Category Archives: Theatre

The Beast. 29th February

Operational Mooring to Town Basin to Operational Mooring, Walsall

In an ideal world we’d have pushed off and headed up the locks today, but with storm Jorge having already buffeted us about last night we weren’t sure we’d be going anywhere . We’d decided to wake earlyish for us, check the forecast for the next few hours and then formulate a plan.

The sun was out and it seemed calmer than last night. Forecast, the winds would build and it would be wet at times. We could make an early start but to get to a mooring we had several hours to cruise and we already know about the amount of rubbish that awaits us on the curleywurley. The thought of getting something major around the prop with strong winds was not a good one.

No help from Tilly today

Should we head back into the basin so we could get off the boat and go somewhere if we wanted to? This would mean we could get a Saturday newspaper. Was the wind on the operational mooring being funneled by the tall buildings? Or would this be worse in the basin? Would the pub have live music on tonight? All these questions and Tilly wasn’t helping us with any answers!

That’s grown!

First it was breakfast time for the sourdough starter. The cabbage had done it’s job and there was a distinct rise in the jar. I removed the leaves, drained off any fluid then added another half cup of flour and the same of water and gave it a really good stir. I then marked the level with an elastic band so I could see easily how well it did during the day.

With the winds set to increase we decided to head to the basin and see what it was like there. Taking care on the slippy pontoon we pushed off up to the junction where the wind whizzed us round. Blimey it was cold, neither of us had prepared well enough for the arctic blast. Back in town we moored up where we’d left yesterday, keeping the Costa customers entertained over their flat whites.

Once a cinema, you’d never guess

As Mick headed off to get a newspaper from WHSmiths I checked out what would be happening at Bar 10 tonight. A tribute band and a DJ starting at 9:30 going on till late! When Mick came back we easily made our minds up that sitting in a wind tunnel would be preferable to not being able to get to sleep due to music and rowdy drinkers.

We backed away from the pontoon, winded (a little bit harder here) and returned to where we’d come from. Once tied up we could relax, break the news to Tilly she wouldn’t be going out again and have a cooked breakfast.

There you go.

Looking up to the proving shelf I could see things were happening to my starter. I could swear it grew everytime I looked away. The level crept up the inside of the glass, had I misread the instructions and bought the wrong sized jar? This was only day two, that cabbage had given it ideas above it’s station, would I need to sit it in a bowl to catch it if it grew over the top? Instead when there was only an inch left of air in the jar I moved it off the shelf onto the table where the cooler temperature should slow it’s growth.

A couple of hours after breakfast
A couple more!

During the afternoon I found my ground plan of the theatre in Vienna. I then made cut outs of sofas, baths, doors etc and started to arrange them on the plan doing my best to keep the important elements within everyone’s sight lines. If only I could grown the downstage area by 1m each side, would a corner bath work better? When were corner baths brought in?

Bedroom door too close to beams

I spent a couple of hours nudging the furniture around trying to find the best solution, then added into the equation the height of their stage and needing to be able to see over the back of a sofa as to what was happening on a balcony US. This would mean having several steps up to the balcony, where could they go. Was there enough room to get a large laundry basket through doors Down Stage? Could I move the balcony Down Stage? What if this went there? Or that there?

Steps to the balcony and the prosc widened

I sent an email to Vernon the Production Manager with a few questions, like could I make their proscenium wider. I’m waiting to hear back, I already know the answer but it’s worth asking.

Almost breaking out of the jar

By 9pm, the beast in the jar was needing feeding again, it had deflated itself so I plucked up the courage to take the lid off and give it a feed. We’ll see if we have to fight our way into the main cabin in the morning.

Jorge has buffeted us about for most of the day and given us some sunshine along with hail stones bouncing in through the mushroom vents. Here’s hoping it calms down enough for us to get up the locks tomorrow.

0 locks, 0.9 miles, 2 winds in the wind, 2 moorings, 1 newspaper, 1 tribute band, 1 inch, 4 inches, 7 inches! 1 beast in a jar, 4 options, 2m extra wide or no space for actors, 2 troublesome balconies, 1 extreamly windy mooring, 59 views from facebook, are we being talked about?

