whales in the cut

old no. 38

whales in the cut

It may be a purely Black Country thing, but there are whales in the cut.

‘Surely not?’ I hear you cry, but yes, it’s true. I’ve seen them with my own eyes, beached on the towpath. Whales of all descriptions. Bicycle whales, car whales, pram whales, you get the picture. I know, I know, the old ones are the best.

But, at the risk of repeating myself, it’s true! In fact there’s all kinds of scrap iron accumulating down here by the banks of the Staffs and Worcs canal.

At first I thought it was fly tipping, but no.

Apparently there’s a new type of fisherman trawling our waterways with a magnet on a rope. Have these new age rod danglers ditched the carbon fibre rod in favour of hunting fish with fillings perhaps? Obviously not, as it is a well known fact that fish are for the most part dentally challenged and the ones that do have a full set of gnashers, Pike, Pirhana, sharks, etc, are not particularly renowned for their visits to the dentist to get magnetically charged infills.

So, are these people latter day 'Steptoes' seeking old iron in new and imaginative ways. Again, I think not, otherwise I suspect they’d be hot footing it down to the local scrap yard to weigh in their booty, rather than leaving it littering the walkways for folk like me to trip over.

That leaves me to draw the only possible conclusion. Someone thinks that there may be treasure in our navigations.

And they may well be right.

Personally I know of two mountain bikes underwater somewhere around Burton On Trent after my one and only boating holiday turned to disaster as a low hanging tree branch swept the aforementioned cycles off the narrowboat roof, over my head (lucky I ducked - who shouted ‘shame?’ There’s no need!) and into the murky depths. We never found them, but there again I’d never thought of fishing with a magnet. My knowledge of such things was limited to making pretty patterns with iron filings in the school physics lesson.

But if that is indeed the case and some people really do think that there may be doubloons down there, could I humbly suggest that they may be better heading up north to follow Heidi in The Pirate Boat in the vague hope that she may casually toss pieces of eight overboard in an effort to cut down on the weight.

And may I remind these fortune hunters that all that glitters is not necessarily iron ore. Not round these parts anyway. The canals were here initially to transport the results of slaving over a hot furnace around the world. And any waste products left over may well have been casually tossed away to languish amongst the reeds, so an afternoon's magnet fishing may only result in an alarming accumulation of old slag.

But, inherent in this latest leisure activity are dangers. I know, I’ve Googled it, so it must be true. Not just the aforementioned trip hazard, but real honest to goodness life threatening dangers. People have been known to fish out the odd sub machine gun. Yes, honestly! And grenades. Let’s face it the Luftwaffe did a rather splendid job of tossing all sorts of ordinance around during the forties. There’s no knowing what ended up in your local cut which may not have detonated.

Therefore I urge the utmost caution. If, on a gentle stroll along our waterways you happen upon a pile of scrap and an enthusiastic fisher shouting, ‘I think I’ve hooked a clock - I can hear it ticking!’ then I suggest that you may be well advised to make haste in the opposite direction, jump into the nearest ditch and stick your fingers in your ears. Just be careful that you don’t trip over one of them ‘whales’ on your flight to safety.

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About David Robertson

Hi I'm Dave Robertson. I live beside the Staffs & Worcester canal with my wife and a small menagerie. I've just published my third children's book, the first of which was set on a canal boat. My column is called 'Old No 38' because that's the bridge I cross every day... If you would like to learn about my children’s books, here is my Amazon page link