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Once more onto the Beach, Dear Friends.

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I’ve not blogged for a while - I’ve had to restrain myself from over-indulging in negativity. (That’s a sentence from the modern world if ever I’ve encountered one). We have endured the re-branding of our canal provider for incomprehensible reasons formed from yet more modern words like “wellbeing”, maintained a well-bitten lip over the official explanation provided to explain the well publicised breach of the canal near Middlewich, and actually had to work really hard to keep up with the supply of coal to customers seeing out the long winter months. Most of our usual trips have been undertaken, although more road deliveries than usual have had to be made as the winter canal maintenance programme was not planned with the usual care and attention to the needs of winter users such as ourselves.

Well, never mind all that, Summer is here and the Jules’ Fuels fleet have just been and gone. This event is always a fine occasion, the main point of it being to fund a foreign holiday for the Steve and Lorraine, mine hosts at The Bell. I expect that they will be having a month in the Bahamas this year. Easily.

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The boats to be loaded on this occasion, for those to whom an importance is attached to such things, were: Bletchley & Bideford, (Bletchley being a change boat for Towcester), Southern Cross & Cedar, and Corona. The names of those involved in the loading have been removed for legal reasons.

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The loading followed its’ usual pattern, lots of sitting about and laughing, with the occasional lifting of the proverbial finger to assist the real workers with the actual handling of the cargo. The real workers managed to load the five boats in record time, however, a feat that ensured the return of the “Wheel-barrow with the Golden Wheel” trophy to Mr Ryan Dimmock, as this years "coal-boater of the year”. He now keeps this much coveted trophy for posterity, having won it three times. I think time must now be called on this once prestigious award as no-one is the slightest bit interested. Here’s Ryan being presented with the trophy by an ardent watcher of boat-loading. 



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The departure of the fleet from Awbridge was delayed somewhat by “Andy Capp” Haysome threatening to saw his own hand off rather that steer the butty for Ryan. Understandable, but the world must keep turning, the show must go on, etc, so up stepped myself, into the breech as it were. A quick refresher course, followed by a tour of the controls, and I was ready. The reality was that all Ryan wanted was some mug to bow-haul the butty into the locks, and I fitted the bill perfectly. Flannel and flattery still seem to work, and after being told how good I was at pulling on a rope, I obliged.


Just to prove that I can steer a butty, and in fact, multi-task by adding in tea-drinking, here is a picture of me steering Cedar away from the wharf, and another, taken by me (multi-tasking again) from the rear of Cedar under tow by Ryan on Southern Cross.

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Changing the subject slightly, a couple more photos have been uncovered at the bottom of the side-bed. The first one shows Roach tied outside Caggy Stevens’ yard at Tipton in the days when Tipton was but a leafy village on the outskirts of Dudley. The other was taken by the Turners, of “Bath” fame, who happened across me zooming downstream through Gainsborough in the late eighties. I had hair then.

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Finally, in our quest to find the finest canal side eatery in the land, we came across this mobile cafe. It comes highly recommended, particularly for those afficionados of the complete rural experience. Here we see the chef preparing his speciality dish - black pudding flambé. Exquisite!

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coalboat@waitrose.com © John Jackson 2014