Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Canal Books

More "canal" books that I have read.

"Ramlin Rose" by Sheila Stewart

The book is a whole pastiche of stories and anecdotes garnered from a number of the old "time served" canal people. With some licence the stories are skilfully woven together to capture the imagination of the reader. I was a bit annoyed at first with the written version of the boat-speak canal vernacular. However, after a while I found that it helped to add some authenticity to the storyline and I could actually hear the voices. Sheila captures some of the hardships endured by these people. At a time when the boatee family was made up of an almost gypsy like group people. An extended family of people who spent a whole lifetime working a cargo boat up and down the canal system. In what was to the people living on the bank something of a secret and virtually unknown world.

Ramlin Rose is a grandma's patchwork quilt of a story. That in one moment has a smile on your face and gives a nice warm feeling inside. On the next page Sheila captures and portrays the death of a child and our emotions turn head over heels. The unwanted child taken into the family and the loss when the child is subsequently taken way. This book captures a whole unique way of life that has now gone forever. It's passing almost as secretive and undocumented as when it came. With just a few faded photographs and failing memories being all that is left. The rivers and canals are now green spaces occupied and enjoyed for leisure activities. The last few pages are an endearing essay of the time. Written by a young girl, who is almost estranged from her boat family. She tells of the life on a boat and of her pride and admiration for her family and the "canal" way of life.  A book not to be missed.

"Starlight" by Geoffrey Lewis

Written in the same sort of genre as Arthur Ransoms Swallows and Amazons. This book will appeal to the younger as well as the older reader. The storyline is set on the canals rather than within Ransom's Lakeland or Norfolk broads region.

A story of two boys both hailing from a time towards the end of the boatee's canal lifestyle. One from the cut and the other from a town of the 1950's. The story twists and turns around their cultural, lifestyle and family differences. When a school friendship is drawn together from playground adversity. Set in the days before "Political Correctness" the book also captures another time that like canal life has been and gone.

A good simple tale that is well told.

"Going It Alone" by Colin Edmondson.

This is what I would describe as a booklet rather than a book. Some of the concepts could be described a bit clearer but never the less the book is thought provoking. Handling a boat through a lock usually requires two or more people. "Going It Alone" addresses the problems you will encounter when going through locks single handed.

Some of the ideas left me feeling a bit uncomfortable with regards to personal safety. But then again it is hard to ensure your safe when working alone. There are hints and tips that I picked up in the booklet that I use even when we are double crewed.

Going It Alone by Colin Edmondson is a good read but not for the faint hearted to put into practice.


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