Too Narrow to Swing a Cat
by Steve Haywood
First up a big thanks to the Book Barge for the gift of this book. Sarah, the Boat Barge's owner and skipper, is on a six month trip round the canals bartering books for services and in return for some meals she gave me a copy of Steve Haywood's latest canal book.
Now I made a bit of a mistake with this publication, diving into the middle instead of starting at the beginning, which is the customary place to start reading books! The reason for my unorthodox approach was because I could see that this section covers his experiences of the 2009 BCN Marathon Challenge. With the 2011 Challenge upon us I couldn't resist diving straight into his account, and then sharing it with Sarah who promptly scrapped her timetable and sent off for an entry pack herself!
Not that starting this book in the middle really matters a lot. If you have read either of Steve's previous boaty books you will know what to expect. Wry humour about life on and around his beloved cut, on which he has been travelling whenever the opportunity has presented itself for over 30 years - most recently on narrowboat Justice.
Simon and Garfunkel sang a song called "Old Friends" reflecting how they reflected back over the same years, memories covering the same ground. Steve's account of the canals he used to know echo's this song, with his reminisces going back to the 1970's and the age when the Captain Snr used to take me boating - canals which were an essential part of my youth. In fact, having read all three of Steve's books, and his regular article in Canal Boat he has started to feel like a slightly curmudgeonly old friend.
As for the book, it is an account of his six month wander around the Canals of the Midlands / London, visiting a number of canal festivals in the company of Kit the cat and a succession of guests and helpers, including his long suffering wife Em. His travels are entirely on waters which are familiar to me, but it is no less interesting for that. The book is packed with historical snippets and personal observations, sometimes unorthodox, sometimes controversial, but always interesting.
Like canal journeys themselves, its the journey that counts and the read was in no way diminished by my unusual approach to it. Canal trips don't really go anywhere and nor does this book. However, both meander along leaving you refreshed, wherever you decide to start or finish.
Classic Haywood. Till next time Steve.