Day 2 Evening.

Reached top of the jar before deflating. Liquid drained off and fed again

Currier To Saddler To Badger To Peace And Quiet. 28th February

Walsall Town Basin to C&RT Operational Mooring, Walsall

This week is Real Bread Week, I’ve been meaning to get a sour dough starter going again after my few failed attempts before Christmas, so this week I was determined to get one going again. I’d stocked up on Sorghum flour a while ago, so I decided to use this as a base. Some research brought me to yet another guide to making a sour dough starter. They are all pretty similar ingredients wise, but some have you stirring several times a day, others feed once a day, others three times a day, some with the help of grapes, others red cabbage.

I decided to follow Fresh is Real as the loaf of bread Chantel makes at the end of it looked really tasty and involves no eggs, so might be a little bit less like cooked batter, hopefully we’ll see! I decided to add a leaf from a red cabbage to help kick start it, these have natural yeasts on their leaves. I’ve also bought myself a set of cups so that I can add my ingredients by volume rather than weight, along with a bigger jar.

I’ll keep you posted as to how it goes through photos, like I do with TV signal thumbs up/down/sideways. First photo from this morning at the end of todays post.

The Leather Museum

Windy and sleety this morning so we headed up to The Leather Museum just a short walk past Tescos. Housed in a Victorian factory the museum opened in 1988 after being renovated by the council. It follows the towns story from a small market town to an internationally renowned saddle making centre.

Saddle

Here in Walsall, the town of a hundred trades, saddlers and harness makers had excellent supplies of horse bits, stirrups and buckles. During the 19th Century the demand for saddlery grew enormously. In 1801 there were 29 saddle and harness makers, a hundred years later this had risen to 6830. During the 1st WW huge quantities of saddles were made in this factory for the army. Then cars took over and many of the saddlers had to diversify,here they took to making hand bags supplying Marks and Spencers.

Part of the workshop display

The area was plagued with the aftermath of mining for limestone and subsidence meant that most of the surrounding buildings had to be demolished. But the museum buildings were deemed to be fine examples of Victorian Industrial Architecture so the mines underneath the buildings were pumped full of concrete.

Colourful

We arrived shortly after a coach party, they were being shown round which might have been interesting to be with a guide, but we could take our time instead. A room full of skins, large small, pig, cow, goat, alligator. Some soft, some thick and stiff, others embossed to look like snake skin. Yellow, black, brown.

The real thing and imitation

Skins need to be processed to stop them from rotting, tanning. Oil, oak bark, smoke, bone marrow even brains have been used for this process in the past. The softer the leather the more smelly the process seemed to be, using pigeon droppings and dog excrement! Once tanned it is taken by Curriers and worked with tools to make it into all types of leather. Thick, thin, stretchy, shiney all sorts.

Different patterns and textures

Modernisation was brought in, chrome salts were used to speed up the tanning of the hide meaning it took days rather than months to react. Splitting machines were used cutting down on the amount of leather that was wasted.

Spikey spur

Leather workers then took over, working the hides into saddles and harnesses, attaching stirrups, stuffing saddles with wool and straw. In 1922 unions came to an agreement with the factory owners with regards to pay, no one had even thought of the Gender pay gap then and children worked along side their parents helping to keep the costs down.

Thats quite a Gender pay gap

By 1900 the economic boom had brought great wealth to the town, the population grew and factories were built on the back of lucrative army contracts. But with the invention of motorised transport brought this to an end.The government sold off it’s ex-army stock flooding the market with cheap goods. The factories needed to diversify.

Goggles
Eeeeww!

By 1931 light leather goods were being made, purses, wallets and accessories. Some of these companies still make goods in the town today. Launer and Ettinger hold Royal Warrants for their luxury items, the Queen owns over 200 Launer handbags. The cheapest handbag on their website £750, a clutch bag, but the majority are well over £1000 if not £2000.

Ornate locks
The smallest of padlocks

The Museum also has exhibits of other goods made in Walsall. Locks, metal tea sets, light switches.

