17 June 2008

Plus ca change...

A few months back, one of the canal mags gave us its top 50 waterways-related books. It’ll be far too tedious to check and see if it’s online anywhere, which it probably isn’t, but I do recall that it included just about every essential ‘must read’ if you’re a narroboaty sort. Jim Shead does have a decent list on Amazon which will get you started, and I’d draw your attention particularly to the Working Waterways series. If you see any of the WW titles in a chandlery or canalside gift shop, knock your granny over to get your hands on one.

Canal carrying is the common thread that binds the titles together, whether it’s the Idle Women of the 2nd World War or the free spirits of the 50s and 60s. One of the things that struck me as I read them was ‘plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose’. Contained in their pages you can find tales of poor depth, minimal maintenance, speeding boaters, rudeness and yobbery; but next to them you can also savour memoirs of friendship, generosity, kindness, selflessness and an abiding love of the cut. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

Titles to look out for include:

  • Idle Women
  • Troubled Waters
  • The Amateur Boatwomen
  • Maidens’ Trip
  • Anderton for Orders
  • Hold on a Minute
  • Bread upon the Waters
  • The Quiet Waters By

The books all have a distinctive jacket style which makes them easy to spot on the shelf. I adore the front cover illustrations, very spare pen and ink drawings that perfectly capture the essence of the title.

I think I’ll use the pen and ink medium for my own book , ‘Happiness is a tiny flush’ and its sequel ‘Contentment is a bigger tank.’ In the shops soon...

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