Thursday, August 06, 2009

En route to Wigan Pier

Day 5, Foxton to Kilsby Bridge

Funny day today. We set off early, full of high hopes of putting in the hours and getting to the far side of Leicester, but it wasn't to be. We're not usually ones to heed tales of bandits etc, but had heard quite a few warnings about Leicester (having been there in the past by train on a few occasions, it didn't seem too bad) so were going to aim not to stop there (having been there a few times etc etc, there doesn't seem much to stop for).

So, we set off before eight, nice sunshine. But I have been rather taken aback by the locks. A relentless string of them, not nice and narrow, but big and heavy and hard going. By the time we got to Kilsby Bridge (which one local had told us was the last 'safe' place to stop; it is certainly the first lock you need a BW key for), it had clouded over, and then it started to pour with rain. Normally of course we wouldn't let a little thing like a monsoon put us off, but I was feeling unaccountably knackered (not quite back into the swing of things, clearly), and it was clear that we were not going to make it to the other side of Leicester, particularly as there were at least another thirteen locks in the way, so we allowed ourselves the luxury of stopping because of the rain, and put our feet up. This is supposed to be a holiday after all - the serious boating it yet to come.

In anticipation of our destination, I have been reading The Road to Wigan Pier, in an enormous anthology of Orwell's non-fiction which I, unaccountably, had not previously got round to reading. I've already polished off Down and Out in Paris and London, and Wigan Pier is even better. Whatever he writes about, reading Orwell is always a pleasure. In a way, his two best known novels, being both works of fantasy, to a degree, are to my ming less enjoyable than his lesser known, more mundane fiction. It is the mundanity he captures so well, the grinding hopelessness of poverty, both of money and of aspiration, in A Clergyman's Daughter and Keep the Aspidistra Flying. The same sense is there in the non-fiction; the sordid hopeless lives lived by people who are not inherently sordid, but ground into that state by circumstance. No, thank goodness, things are not so bad today in material terms, but the feeling must be the same, only numbed by daytime TV rather than cheap cinema. Reading about the conditions in which thousands of working people lived in northern towns in the thirties does bring home to one that hard as it was, boating life was not nearly so bad as the conditions endured by factory workers and miners.

No interesting pictures today, but I have uploaded the right one for yesterday.

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