Also quite a timely exhibit on Spanish flu when 500 million were infected world wide. We wondered if Formamint was still available.

A leather makers workshop was filled with wooden clamps that would hold the leather together so that it could be sewn, a stirrup used to keep them closed. There were stamp machines similar to those in the Jewelry Quarter and saddles in various states of completion.

A clamp with stirrup to keep it tight shut

The chap who’d been in the shop asked us if we wanted to make a keyring, he’d get someone to show us. But we weren’t bothered, unless a keyring has a float on it it’s not much use to us and I’m reluctant to give Tilly her own set of keys!

Stamps
A Tilly keyring

An interesting museum, just a shame that there were no volunteers about today to do demonstrations.

Cottons
Saddles in the making

A quick look around the charity shops I’d missed yesterday on my costume hunt. It’s really hard to know if something should be bought at this stage, would I just be settling for something that would do, or wasting money when something much better shows itself in weeks to come. I bought nothing and joined Mick in Tescos for some food supplies.

Stamping out leather shapes

We successfully made it back to the boat without falling into the basin. There are signs everywhere warning of deep water. Last October four people walked straight into the water on three occasions. To our knowledge there are no ladders and no life buoys in view.

Don’t be stupid and fall in

The basin is quite a nice place to be, but Bar 10 does play music outside. It’s no where near as annoying as the car show room in Oldbury but we decided to move with it being Friday night. Just before Walsall Junction we’d seen a pontoon on the off side. A sign pointed to one end suggesting it was for the use of C&RT operational boats, but in small print it invited us to moor there if empty after 5pm. So we took them up on their offer, no access to land but that was fine, we’d be away from Friday night drinkers and music.

0 locks, 0.26 miles, 1 wind, lots of wind, 1 museum, 7000 leather workers, 200 handbags for the Queen, 1 canvas one for me, 1 sleety day, 7th April production meeting, 0 costumes, 1 pack of sausages, 3 packs of blueberries, 1 joint of lamb, 1 very bored cat, 5pm free, 1 Jorge on his way!

Day 1 morning.

Sorghum floor, water and a red cabbage leaf.

Hole In The Wall. 27th February

Walsall Town Basin

The nearest building to us was the first to be built in the basin regeneration. At first it looks like a Costa, well it is, but if you walk just a little bit round the building you find that it is a whole lot more. The New Art Gallery Walsall with it’s four floors of artworks and activities.

Designed by Peter St John and Adam Caruso the building opened it’s doors in February 2000. Built from concrete with exposed joists, clad with pale terracotta tiles and blocks of stainless steel. Douglas Fir clads many walls inside and leather wraps itself around handrails, a reference to the leather trade of the area, all leads to a very warm welcoming building.

Garman Ryan Collection

It was built to house the Garman Ryan Collection which takes up the first and second floors in small rooms replicating a house. The feel of these rooms reminded me very much of my family home in York, designed and built by my Dad. Wood and large windows, exposed brick and render. I felt at home here. The other exhibition spaces tower above the viewer with much larger rooms in every direction.

Garman and Ryan both by Epstein

The Garman Ryan Collection was put together by Lady Kathleen Epstein (nee Garman), widow of sculptor Jacob Epstein, and her very close friend Sally Ryan a sculpture in her own right. After Epsteins death in 1959 the two ladies collected 365 works of art. Some by friends and family (Lucian Freud, Epstein, Theo Garman) others in the collection by renowned artists such as Constable, Degas, Picasso, Matisse and Monet, which all sit alongside artefacts from around the world. The collection, donated in 1973 to the Borough of Walsall, is laid out thematically in rooms.

Children, Trees, Occupations, each room a selection through art history.

Nathaniel

Many of Epstein’s sculptures sit on wooden plinths and watch you as you peruse the art works, but I have to say I preferred Sally Ryan’s pieces, my favourite of a young lad Nathaniel with his head slightly bowed.

Men with Mice and Birds

Epstein’s Men with Mice and Birds had a somewhat comic feel to it.

Renoir

Elaborate frames twice the size of a Renoir landscape was just as interesting as the painting.

