jack of the morning! As I opened the gate he and his two mates managed to pull the fencing to the side and lifted it out. ‘I’ve looked for the rest of it, but it’s nowhere. Just be careful’ as he put his rubbish in a bin bag by the bridge.
Back in 2018 the locks were locked by C&RT over night and we’d arrived at this lock heading downhill just as it was about to be padlocked. The boys in blue helped us down, they were playing an everlasting game with the local youths of cat and mouse. Lock beams being lifted, pounds drained, trolleys, general vandalism, so none of what we were encountering was unexpected.
The chaps insisted on closing the gates behind us, meaning I could walk on ahead to the next lock. Here I found some more of the fence, now burnt by the bottom gate. At least it hadn’t been used to try to burn a lock beam, a foot thick of oak beam takes a lot of fire to get it going thank goodness.
As I started to fill the lock I found more of the fence, sitting by our bow. Once the level rose we lifted it out. No doubt tomorrow it’ll be back in the cut, we just didn’t have enough space on the roof for so much fence.
Each lock now was empty, apart from the very top one. I signalled to Mick that I needed to empty it, a touch hard when there’s a bridge right over the bottom gates. He pulled back a touch and I lifted the one paddle I could unlocked. The surge of water was doing it’s best to drag Oleanna towards the gate, but Mick would engage reverse and keep her away…. wouldn’t he….?!
I could hear the engine doing it’s best, but still Oleanna kept coming. I dropped the paddle as quickly as I could, but she’d got momentum behind her now. Luckily there was only a slight biff to the bottom gate, no damage done.
Oleanna had picked something up around her prop again, hence the prop not doing what was asked of it. Luckily the wind wasn’t going to affect us today as we were in a bridge hole. I held onto the centre rope to stop her from drifting back and forth too much whilst Mick got down and at one with the weed hatch.
The prop mate did it’s job, thankfully removing a length of twisted razor wire, the pond gloves would not have survived this. Plenty more came away from the prop and filled the stern deck. This was all put on the roof to dispose of later in a bin, if we’d just left it on the towpath it would only end up back on someone’s prop and they might not have a prop mate!
Now with power restored I could empty the lock safely.
At the junction we resisted the temptation to go down the arm, we’ll save that for another day if we feel brave enough. On to Pudding Green Junction where we turned towards Birmingham City Centre.
There was work to be done and as all Mick had to do was continue in a straight line I bobbed down below to bake some sundried tomato bread and finish off my costume reference for The Garden.
Familiar landmarks went past. Three central reservations and the round pillars holding the M5 above our heads. Then the Soho Loop and Oozells Street Loop, time to have a break and help moor up. We winded and returned to where we’d been a couple of weeks ago with the hatch on the towpath for Tilly to make a hasty return to the boat should she need to.
The bridges were full of people, plenty of youngsters all heading to the Arena to see Hot Wheels Monster Trucks Live! Blimey they were a rowdy bunch, buying checker flags and horns. Think we preferred the Strictly Come Dancing Audience of a couple of weeks ago.
8 locks, 7.37 miles, 7 straights, 1 right, 1 left, 1 wind, 1 tunnel, 2 times under, 2 layers of trolleys, 2.3m razor wire, 2nd Scrumpy Jack by 11am, 1 coconut, 1 broken fence, 8 actors with reference, £20 over budget, 1 sundried tomato bread loaf, 1 pair socks finished.
Angelsey Basin to Riddian Bridge, Daw End Branch BCN
Despite drizzle and a touch more wind than we’d expected we moved onwards today. Retracing ourselves back to Catshill Junction we passed the two Fountains men tidying up the towpath again. One trimming the hedge, the other cutting the grass and then blowing away the cuttings.
Along this stretch is a line of painted stones, done by the local school, I’d wondered what would happen when the chaps arrived at that stretch. It looks like the stones were just driven over by the first tractor which pushed them down so hopefully the second one will just skate over the top not affecting the painting.
At Catshill we turned left onto the Daw End Branch. For most of our miles today we seemed to be on an embankment above houses and light industry.
At Walsall Wood Bridge a group of volunteers were hard at work picking up rubbish, scraping the moss of the edging tiles and cutting back trees that were trying to take hold in the brickwork. All the time a very tall fisherman looked down on them. The sculpture is by Luke Perry (the same chap who did the sculptures along the Dudley No2 canal) and is part of a sculpture trail through Walsall Wood. Originally the sculpture had a fish hanging from fishing line, a lucky catch but sadly the fish is long gone.
There is also some heavier industry. Through the trees we could see what could only be a large mound of spoil, was it from the coal industry? Rubbish? A large hole alongside suggested something was being dug up. Further investigation suggests it was a clay quarry used for making bricks.
The large McKechnie Metals Ltd building now stands empty, no glass in the windows, just distorted skeletal metal framework. McKechnie Brass was the last brass extrusion manufacturing company in the country. They used scrap brass to produce brass rods and profiles for alsorts of products including pins for plugs, padlocks, lift tracks and overhead conductive wire for the railway industry. Sadly the firm went out of business in 2013, having accrued millions in debts. The site is set for redevelopment, but the 116 page document I found was going to take too long to read to find out what exactly the site will be used for.
We had our eyes set on mooring at Park Lime Pits Nature Reserve. If we found a space away from the car park and railway line Tilly would have a fine time. There are rings here, but there was also a cruiser tied to them. We tried a little further along with no luck.
I stood at the bow watching the depth of water as we went, hoping the bottom of the canal would drop out of view suggesting there was enough depth to pull in. We tried several times and eventually after half a mile found one spot that apart from the last foot was okay. Here we were surrounded by fields and not too many woofer walkers.
