Today’s post is the first part of my very first article to reach the ‘real’ world. It was included in the winter edition of the IWN… the quarterly magazine of the IWAI. I would be lying if I said I was just a little chuffed…
OK… the regulars will know pars of the tale… if you should want to have another look at the more detailed accounts they are all to be found on the Royal Canal pages. So, with no further waffle… here goes the tale as it appeared in the magazine.
There I sat. Uncomfortable in my damp clothes, sore and cold, yet contented. I have done it. A tiny victory when compared with the magnitude of the greater plan of life, none-the-less, something for me to be proud of. The restful motion of the bus lulled me into a semi-doze. The pleasant warmth slowly seeping into my weary legs, dispelling the bone chill in the lower limbs, further adding to my feeling of achievement.
In about 40 minutes I would reach my destination. A short 10 minute walk and I would be back home. Back to where it all started all those months ago. The move to the estate house was the catalyst… the reason why I set off wandering down the towpath. I’m from Africa… I often quip that it’s space I need… wide open spaces. One thing led to another and now I’m reflecting on a memorable summer spent along the banks of the Royal Canal.
Memorable for many reasons. The unexpected highs and lows of falling into this little challenge. Challenge? Yes, to walk the length of the Royal Canal. Serendipity. On reflection, I realise there were substantially more highs than lows. Where do I start relating even just a few of my experiences along the silver slither that is the Royal?
How about the good old Irish weather? No need to, you all know about the legendary fickleness of this phenomenon so dear to Ireland. The effects of wet, muddy paths were far outweighed by the many warm and sunny days on the towpath. Bridge after endless bridge? At times, trying to keep my reports interesting may have resulted in my accidental omission of mentioning the odd feature. Apart from these slight inconveniences the only real negative I recall was actually caused fully by me, myself, I. Junior son accompanied me on one of the longer stretches from Thomastown to Furey’s at Moyvalley. There was a point after crossing the Boyne Aqueduct where I felt the lad may be in a spot of bother. Yet, to his credit, he agreed to complete the section after an extended rest. Thanks lad, your pappy appreciates the extra effort you put in.
Enough of the negative, let’s move rapidly onto some of the unforgettable moments which formed part of the total Royal 2011 experience for a non boater like myself. Stumbling upon the Rambler started a chain of events which has still to reach a conclusion. If I’m honest, I hope there will never be a final outcome. Let me explain.
The moment I set eyes on the sleek green hull, topped with its grand wooden wheelhouse slipping into Lock 16 at Kilcock, I knew that owning a boat in Ireland could offer the kind of lifestyle I had only imagined possible. Yep, I’ve long wanted a boat but being a creature of comfort and a dreamer to boot, I’ve thought the only option for me would be a large vessel. The Rambler experience seemed to crystallise the potential of living and working on a barge which is sufficiently equipped to allow that special balance I believed only possible on the continental waterways. I followed the progress of Rambler for three days… documenting the upward traverse in my own limited way.
I learnt so much in the last few months. I was aware of the ongoing work aimed at the full restoration of the canal in the last number of years. I was to learn it was the official opening of the Royal the preceding year that acted as the catalyst for the Rambler trip. Taking the grand old lady back to the waters she was designed to work on a hundred odd years ago. The only thing, when the Rambler set off into the west, she seemed to be sucking bigger boats and barges along in her wake. Good for her!
I walked… my ever-expanding radius taking me on to new stretches of water. Opportunity knocks on the odd occasion and it was during one such opportunity that I crossed paths with 31B and her master. A further education ensued… more distance covered. Soon I was involved with MF in his attempts at getting through the dreaded pinch point at Nead’s Bridge on the Summit Level. The fun didn’t end there. MF planted a seed… a seed of a rather tempting future fruiting promise. Why not walk the ‘Green and Silver’? Yes, indeed, why not?
That little prompt helped with the focus. Get cracking! I was gaining westward momentum all the time, yet the oldest part of the canal was still to be completed. I eventually made the time to get into Dublin and the Liffey. One thing I must say… there is so much heritage along that initial portion that I’ll have to return for more looks. Imagine… mooring a boat at Croke Park for a cup final. Imagine seeing the spectacle of a rock concert in that great venue and then returning to the boat for the after party… I dream… yet again.
I’ll continue the tale sometime next week… for now, do enjoy the weekend as best you can.
Finally, Boet… if you see this, enjoy your birthday over there on your side of the big sea… may God bless you and yours!