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Happy New Year

Happy New Year. I hope so. We’ve had more winter than last year at any rate.

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We’ve just been out on Roach, and our trip took us up into Birmingham and down the Worcester & Birmingham Canal to Hanbury Wharf. It started promisingly enough, the sun was shining and the forecast was for freezing cold. The sky got darker and darker as we ascended the Wolverhampton 21 locks, until it absolutely bucketed it down about seven locks from the top. By the top lock we were so wet that we may as well have walked up the middle of the cut. Never mind, the Great Western does great hot pork sandwiches as well as great beer. Straight in there then, wet through. 

“Sorry. The kitchen is closed this evening.” was the greeting we got. Six pints of Bathams for tea then. Probably better for you than food. In fact, certainly better for you than food. 

Talking of great public houses, we were on the Macclesfield Canal over New Year, and the fancy took us to walk up Mow Cop - a hill near Scholar Green that has a folly on the top. The route took us past The Globe, a sad sight now that it is boarded up. We have had a lot of good times in there over the years, and seeing it again put me in mind of a memorable Christmas Eve with John Anderson. 

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He ended up falling in the canal when we got back to the boats, (him and June were on Starling at the time, carrying coal for us). We had been back from the pub about ten minutes, when I heard a splash and came running (staggering) out of our cabin to find John on the counter of Starling with gallons and gallons of water draining out of his football manager style puffer coat. It turned out that he had decided to take the dog for a walk, and had walked straight off the tow-path into the canal. He blamed the dog for pulling him in, which made me laugh. It was the smallest Yorkshire Terrier in the world. No harm done though, we still made it back to The Globe for the Christmas Day dinner session. Ah, happy days.

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Back to our recent trip. The obligatory night out with our mates from Gas Street was followed with the regular battle down the un-dredged Worcester & Birmingham Canal to Tardebigge. We finally had some snow and ice, which cheered us up no end. It does concentrate the mind whilst working locks, as a little more care is needed to avoid the “John Anderson” effect. The snow soon disappeared under a blue sky, though, which was a good thing as we had to get down the locks, get all our deliveries done and back up some of the locks before the canal was closed again in the space of two days. Hard work, but worthwhile.

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As I had to return to the yard to keep various boat-yards supplied by road, our mate, Pete Hawker, once again helped us out by driving Roach back to our yard from the Queens Head at Stoke Pound. He had already been out with his kids, Molly and Rowan, the previous day on a character building trudge along the muddy towing path to assist us with Astwood Locks. The mud was mixed with grass-cuttings as, astonishingly, grass-cutting had been carried out that week. Rowan was keen to involve himself in the culture of working boats up locks, so he turned up in his rather fine donkey hat. Pete carried out our last few deliveries in Birmingham, and returned through the ice via Wolverhampton Locks to our yard. He had been following the Admiral class motor boat, Grenville from Tipton, the steerer of which finally waved Pete by, as the distinctive fore-end of an Admiral class boat is rubbish at ice-breaking. Roach, being a Josher, had no such problems. 



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