I really wanted someone to come out and play. I kept coming back to ask them, but they wanted to sit and finish off their smelly cheese!
A pot of butternut squash goulash was popped on the stove to bubble away all afternoon whilst I tried to do a bit of work collecting reference photos for costume designs for The Garden. Have to say emails from the Viennese English Theatre kept distracting me somewhat. Wonder if anything will come of them?
Being right next to a water point it made sense to get some washing done. Our bedding was first in the machine, followed by a load of clothes.
A block of butter was chopped up and left in a bowl on the proving shelf before breakfast to help soften it. Some baking was on the cards this morning. First a Dorset Apple Cake, this was then going to be followed by a Sundried Tomato and Parmesan Loaf, but a message came through putting that on hold.
Emma and Ted the other day had forgotten to hand over our latest post from my brothers, so they were going to call in on their way south. We’d be about half way so a good pit stop. But their time was going to be limited so no quick lunch just a cuppa and a wee break.
Then about an hour later my phone rang. Leaving York had taken time and if there were any more hold ups on their journey south they would end up having to pay for the hire car for an extra day, an expense they didn’t want. So could they post our post onto us?
Some thought of where to post it to is needed, my first thought being my brothers! The envelopes were gone through to check for anything time sensitive, nothing urgent it could wait a little. But the biggest shame is not getting to see them again this trip.
As the washing did it’s thing the wind blew the scummy scum outside on the cut back to surround us. A number checker came past. Tilly watched all the geese and moorhens with great interest, following them from window to window. And I got on with sorting costume references for The Garden. One question I have is should I make my own combat trousers as there will be plenty of off cuts when I buy trousers for two of the men?
0 locks, 0 miles, 0 shore leave, 0 post, 4 costume references sorted, 42″ waist, 19.5″ inside leg, 1 alteration of plans, 2 loads of washing, 1 pooh bucket, 1 big cake just for the two of us, what a shame!
Mooring at Pelsall wasn’t just so that Tilly could have a run around and for me to do some work, it was also for us to be close to the road network.
With visitors due Oleanna had a tidy and a sweep through this morning. Then to encourage Tilly to have some outdoor time I finally got round to washing the port side windows. The cratch window is the best, I get to lie on the top by the horns and watch the cloth and newspaper go back and forth until the outside can be seen clearly again.
The travellers were delayed, there had been a crash on the M1 and they had stopped to help. So the stern or Oleanna got a good sweep down and a rinse off with canal water, followed by the gunnel. If they were held up any longer I might of got round to the flithy roof and cabin sides.
A check on progress and they were almost with us, time to smarten up a touch and head for the pub. The Fingerpost Pub was boasting a new menu, food served daily 12-3pm, we’d not bothered to check. But they had let one of their two chefs go, so no food on Mondays or Tuesdays! We loitered in the car park, there were several more pubs in Pelsall to choose from.
The bridge over the canal had a car drive into it a while ago and there is a contraflow of traffic over it. Will the bridge be mended or will a planned new bridge be built to replace it? Locals are not in favour of a new improved bridge as this would attract lorries to the area, the old canal bridge would remain but for pedestrians. But for now the towpath is closed and traffic takes turns to cross.
There was waving from the car at the front of the queue! They had arrived.
Emma my Bestestest friend and her son (my Godson) Ted are over for a visit from Sydney for a few weeks. They had originally been coming to visit Teds Grandmother in Ireland, but sadly she passed away before Christmas. This means they are now hurtling around trying to catch up with as many friends as they can. Last night (their first) they had enjoyed the hospitality of my brother, then we were their lunch date/pit stop whilst en-route to the Peak District to see Emma’s Aunt.
Time was ticking so after big hugs all round we hopped into the car and headed in to Pensall. We passed The Fingerpost which as it’s name suggests has fingers pointing in four directions.
The first pub we came to was the Old House At Home, a Marstons pub, the car park was busy so it looked hopeful. Yes they were still serving food, phew! We settled down for a good catch up and some okay pub food. Having said that the Yorkshire stack with cheesy mash looked interesting.
It’s been over six years since we saw last Ted, he turned 21 late last year, what a handsome tall young man he is. In between labouring for a building firm (in 40+C recently) he is studying law. Emma we last saw when Oleanna was still spanking new and we loitered around London to meet up with her nearly three years ago. Lots has happened in that time and we only just managed to scratch the surface, a late night drink with Emma on our own was really needed, but sadly not this time.
After a couple of hours we got a lift back to the boat, well to the other side of the canal where a footbridge crosses. This was a much better way to approach Oleanna, sitting on her mooring in the middle of the common, viewed from the top of the arched footbridge, very romantic.
Ted had a guided tour and met Tilly, who was quite sociable for a change. Well I knew he was important and wouldn’t be staying long.I think Emma was a touch relieved to see that we live a cosy life in winter with our stove burning 24/7.
Far too soon it was time for them to head further north. We waved them goodbye as they crossed back over the bridge to the car. The only way to get to spend more time with them is to visit Australia, we haven’t been for over a decade, maybe my next design fees should be saved up for a trip!
0 locks, 0 miles, 1 broken bridge, 1 tidy boat, 6 clean windows, 1 cat assistant, 1 bestestest friend, 6ft+ of Godson, 2 Aussies enjoying our clean air, 2 chilly Aussies, 2 Yorkshire Stacks, 1 Hunters chicken, 1 steak and kidney pie, 2 glasses of wine, 3.5 pints, 2.5 hours so not enough, 1 thumbs up from Huddersfield, 3 envelopes forgotten.