Oliff’s Life

Richard recalls a canalboat holiday
Richard recalls a canalboat holiday

My first experience of being on a canal boat was during a 1970s day out that had been organised by someone I used to work with in our office at British Steel in Corby.

My only memory from that day was a joke at my expense when I pointed out to my fellow travellers that there were two birds ‘pruning’ themselves.

The whole experience lasted no more than an hour with the rest of the afternoon being spent in a country pub for a light lunch, accompanied by the odd libation or two.

Many years later a friend in Gretton had decided he would like to organise a one-week canal trip to ‘somewhere’ – anywhere in England.

When the cost of such a venture is shared between six or eight individuals then it can prove to be an economically viable and fun alternative to flying off to foreign destinations.

In addition, what became an annual ‘male-only’ event proved, as it happened, to be a welcome break for our various partners.

During a period of several years we would ply the waters of many a mile during our discovery of seemingly endless canals that meander and vein across the English countryside.

Having said that we did, on one occasion, venture into Wales, chugging our way from the Hurleston Junction (from the Shropshire Union Canal), ending in Llangollen.

I always remember those weeks as a time when the “boy” inside the man was allowed to spread wings without tether: akin to playing with best friends at the age of nine.

It made manifest the expression “stop and smell the roses”: travelling at no more than four miles per hour one had no option but to “spot” the kingfisher, wave to fellow boaters and take one’s turn at simple chores.

More importantly it reminded one that laughter and comradeship may be drawn from the depths of a mixture of differing personalities when confined and thrown together in 70 feet of narrow boat.