The Manic Metrolopis of Middlewich

I generally take to towns the way a pet duck takes to seeing plum sauce delivered with the weekly groceries, but needs must when Beelzebub drives. Setting off at dawn insufficiently caffeinated is a recipe for an early mooring, and that’s exactly what I took. Two and a squit miles plus Big Lock plus the Middlewich Three plus Wardle Lock was enough to make me cry enough (well, that’s my excuse, but in reality I just wanted to raid Middlewich’s one and only remaining charity shop)…

The cruising was fun too, largely because I had chosen to Dive at Dawn – there’s nowt like a low sun and sod all other traffic to improve the navigation of what are, when all is said and done, some very, very tired locks. What doesn’t rattle and flap loose will hardly move without the aid of three or four Weetabix, two anabolic steroids and a certain desperation that comes from getting your boat into a lock and then having to wrestle with equally desperate machinery to get it out again.

Given the reluctance of a couple of the top gates to actually open (when asked to do so by one man-power) I thought about a future that might have to be lived trapped permanently in the locks. Where to put the hanging baskets, whether or not to carpet the lock ladders in that certain Axminster Tamar Turkey Red Broadloom with blanket-stitch edges, that sort of thing.

Joggers came and joggers went, but all the while I was in that far more demanding gymnasium of the inland waterways, stripped to the waist and pushing like an old bull against the odds (and the balance beams). I got some looks, I can tell you. I always get “stripped to the waist” the wrong way around. It’s meant to be top down, isn’t it, not ankles up? Still, either way works aerobically on a chilly morning.

Aside from the peopleing issues the other advantage of cruising at dawn is that you do rather get to enjoy any countryside at its best, with the Sun just peeking over the horizon and the sheeps and cowsies all still in their pyjamas and onesies. I cruised within a yard of a kingfisher that was, as yet, too cold from the night to be bothered at my passing, and which simply clung to its branch, teeth chattering and eyes challenging me to do my worst if I must. Who knew that kingfishers wore fluffy slippers, hair-curlers, and coughed a lot on that first cigarette of the day?

One disadvantage on this portion of the Trent & Mersey, where the owners were rather allergic to the cost of building locks and snaked and meandered around following the contours wherever possible instead, is that sometimes the twists and turns can turn the rising sun into a spot of a challenge vis a vis actually seeing where the hell you’re motoring your eighteen tonnes of steel…

We were lucky in a way that water levels were quite low, since our dear friends the Large Corporate Holiday Hire Company leave us but one single boat length available on the lower lock landing of the Middlewich Three, and that slap bang across the over-flow weir. With the levels low it wasn’t throwing the usual twenty billion tonnes of flast-flowing by-wash across, and a chap could actually moor up there without re-enacting some of the more colourful moments of the WWII North Atlantic Convoys.

The early hour meant that the Cardinal and I could take our own sweet time through the locks, and I could wander back and forth preparing the next and clearing up at the previous, thus dis-and-de-and-also-curiously-obfuscatingly obviating the need to moor up and de-moor-up again and again betwixt and between. Id est, lots of warm-up and re-warm-up walking in between bouts of weightlifting. 😉

I love it really, but my goodness me, it doesn’t half put a strain on the old everything. The NHS replacement kneecaps, elbows, ribs and buttocks were sore put to the test.

Yonder The Moorings in the town centre are, of course, restricted by the Canal Rozzers to some “48 hours”, but of this no matter since as mentioned towns and I do not bood gedfellows make and I had no desire to linger longer.

Regretabode one of the nights I spent there included a “Saturday” night, so I was treated to the local Yoof of Tudday ‘avin’ it large under the nearby bridge (until their parents called them in for a bath and bed).

Still, I can’t force them all into high-security institutions (somewhere obscure and unsavoury and far overseas) with no leave or hope of remission. Not until after the revolution, anyway, when I become Lord High He-Who (Must Be Obeyed). I have the necessary documents prepared and everything, I just can’t actually sign them into law until my investiture.

We’re not there anymore. We upped sticks and left at 0600 hundred hours o’clock on Sunday morning, while the Council was clearing away the drunks. We are, you’ll be surprised to learn, back in something with a more… countryside motif.

Middlewich – or rather Mildestvich as it was documented in the Domesday Book – was founded of course by the Romans (doubtless replacing some even earlier minor settlement of smelly unwashed pre-Roman peasants), and they called it Salinae because of the salt deposits and extraction industry. Intriguingly, Middlewich also lies across what is known as The King Street Fault, one of many such documented in England that is nothing like the scale of the trans-Atlantic San Andreas Fault, praise be – appropriately in this case – to my usual Greek and Roman gods. The subsidence and movement around here is terrifying enough due to the salt extraction, without Father Nature’s Roman third cousin twice removed, Earthquakerus, also ‘avin’ it large.

Anyway, Romans, salt and fault lines notwithstanding, Salinae served its purpose well, since I copped a grand haul of DVDs from the charity shop, and short comestibles from the local traders.

Ever onwards and upwards.

Chin-chin for the mo, Muskies.

Ian H. &Co.


    1. I think that they do (human “cuckoos”).

      Actually, I ought not to complain so about my species – in the final analysis, each and every adult one of them is a walking store of circa 126,000 juicy calories, should apocalyptic push come to shove. I shall henceforth attempt to view my fellow hominids as ‘Emergency Live Ration Packs’.

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    1. I have tried, tried, and tried again but still I cannot comprehend the apparent preference of nine out often groovy cats for town or cvity life! Settlements are places to rush into for specvific purposes and then to rush out of equally (or preferably more) quickly. Cheek by jowl is not one of my favourite social positions… 😉 If perhaps I might live on another planet, possibly in an entirely separated system in a different arm of the galaxy – if indeed it must be this galaxy at all – but with a decent internet connection, well – I’d put on my Deeley Boppers and sing two choruses of ‘I’m H.A.P.P.Y., I know I am, I always am…’ &etc.

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  1. Quite agree…rising at sparrowfart saves a great deal of contact with the great unwashed…and the washed who think themselves great, come to that. Best part of the day.

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    1. If only there were some method by which I could take a warmed Marmite knife and spread “Early Morning” all over my day (and night)…

      There are some things up with which, as they say, I will not put. The greater portion of my species, for one! 🙂

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  2. Thoroughly enjoyable briefing this week young man, I am especially enamoured of the artistic photomagrammaticals, especially the custard sky over canal bridge 176 and rather fetching coloured motion daguerreotype land/boatscapes.

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  3. Well, well. As you probably know by now, when I was counted among those damnable Yoofs, I lived in that area of Cheshire, but knew nothing of the fault until now.
    And you are right about the problems caused by salt extraction. Worse than anything that little fault could inflict. But just you wait until they start fracking!

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    1. The canal guidebooks for the area around Marston, a little farther north (a mile or two) actually mention that the gaps in the village/town are due to demolished buildings (and collapses) caused by salt extraction! It’s hard to believe that an entire industry set up to mine salt, thus causing huge voids, and neither thought about – or more likely cared about – the consequences, nor was held to account! We do indeed live in a peculiar society, always have – and as long as humans are involved, always will! 😉

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