Theo Garman

Thoedore Garman’s flower paintings reminded me somewhat of a certain boater, Kath from NB Herbie, and her watercolours and embroidery.

Guides were on hand to talk to you about the collection and the family connections that hung around the rooms. They were very enthusiastic and knowledgeable.

Epstein Archiev gallery

One room was being a touch noisy in the calm of the collection. This was Bob and Roberta Smith‘s Epstein Archive Gallery. Between 2009 and 2011 the two artists worked their way through the Epstein archive which had laid hidden away in the basement and they breathed new life into it. It holds papers of Epstein’s life, about his two wives and three children, two (Theo and Ester) who both died in their 20’s in 1954. Short films have been made about the stories uncovered in the archive which shout out across the gallery along with visual shouts of painted quotes. A fun room to spend sometime in ad I think Epstein was partial to jam.

On the top floor is an exhibition, Too Rich a Soil bringing three photographers together exploring cultural identity.

Top floor gallery

The other exhibition marks the twentieth anniversary of the gallery with a collection of works from the last two decades. Those that stood out were drawings by Andrew Tift who’s detailed drawings astound in their detail.

Andrew Tift

Jungle Queen II by Hew Locke, made from toys, feather marabou, all sorts.

A fluffy Queen

Then my particular favourite Hole in the Wall by Mark Power. This photograph of a Walsall urban landscape has texture, painting, human interest, nature, decay and a mural which blurs into the building it was painted on. The mural is now hidden behind a new building.

My favourite

Back at the boat for lunch I was looking out charity shops in the area. on the map I came across Hole in the Wall a haberdashery fabric shop. So on my way round town I made a beeline to see what they might have to offer.

What colour would you like?

Walking in through the door there were ribbons, yarn, buttons all sorts, then a room of dress fabrics. Nothing hugely exciting but I did find some fabric that might be useful in my costume for a Jay, as in the bird.

Perfect for a Jay costume

An arrow pointed upstairs to Upholstery fabric. A long corridor of a room where you coud select fabric and have made to measure curtains led to another room. Here plain upholstery fabric rolls stood by the walls along with about 30 different types of leatherette. Another doorway led through to a room filled with tassles and tie backs. Now hang on what was in the next room? Hundreds of rolls all in colour order!

I was asked if I needed any help. Maybe a chair to sit down, I hadn’t expected so much fabric in one place, it’s a long time since I’ve seen so much all in one building, or should I say buildings as it seems to me that they’ve knocked shops together and created a block of a shop.

Blues

The Garden set could most probably do with some of this fabric, but right now without having coloured my model up I’m not sure what I would want.

How much braid?

Linings and braid filled two more rooms and another lady asked if she could help. All she did was add to my astoundedness and point me in the direction of their bargain basement! Here the walls were lined with racks full of fabric. Piles four, five, six foot high filled the floor. Just what did I need? I walked round in a textile daze.

Blimey!

The lady upstairs gave me a card and their website address so that I could look on line. But it may well be worth a return visit when I know what I’m after. All this from going to the art gallery and looking at one photograph, I like it even more now.

One major fabric shop

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 art gallery, 0 time for the museum, 1 homely house, 1 giant fluffy queen, 1 dribbling tattoo, 1 jolly lift, 1 bored cat, 1 photograph, 1 block of textiles, 245673543 fabrics, 1 charity shop visited, 0 costumes as yet.

When In Birmingham. 19th February

BUMingham

All the boats around us moved off this morning, some that way others the other, they were all getting or going to get a touch damp as the rain came and went for most of the day.

Tilly about to adjust the seating for a better view

I spent much of the day taking photos of the model for The Garden and persuading our new printer/scanner to actually scan my costume drawings. Not just part of them, but the whole drawing and in the format I wanted. It took forever, maybe I need to read the instructions! Or maybe it is just contrary!!

Rainy BUMingham days mean toy box days

Tonight is our last night in the centre of Birmingham for this visit, so we decided to head out for a curry. It would have been rude not to.

Having done a little bit of research before venturing out we looked at the menu in one restaurant on Broad Street and decided that our boaty shoes would show us up, even if the lighting was subdued, also our bank balance would appreciate us going elsewhere.

