The Boat That Guy Built
30th March 2011
Written as I watch.
Hey, the intro suggests some real boat building today. Not that all the industrial revolution background isn't interesting - its just not boating.
We start at Kidsgrove and the Harecastle tunnel and we are soon into historical facts that I don't already know. I didn't know that the queues to get through the old tunnel could be 5 days long - no wonder they splashed out of a new bigger one 50 years later and what took 11 years the first time round was accomplished in three in 1847. Crash Bank Wallop go the enterprising pair as they shudder into the southern portal, leaving smears of paint on the walls in their wake.
An inspection ensues at the northern end, where the damage is surveyed and a repaint is deemed necessary. Have we hit another boat? asks an incredulous Guy. A quick replay of previous footage suggests that for Reckless at least, boating most certainly is a contact sport.
We are treated to insight into boating life as they travel up the Macclesfield, reflecting on the desire of the boating community to "paint their narrowboats like a rainbow". Guys take on all this is to create a "domestic palace with flames".
Another fascinating fact : did you know that at the time the Maccie was built it cost £6k per mile versus £2k for a railway. Its a miracle that this late addition to the system ever came into being at all.
Macclesfield Marina is visited / plundered for ideas on paint schemes. They settle on Oxford Blue and true to form, no sooner do they get the paintbrushes out, than the heavens opened. That is very true to life. It tipped it down and I think I would have been tempted to retire for a cup of tea and hope for better better conditions tomorrow.
Guy takes some time out to explore the concept of the turnover / roving bridge, an architectural novelty which is almost a trademark of this canal. Unlike the uninformed hoodie in Birmingham, all the locals know about these curious bridges which allowed horses to swap sides without unhitching the tow rope. As for Macclesfield itself, we learn that it was home to 120 mills, although just Paradise Mill exists today, showcasing the silk technology on which the town's prosperity was founded.
Making silk is a precision job with 500 threads going into each and every inch of fabric. Production was slow with 12 hours manual effort offering just 3 meters of fabric, or enough to make a single dress. No wonder silk was a luxury item. The machinery was as impressive as the finished product, using a punch card system which in itself took 5 years to master. Powered looms speeded things up tenfold and suddenly it was a product for the masses. Guy walked away proudly clutching some souvenirs, a silk cushion and a couple of rather attractive silk canal scenes for the walls.
Back on board, Mavis was having a crack at the signwriting aided and abetted by the talented Meg Gregory. He was well up for a having a go but never mind the lines too much!. At least they got the spelling right.
Inside Guy is attacking the walls, covering them with hand printed William Morris wallpaper. But clearly Mr Morris's hand printing wasn't enough because Guy opts to add his own hand prints to the design - why doesn't he wash his hands before wallpapering? I have to say that his attempts at paper hanging are unbelievably lame - for a skilled mechanic I don't believe he is as inept as he makes out. Hamming things up for the camera I suspect?
We then have a roses and castles masterclass with Meg doing the right hand side and Guy the left. This bit was really interesting, a sort of cross between the practical tasks from the generation game and a Rolf Harris - "can you see what it is yet?" moment.
The closing scene represented a show and tell moment when they generously offered each other a 9:10 for jobs well done. If I am being honest I am not sure that their attempts justify such a high score, but watching then try to master a skilled craft earned a 10:10 for effort in my book.
We see Reckless sailing away into the sunset and its final episode, resplendent in a deep blue paint job, sharp sign writing, gleaming artwork - and flames erupting from the bows. Somehow, from these lads I wouldn't expect anything less.
All in all the best episode to date. Lots more canal history, canal architecture and practical boat building stuff. Excellent.