We have a strange connection with Gloucester - it's where out solicitors hang out.
Most people only turn to solicitors for deaths, house moves and if you are unlucky, divorces. We, however, have been on intimate terms with our solicitor for about four years as we negotiate the fraught area of special educational needs provision within our home city. In spite of all the contact we had never actually met them so popped over to their offices for a cup of tea and a quick update on the latest skirmish.
This isn't the place to rake over Birmingham LEA's shortcomings (which are many and varied) but if you want to see special educational needs children receive even a basic education go somewhere else - absolutely anywhere other than Birmingham.
So enough of my favourite hobby horse, after the visit to the solicitors we returned to the boat and the first great blobs of wet stuff fell from the sky. Blob was followed by blob till it turned into a torrent and it was clear that we were going nowhere. Jeff and I took a tour round the National Waterways Museum which killed about three hours.
Steam Dredger at National Waterways Museum
The Waterways museum is an interesting place and well worth the £4.25 entry fee - but no more. It compared favourably to the National Boat Museum in Ellsemere Port which I visited a few weeks ago (where the boat is the star) offering the uninitiated lots of insight into the history and operation of the inland waterways. I particularly liked the walk through lock and tunnel, plus the 'water past the hull' experiment and I would say that overall there is enough to interest the enthusiast, even though I have seem most of the images before.
Possibly the best bit was the local history of Gloucester Docks and the associated Gloucester and Sharpness Canal. A film of the area from 1962 was on a constant loop which, whilst very dated, provided a fascinating insight into commercial traffic at the time of my birth. The participants dressed in a manner unnervingly similar to that of Capt Ahab Snr!
The museum, also sports an operational steam dredger which was in steam at the time of our visit. Perhaps the most surprising thing about it was that it remained in regular use till 1981, which was after I started work! The water jet version is much cheaper and more efficient but it doesn't have quite the same style.
This three story museum was well attended with lots of people wandering around - but maybe that had more to do with the rain outside than the attraction of the exhibits. I would suggest that it could do with some more contemporary videos which could be shown in a theatre style environment to bring it up to date.
The Captain losing gracefully
With the afternoon consumed we visited Doctor Fosters, a pub in one of the converted warehouses. It looked good but the absence of patrons left it feeling very empty and a bit cold. We had a decent meal washed down with a couple of pints of Old Peculiar, and I let Jeff thrash me at pool, twice. I'm nice like that, but his victory may be partly attributable to a misspent adolescence at the church youth club.
The rain stopped at 9.00pm which allowed my some scope for a brief night time tour of the docks armed with my camera and tripod.
Back of the National Waterways Museum