Friday 28 October 2005

Honey - Calf Heath to Grub Street

Calf Heath to Grub Street
October 2005 (3 days)

52 Miles
4 Locks

This trip represented my first Autumnal solo journey, which has become a regular feature of my annual calendar.

I am not sure of the exact date but is was very close to the end of October, sometime before the end of British Summertime. The reason the exact date has been forgotten was the circumstances that triggered it. For the previous year Tilly had been home educated as we struggled to accommodate her unusual educational needs, and she was becoming increasingly resistant to this approach. At the same time Jeff made his transition to secondary school and his then undiagnosed ADHD and dyslexia turned the experience into a nightmare. The combined impact was difficult for Belle and I reached breaking point myself. I came very close to losing it completely and called Mr Primrose to see if I could borrow Honey for a few days (I had been working on her and had a key). Mr P was his usual accommodating self and assured me it was fine - oh and by the way - here is a list of 10 things that don't work - can you have a go at fixing them while you are away! It want a trial and I was very happy to oblige.

The first day, a Sunday, was clear and mild, taking me through Autherley and on to Brewood where I met up with my brother, moving on to Gnosall for the night and a meal at the Navigation Inn.

The second day was cold and windswept. I took a slow trip through Grub Street cutting and, being in a fragile state, gave in to canal rage for the first and only time. A very slow boat was crawling through the cutting followed by another boat and then me. Both I and the boat in front would have liked to pass but the front boat wasn't about to oblige, to we settled down for a very slow passage and enjoyed the view. This wasn't good enough for a silly old duffer behind me. Oh no, he was all over my back end itching to press past. As I was stuck between boats I maintained a straight course but, lo and behold, after the "telegraph pole" bridge he started to ram on past. I admit to calling him a stupid old fool and somehow the combined effect of the two boats moving in parallel resulted in my stern coming round and giving him a huge knock - shame. I then watched in bemused amazement as he rammed his way past the next two boats, taking 45 mins to complete the overtaking manoeuvres. I never forget a boat and I am still on the lookout!

I winded a couple of miles beyond Grub Street, returning to spend the night on the embankment outside Wheaton Aston. I remember it as a clear but windy night and somewhere amid the silence and the gentle warmth of the stove, my equilibrium returned.

I completed the return journey under wintry squalls, reaching Calf Heath in mid afternoon and rejoining the battlefield called home in in a balanced frame of mind, able to resume the ongoing fight.

The canals hold amazing restorative powers for me, sucking be into their beguiling stillness and calming my soul in a way nothing else can match. They are my escape, a haven from life when things get too much. If I can't actually get on them I find myself away thinking about them, or perhaps in my workshop making something for WB. I may not be there in body but that doesn't stop me being afloat in spirit.