View down to the canal

In the end we chose to climb the stairs up to Barajee which sits on top of the canal. We’ve had a takeaway from here before. Their website has a legend for allergy symbols, although no symbols showed against any of their dishes. But inside the restaurant the menu had the reverse, so I knew I’d be avoiding anything that wouldn’t agree with me. We’d chosen Indian as I knew I’d have a lot to choose from rather than just Hunters chicken, steak or gammon all of which get a touch boring.

Curry

We chose a Murgh-e Achari and a Lamb Pista Badami, both of which we’ve never had before along with a sag bhaji. They were all very tasty, good choices and we only just ate a touch too much whilst being able to look down onto the canal. A good way to end our visit.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 last smiley man, 38 photos edited to 12, 1.5 hours scanning! 10 days early for white card, 1st pay cheque, 1 agent prod, 2 glasses wine, 2 new currys, 1 bowl of sag, 2 full contented boaters, 1 last night in BUMingham.

Flake Aroma. 17th February

BUMingham to Bridge 68, Worcester and Birmingham Canal, most definitely not BUMingham!

Pushing off

I’d made a promise to Tilly that today we would move the outside just for her, so that is what we did. There was a touch of rain in the air, and the air was still moving quite a lot at times but we kept my promise and moved.

That’s new

An earlyish start for us saw us going right at Old Turn Junction at around 9:30am. Passing under Broad Street Tunnel I noticed a new looking sign, ‘Black Sabbath Bridge’. Last summer a bench was unveiled for the 50th anniversary of Black Sabbath on the bridge/tunnel. We’ll have to have a look at the information board by the canal when we’re back again. As we approached The Mailbox the wind whipped up, blowing a right hoolie it was, we were glad we’d dressed suitably.

Worcester Bar
Edgbaston Tunnel

Onwards we forged along the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. Through Edgbaston Tunnel. Past the hydrogen boat where someone is having a go at developing zero carbon emission propulsion, pedal power.

Pedal power, future proof propulsion

The new footbridge by Selly Oak Sainsburys now has large columns of concrete on either side of the cut, wonder how long before the bridge spans the water?

New bridge coming along nicely

Then the smell of childhood. Cocoa. My childhood in York was filled with the smell of Matchmakers, a slightly minty chocolate smell. Today the air smelt of Flakes, Cadburys Flakes. It soon blew away as we neared the secure moorings on the off side. Plenty of boats here, one jolly chap said hello from the comfort of his pram cover as we passed on by.

Graffiti Tree

Behind the covers of the Toll House at Kings Norton we could hear people at work as we carried on straight past towards Wast Hill Tunnel.

Keeping close to us

We were being followed. Now most Herons you see on the canals get all upperty as you approach them and as you get close they fly off a hundred yards ahead to fish, only having to do the same again and again. Well today we met a Heron who had very different ideas. He obviously knows something that the others don’t as he followed us time and time again, waiting for us to pass and churn up any fish.

What’s going on here?

Approaching the water point there was a lady in a lot of high-vis yellow, she made a phone call and then walked towards us. The Policewoman asked us to pull in as they had a crime scene ahead, a length of police tape closed off the towpath.

Being right by a water point we would quite happily tie up and replenish the water tank as the washing machine had been put into use since we filled up yesterday. She explained that if we carried on we might compromise the crime scene. Mick replied, ‘We watch Vera, we know all about such things!’ She laughed.

Entering the crime scene

She knew what to do with pedestrians but hadn’t thought she’d have any boats coming past. Just as we stepped off to tie up she had a call back, we were good to go. Up ahead on Friday night a man had been assaulted, he had ‘significant facial injuries’ and then had been thrown into the canal where a passerby spotted his body on Saturday morning.

A tent with flood lights
More tape

Another Policewoman stood by a tent a touch further on and by Kings Norton Bridge there was a chap with some apparatus on a tripod, it could have been a 360 degree camera. The towpath slope up over the tunnel was being searched by a team of officers whilst plain clothed police stood by the canal. As we passed we were asked how long the tunnel was, ‘2493m’. I wonder if they were considering if the poor chap might have been pushed in at the other end of the tunnel?

