Tuesday, 7 October 2014

In Contemplation of City and Country Life

City life is wonderful and whenever Janis and I are in touch with it we seem to have great difficulty in dragging ourselves away. The theatres, the concerts, the museums, the art galleries, all breath-taking in their artistry; the architecture, both simple and grand but all beautifully planned, the parades, the street buskers and the myriad of people in general, each with their unique behaviour and dress; the beautiful products in the shops making it so easy to spend money, which has been hard earned and saved (or maybe borrowed). All this draws Janis and I like moths to a light and makes it extremely hard to leave this complicated decadence of civilization.


DSCN1351  Outside Cathedral

Birmingham’s Cathedral…..


….with its Pre-Raphaelite Eastern Window


In contrast, the Hyatt Regency Hotel


But after a few days of this concentrated culture, the stress of it all begins to tell as well. The lonely impersonality of it and the continuous hubbub and selfish clamour all day and night of loud traffic and noisy people, the stress of rushing from one place to another (and yes Janis and I, when we are there, like two pieces of helpless flotsam, are caught up in this whirlpool of anxiety too) is so unrelenting and overwhelming that in the end one needs to move on almost for sanity’s sake itself. 

In particular Birmingham suffers from a distinct lack of animal life, any of which which would make life more relaxed. That is apart from Sapiens, animal enough on his own I dare say; he has really made it his own domain. There are no birds; even the faithful Mallards, normally always present whatever the threat, have given up here, as well as the hardy grey squirrels. Unusually domestic cats and dogs we saw nothing of and even the more unpleasant rodents appear to have deserted the city.

Birmingham with little litter appears to be clean, clinically tidy and entirely civilized.

We enjoyed it for a time and had visitors while we were there which made our life even more fulfilled. Ray came to see us again and we were delighted to see my friend Nushara and her friend Benchamas briefly while they were over here from Thailand. My good friend Robin and his wife Jan, visiting from Australia called on us as well, alas for too short a time. He and I sailed together on a trip to Australia and back, more than fifty years ago and still we reminisce about this special voyage on the ‘Gladstone Star’.



Nearly in the country again. The guillotine stop lock at Kings Norton


But in the end we dragged ourselves away and finally we let go our mooring ropes in the morning of Sunday 28th September. But we had only moved a few yards, as far as Old Turn Junction by Brindley Place when we encountered a police barrier. For a few minutes I had the delightful company on board of a police officer called Sarah just to make certain that I didn’t attempt to get off the boat anywhere in the vicinity of the International Convention Centre where the Conservative Party Conference had just begun that day. Alas all too soon I put her safely ashore on the other side of the Gas Street Basin and I was able to carry on. My little New Zealand companion on ‘Roots and Wings’ was equally impressed I think with her company in the form of a handsome hulking great policeman, built like an ‘All Black’ forward, which was very appropriate.

Shortly, in the vicinity of the Edgbaston Tunnel, my attention was drawn towards the towpath when ‘Futurest’ was overtaken by three burly joggers in line. The one in the centre looked familiar and then he smiled (or was it grimaced) at me and managed cheerily to say ‘Good morning’.

I said ‘Hi’ to him in return or something as similarly eloquent and  it wasn’t till he’d passed that I realised that I had been exchanging greetings with our Prime Minister David Cameron.

I nearly shouted after him ‘Go, go, go Dave’ but thought better of it in the end thinking he or his men might not appreciate my erudite but doubtful advice.

That was our last excitement in Birmingham. Soon the two little ships were in the country again. We turned left at King’s Norton Junction on to the very rural North Stratford Canal.

It was good to be surrounded by hedgerows again colourful still with Blackberries, Sloes, Crab-apple  and Rose-hips; to breath the fresh air and smell the heady fragrance of Nature. The trees were still luxuriant with their summer growth though it was now changing colour. Once more, as happens every year at this time, I was amazed that there could be so many variations of green, brown and gold in our spectrum of light. We were treated more extravagantly than ever on this occasion for even though the colours were of Autumn the weather remained steadfastly, day after day in late Summer. Though darkness approached so much sooner now, the resulting sunsets and evenings were splendid.



Peaceful mooring at Lapworth Locks


We forgot our hell for leather dash in the city and were able to relax again. To witness totally natural events around us carry on the same as they had for centuries was a revisited pleasure. The Mallards and Canada Geese still conversed in their pairs or groups assiduously in the language that only they understand but which we often guess at and the cattle grazing so contentedly soon put us at our ease. Even the pungent farmyard smells were what we needed to relax after the total pollution of the city.

We took our time and in the middle of the Lapworth Locks Janis and I loosened up even more for a couple of days. Following well used footpaths, we walked cross-country, in perfect weather, to the National Trust properties of first Packwood House and then on the second day to Baddesley Clinton House. The extensive gardens at each especially were filled, even at this late time of the year, with a riot of colour and we felt physically caressed by the heady fragrances all around.



Gorgeous Dahlia at Packwood House…..


DSCN1377  A bee at work

…… and a riot of bright colours


DSCN1400  Baddesley Clinton House

Baddesley Clinton House


DSCN1403  Another bed of gorgeous Dahlias

Dahlias at Baddesley Clinton too


Janis through the Lock gate


DSCN1417  Looking down the flight

Looking down the Hatton Flight


By the time we reached the Lidl moorings at Leamington on Sunday last for provisions our composure was back to normal. Our lives had been rewarded yet again.

We were back however in civilization.


milleraj said...

What a great voyage.Congratulations.Arthur

Old Salt said...

Hi Arthur. Thanks for your thoughts. Once again at the beginning of the year we planned to get up to York. This was to be the year we met you. Alas! All in vain; we ran out of time yet again and had to cut our journey short. Next time we are north we'll plan the River Ouse and York first and do our dawdling after that. Hope you are both well. Peter

Kantara said...

Saw Futurest on the GU near Leamington. You didn't seem to be there, or we'd have stopped off to say hello!

Old Salt said...

Hi Kantara.
So sorry I missed you. I was away again due to the lure of the 'CITY' no doubt. However I knew from your blog you were in the area and thought our paths might cross. Glad you enjoyed Stratford. I absolutely adore it there. All the best.
Old Salt the Ancient Mariner