old no. 38
So here we are then. The trees are bare, having deposited their leaves onto the towpath here down by old bridge number 38, on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal. Yes, yet another layer of damp detritus to mark the passing of the old year.
And the season of goodwill is upon us once more.
Once again, dare I say, this area of England - nay, the world - leads the way. Just as we did with the Industrial Revolution, sticks of rock (I kid ye not) and pork scratchings, you know it’s not time to hang the decorations until Noddy has told you so. No not the one with the blue hat with the bell on the end. The proper one! That’s right, just like the first cuckoo ushers in spring it’s not actually Christmas until you’ve heard that great Black Country band, Slade on the radio.
Now only a few short years ago the beginning of said season would have marked the start of a buying frenzy as we all jostled to prepare to celebrate the ultimate birthday. Not now however. We are much more techno savvy these days and most of November has been spent clicking merrily away on the internet and simply waiting for white van man to deposit our purchases onto our doorstep. Not for us the unarmed combat known as Christmas shopping. We can sit there smugly in front of our surround sound infotainment centre awaiting such nativity classics as Die Hard and The Guns Of Navarone knowing that our gifts are got and all is well with the world. Not for us the hurley burley of the department store at least until the Easter eggs are in the shops on Boxing Day and the summer holiday sale has begun.
I don’t think so!
You’d forgotten that you’ve promised Great Auntie Doris a festive set of left handed spanners because she wants to drop the gearbox out of the Austin 7 that she’s been customising into a hot rod for the last sixty years.
Back onto the World Wide Wotnot. Amazon have some, but they’re in their depot in Copenhagen. Unfortunately Greta Thunberg and her supporters have blockaded the port with a variety of dinghies, pedalos and rubber ducks in an effort to bring the world’s attention to global warming and farting cows. The chances of that being delivered before the big day are remote to say the least.
You locate some in Dagenham on EBay, second hand from the old car plant, but the postal workers are threatening to go on strike in support of their demands for longer shorts (trousers to you and me) for the winter months.
There’s no choice then. You hop into your car, thankfully not blockaded by sullen teenagers, or knobbly knee’d postal workers and head out for the Merry Hell shopping centre. It’s only when you start listening to the radio news for the umpteenth time that you realise that you’ve only travelled a hundred yards from one o’clock until ten past Tuesday.
You crawl along and eventually arrive at one of the many car parks rammed to capacity. You drive around for what seems like hours but is in fact days, when all of a sudden the Christmas miracle happens - miraculously everyone jumps into their cars and drive off. With a whispered prayer of thanks you sprint along to Halfords to find the doors all locked because the big day is already upon us and you’ve not so much as stuffed your turkey.
Well it is at this point dear reader that I can offer at least a modicum of comfort. Yes, as a regular reader of this column and erstwhile publication, the chances are that you are in possession of or have access to a narrowboat, or at least some form of waterborne transport. Because you see the aforementioned Merry Hill (Merry Hell to us locals) is right on the cut. You can chug along, relaxed in the knowledge that the bumper to bumper queues, obscene gestures and seasonal rudeness are not for you.
You can moor up, stroll nonchalantly down into the complex, pick up your Great Aunt's gift, tuck it under your arm and wander serenely back for a nice sit down and a cuppa.
Always here to help.
Ho bloody ho!
Oh, and by the way, congratulations to the winner of the recent competition - Sallie Burrows - now proud owner of all three ‘Misty’ books. Sallie, we hope that you and your younger readers enjoy the adventures of Misty and the gang in Dognapped!, In The Doghouse and On The Dog Walk.
If you weren’t lucky enough to win this great prize then you can still get a copy of one book for £5, two for £9 or the set of three for £12 of these beautifully illustrated books by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally a big shout out to a local lass Kate, for this wonderful painting of Misty. Her and partner Dec are moored up just a little way down the cut from us. Aren’t canal dwellers a talented lot? We will treasure it always, thank you so very, very much.