BIRMINGHAM OR BUST!
Just in case you hadn't noticed, Husband and I are heavily into boats. I was brought up in Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey (UK), and the river Thames was virtually on my doorstep, so I rowed the family dinghy from the moment I could utter: 'Land ahoy, me hearties!'.
Meanwhile, Husband, brought up in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, played with toy boats on a pond and stream when he was a kid (would now given half the chance, and I'd join him!). Later he took off in hired narrow boats on the waterways of Britain, something he'd garnered a real enthusiasm for after watching The Flower of Gloster (actual spelling), a kid's telly programme during the sixties about two kids and their big brother delivering a narrow boat to Birmingham for their father. (I watched this recently when Husband acquired the DVD. It was pretty good, if obviously dated, and I rather fancied the hero).
Over the preceding years we've acquired a traditional Canadian canoe, and after that, our narrow boat, Dotterel. (A Dotterel is a stupid bird that allows birds of prey to nick it's eggs. Alternatively I'm the stupid bird).
I was introduced to the pleasures of narrow boating shortly after our first child, daughter Samantha, was born. I was a neurotic wreck and determined to impress on the world at large and whoever happened to be passing that I was a born and bred boatwoman. My feminist leanings shrieked out in my head and I couldn't relax. I began to hate sharing double locks with strangers - for those of you uninitiated in the ins and outs of canal double locks, it consists of - indeed - sharing with another boat, and crew of both boats co-operate in opening the paddles to let the water in or out in order to continue on the next level of canal.
It can be a sociable situation and require negotiation with the other boater, both of which I hated at the time (not the boater, the situation).
After my complete recovery from depression, Husband, who'd cared for me for thirty years, talked about the Birmingham Canal Navigation Society's twenty-four hours Challenge. This starts anywhere you wish on the Birmingham canal navigation system and finishes twenty- four hours later at a designated spot. The winner is determined by points, with extra points for full length boats, buttes, small crews, and cruising the lesser travelled parts of the Birmingham Canal Navigations. Husband wanted to do this very much, so I said: 'I'm cured. You've looked after me for thirty years. Go forth and have fun.' Or words to that effect. So he did.
Three years and three challenges later, he's a pro. He hasn't won - yet - but he's sliding further upscale each time. Next year he's going all out. His crew the first year consisted of our adult son, the daughter of friends and her friend, and Husband's niece. The following year was son and Husband's sister. Sister, in particular, has grown very competitive!
Husband and crew are growing more accustomed to the race and the rules. I declined to join because it is very intense, you do keep going, but team spirit is essential. Husband wanted me to experience the route and Birmingham on our own, casual, trip. I used to have problems with lengthy trips. Well, I'm cured, so I agreed to do it. Not the challenge itself but the trip, which would take us twelve days, umpteen locks, and a zillion miles walked by Husband between locks.
The challenge annually takes place in May. It's now October, and, well - I did it! Accomplished my own Birmingham challenge. Pleased as anything, I am! I'd always said I'd get Husband and boat to Birmingham, but sadly failed a couple of attempts over the last two years, chickening out and getting worked up about it. But this time I did it! Yay! 😆
I now have a plaque on the boat, together with various other plaques, declaring underneath on a nicely engraved plate:'Jo got this boat to Birmingham.' And back, may I add. Husband had it made especially, bless that man.
So here they are. Some of the umpteen zillion photos I took on the trip. I've included ones that give a flavour of the trip, and show that Birmingham has rejuvenated itself from the industrialised city that it once was. I love the city. Some of the old industry remains as a reminder, but born again Birmingham is fab! No-one, of course, will ever forget the origins of the city, but its rejuvenation has been, I would say, a miracle. And so was this trip.