Few boats moving for days and we have to meet one in a tunnel!

Once in the tunnel we pootled along, hang on, someone was coming! Just after half way we pulled right over and just about stopped, their tunnel light quite bright. The chap at the helm asked if we were alright as we’d stopped, we were and carried onwards as soon as they’d passed.

That’s a better view

No Police presence on the other side of the tunnel. We carried on a short distance and pulled in where Mick and Tilly had spent a night whilst I was in Vienna. Just as we were sorting out ropes the heavens opened and gusts of wind sent it sideways at us.

Inside, Tilly had already been surveying the outside and was sat waiting for me in the bathroom, SHOUTING!!!!!!

Four and a half hours!!! Bloomin brilliant!! But hang on. I’m not going out in that! Not for all the Dreamies in the world! The door closed, then opened again. It hadn’t changed! Several more attempts and eventually the outside was dry. See you!

STOP RAINING!!!

Today the C&RT National Council Elections results have been announced. Only one of the people we voted for has been elected, the others came very close, but at least we voted. Out of around 34,000 boats on the network only 2040 people voted in the elections, that is 6%. Congratulations to those who got elected, please report back in some form for those of us who are interested .

0 locks, 8.47 miles, 2 straights, 1 right, 3 tunnels, 12 police, 1 graffiti tree, 1 load washing, 1 keen heron, 4.5 hours spent well, 1 white card finished, 1 set of costume designs finished, 2 panto award nominations, 1 photo from Frank, Thank you.

The Other Side Of Outside. 16th February

BUMingham to the other BUMingham

For days, weeks, years, a lifetime, we have been in BUMingham. Some days I’m allowed to come and go as I like, which isn’t very much now, and others I am confined to quarters. They aren’t though!

Only biscuits for me this morning!

This morning Tom popped out to get them extra yummy things for their morning DingDing despite it still being blowy. He didn’t bother getting me anything special did he! No smoked salmon, or any of that smelly stinky yummy stuff She came home with. Then they just sat around not letting me out.

Then they sat around some more, but I could go out. Then they sat around even more and said I couldn’t go out! Can’t they make their minds up!!

When I went out though it hadn’t changed so there was next to no point.

Last nights catchings around our tyre fender

A flurry of activity. They were getting ready to untie this blustery BUMingham outside. About bloomin time. Dennis had left us lots of stuff, but they didn’t want any of it. As soon as the ropes were undone the outside made a bid for freedom. They soon caught another and pulled it in, this one has a fast tap so they filled the tank.

Bye bye BUMingham

With the tank full again, they let the outside go again. Woho!!! What would we catch next?

Turn around

Tom span the outside round and for a little while I thought we’d be heading back to the outside we’d come from, passing Paul’s boat and bipping the horn before pulling back in. But no, not today. This was exciting

Lots of bicycles

She soon hopped off and caught the outside. Hurry Uppp!! But as they were securing the outside another boat came by, they looked at each other and deceided to nudge up the outside. This boat has form, they run their engine for hours and hours and hours, quite often stopping it when we all go to bed, so we didn’t want to be too close to them.

NO stopping me!

Once all was secure the back doors were opened. At last!!!! This outside was on the otherside, I’d already sussed this out. I jumped off…..

Hangon…..

Here hang on. Now wait a minute!

This side used to be
this side!

This was just the same outside except they’d swung it round! We are still in BUMingham. She says they’ll move the outside just for me tomorrow if Dennis has gone, but you know what I don’t believe her.

Sort it out will you!

0 locks, 0.8 miles, 1 wind, 2 straights, 2 waves to Paul, 4 sausages, 2 poached eggs, 4 tomatoes, 7 painted costumes, 1 patch of blue sky, 3 moving boats, 1 tap open, 1 water tank full, 1 pesky boat, 1 new roast chicken recipe, 2 lemons, 5 tsp oregano, 2 full tummies, 1 confused and disappointed cat.

First costumes coloured in

The Menace. 15th February

BUMingham

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.

Shhhhh!!!!!

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.

BCNS HQ

‘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