Haulin’ Ass


Well, that’s it for another year, Christmas and New Years’ Eve celebrations successfully negotiated with no major mishaps or upsets. Christmas itself was spent on the yard, (and in the Bell, obviously), and was a well earned break for us. Only a short break mind, as we set off on Roach between the two bank holidays to make our regular deliveries along the Shropshire Union Canal. New Years Eve saw us in the Junction Inn at Norbury, where quite a few familiar faces were present - together with some not-so familiar ones. An excellent night was had by all. Jenny and I had spent the previous evening (and the early hours of the morning) with Dave the Duck and Monty, sampling the wares offered by the Hartley Arms in Wheaten Aston. Anyone familiar with Dave’s missives on the Facebook thing will understand that we drank 237.5 pints of whisky each and that we actually sorted out the problems of the entire universe between us. Or maybe we caused them, who knows. Either way, it was a good training session for New Years Eve. 

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New Years Day saw us at the Anchor for a quick “hair of the dog” before venturing further along the Shroppie to carry out a few more deliveries of coal. We winded the boat and ended up back at Norbury where a much quieter night was had in the Junction Inn. The weather was definitely improving from a coal-mans point of view, and a very pleasant, cold day was spent returning down to the Staffs & Worcs Canal before Wheaton Aston Lock was closed for maintenance works to be carried out.  A clear sky, with a fine crescent moon, and Venus and Mars both visible made for a lovely end to the day. (Apologies for waxing lyrical - I know it’s not really me; actually, we ended the day in the bar at Oxley Marine).

The build-up to Christmas had been very busy for us, being flat-out with both boat and road deliveries. A couple of frosty nights helped; we had more frost in two days than we have had in the previous two years! Pete lent a helping hand by skippering Roach for some of this period, a situation he enjoys as driving a top-of-the-range Josher is clearly the best feeling on the cut, particularly for someone used to making do with a pair of old Grand Union boats. 


The wholesale side of things was also very busy in the run-up to Christmas, with all our customers needing to ensure adequate supplies for the holiday. Here we see Terry Bellamy in charge of unloading a pallet of coal from our trusty Transit at Streethay Wharf; this is a rare photo indeed, as it shows Terry with his gob shut! Well - not completely, he had his concentrative tongue out.

In other news, a further picture from the carrier-bag archive has turned up. Here we see the view from the stern of Roach with three 70ft mud-hoppers and two butties in tow, making 420ft of boat in all. The location is Brasshouse Lane on the Birmingham Canal and the butties are Bideford and Pictor. The year is 1994. The folks on the hire boat were completely un-fazed by this train of boats; luckily, this was about the only time that the boats behaved themselves by staying in line. The two hoppers between the butties belonged to Union Towage Ltd, and were named Ass and Ox, hence the title of this essay. Happy New Year everyone.

Scan 2016-11-23 0081-1 © John Jackson 2014