By Doris Coppell
During a recent meeting with Barry and Sandra on nb Northern Pride we did a waterways book swap, I handed over Water Road by Paul Gogarty and in return borrowed Kiwi Afloat. These are two tales of waterways travel separated by 30 years, gender and hemisphere of origin.
I have seen the book on the shelves for several years, sampled a few paragraphs but was never tempted to purchase a copy. However, given Sandra and Barry's home in New Zealand I could see the irresistible appeal of the basic premise and the desire to take a closer look. Kiwi girl marries Englishman, comes to England and discovers the inland waterways.
As I was away on the canals myself I dived into this book with coconsiderable enthusiasm, but sadly found myself surfacing for air very quickly and struggled to tread water through to the end of its 246 pages.
There is no real story here. Sure they buy three boats (two at the same time) and encounter a broad spectrum of boating disasters in the north of England, but they are mishaps we have all encountered from time to time on our watery travels. The book was written about 30 years after the event and was presumably lifted from a detailed logbook - and that is how it reads. It is probably how this blog will read in 2040 if anyone chances upon it.
Perhaps the overly flowery use of adjectives was a stumbling block for me, but with no real theme and little insight into the main characters the book just didn't come to life. Unusually I found myself skim reading, jumping whole pages to get to the bits about the boats themselves.
The one charming aspect was the timelessness of the canals. Whilst the boats may have changed out of recognition, the places she described have changed very little and it was very easy to imagine what happened and where. Canal time still stretches and boats still breakdown, rivers flood, the Leeds Liverpool still runs out of water and sunsets over water are still breathtaking. Some things never change.