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Virtual BCN Challenge 2020: Day 5

Posted by alexgreyauthor on 18 May, 2020

The Virtual Adventures of Augmented Reality Indigo Dream (ARID)

Day 5: Friday 8th May (VE Day)

1. Outline Cruise Log

FROM TO

MILES

LOCKS TIME IN TIME OUT
Tame Valley Junction Toll End Junction

0.5

0

09:00:00

09:12:00

Toll End Junction Danks South End

0.2

0

09:12:00

09:16:48

Danks South End Danks North End

1

0

09:16:48

09:40:48

Danks North End Danks South End

1

0

09:40:48

10:04:48

Danks South End Haines Bridge Junction

0.2

0

10:04:48

10:09:36

Haines Junction Haines Terminus

0.5

0

10:09:36

10:21:36

Haines Terminus Haines Junction

0.5

0

10:21:36

10:33:36

Haines Bridge Junc Ryders Green Junction

0.6

8

10:33:36

12:08:00

Ryders Green Junction Swan Bridge Junction

1

0

12:08:00

12:32:00

Swan Bridge Junction Balls Hill terminus

1.5

0

12:32:00

13:08:00

Balls Hill terminus Swan Bridge Junction

1.5

0

13:08:00

13:44:00

Swan Bridge Junction Ridgacre Branch terminus

1

0

13:44:00

14:08:00

Halford Junction Halford Terminus

0.5

0

14:08:00

14:20:00

Halford Terminus Halford Junction

0.5

0

14:20:00

14:32:00

Dartmouth Junction Dartmouth terminus

0.5

0

14:32:00

14:44:00

Dartmouth Terminus Dartmouth Junction

0.5

0

14:44:00

14:56:00

Ridgacre Branch terminus Swan Bridge Junction

1

0

14:56:00

15:20:00

Swan Bridge Junction Ryders Green Junction

1

0

15:20:00

15:44:00

Ryders Green Junction Pudding Green Junction

0.5

0

15:44:00

15:56:00

Pudding Green Junction Bromford Junction

0.5

0

15:56:00

16:08:00

2. Detailed Cruising Log

Another historic day on every level – some canals on which we have our history, historic canals that no longer exist and a historic landmark – the end of World War 2 in Europe (an important distinction!).

In the present day, it was gloriously warm and sunny, though this report from the Birmingham Mail reports that 75 years ago “the skies over the city were filled with rain” :

https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/nostalgia/ve-day-birmingham-what-happened-9199482

In doing some research on the day, I found this useful reminder in the archives of the Imperial War Museum:

“Not everyone celebrated VE Day. For those who had lost loved ones in the conflict, it was a time to reflect. Amidst the street parties and rejoicing, many people mourned the death of a friend or relative, or worried about those who were still serving overseas. For many of the widows the war had produced, the noise and jubilation as people celebrated VE Day was too much to bear and not something they could take part in.

There was also an air of anti-climax. The hardships of the war years had taken their toll on many people and left them with little energy for rejoicing. In Britain, the strain of air raids, the strictures of wartime life and the impact of rationing all left their mark on a weary population who knew there were more difficulties yet to endure.

But many thousands (or millions) celebrated, letting go of their fears and worries for a day:

https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/nostalgia/gallery/stunning-pictures-ve-day-celebrations-18165692

As did many of today’s boaters, displaying bunting and medals…

Ketura Bunting

VE Day MEdalsAs always, it was an interesting day on the canals and we used the time machine to flit about several eras, even attempting to save a drowning man – we couldn’t help ourselves, despite the risk of disrupting the laws of time travel.

Our first historic canal was Danks – seen here on an old OS map:

1904-os-map-danks-branch

It’s surrounded by iron works, though the name “Golds Hill” is a misnomer as the only gold here was black in the form of a rich coal seam.

Golds Hill ironworks has a fascinating history – it was a family-run business, you could almost call it dynastic, and in the sprit of yesterday’s philanthropists, the crew found a few extracts from the obituary of James Bagnall, sixth son of John Bagnall, whom I believe owned Golds Ironworks along with many others. James Bagnall apparently “took great interest in the moral and spiritual welfare of his work people. Schools were built by the firm at Gold‘s Hill for the benefit of their children, which were licenced for Divine worship, and a chaplain was appointed in June, 1853. These institutions he continued to support until his death; and while others similarly situated, when they had acquired a fortune, left the smoky district and retired into the country, he continued to reside among his own people to the last.”

I particularly liked this quote from a eulogy delivered at his funeral – “…And I recollect, also, on two or three occasions, being present at what was at the time an annual Christmas sight, viz., the giving away in great profusion blankets, sheets, shirts, flannels, and other things to persons represented to him as being deserving of his benevolence; and at that time his eye would sparkle with pleasure, his whole Countenance would be beaming with benignity; and, as the recipients of his bounty, one and all, thanked him, I have heard him say, ‘Don’t thank me, my friends, but thank God for what I give you – He gave it to me. My father was at one time a man of the people, and see how greatly the Lord has blessed him and his children!’”

It seems that Cadbury’s great reform in Bourneville was more representative of the spirit of industrial Birmingham than I’d ever imagined.

I’ll share a few photographs before we move on from this fascinating branch:

1889-os-map-danks-branch

 

And how it looked in real life…

 

Golds Hill Ironworks

This an etching of the Leabrook Works – for all the good deeds, ironworking was still a hard, polluting industry.

 

LeabrookWorks

After the excitement of the ironworks, we settled into a gentler rhythm, enjoying a few canals that we’ve cruised before…

Ryders-Green-25May14_05-37_006

Ryders Green Locks…

 

Ryders_Green-20110529-Sun-1100AM-304

And the view down…

 

r_wednesbury-old-28may17-0957-014

Wednesbury Old Canal (Ridgeacre Stub – taken by crew on bikes as cruising it in the present day is strictly forbidden!)

 

We moored overnight at the bottom of Spon Lane Locks, having traversed the oldest section of the BCN. Once we arrived there, we quickly dialled back to April 1769, to attempt the rescue of the first person who drowned in the canal, and was found floating near there. No luck, sadly, though maybe it’s just as well, as the laws of causality have a lot to say about not attempting to change the past.

We did take note that the canal company were advertising at that time for a “sober diligent man of unexceptional Character, who understands Accounts”. We concluded that nobody on board Indigo Dream fitted this description.

We also observed a lot of poor behaviour amongst the boatmen queuing for the locks. This was only finally solved in 1838 when the new main line was built. A contemporary reported “In consequence of this improvement Mr Telford ought to have had a public reward for introducing good manners among boatmen, who formerly seldom passed without quarrels and imprecations, arising from the difficulty and delay of passing the towing line below the inner boar; whereas now the meet and pass in good humour and with mutual salutations”

Ah yes, that s the spirit of the BCN Marathon Challenge 🙂

 

bromford-junction-22Jun14-033

Bromfrod Junction – our overnight mooring.

 3. Daily Challenge

Today’s challenge was, well, challenging, because, as this limerick describes, Indigo Dream has a pretty uncluttered roof – mainly because I’m only 5′ 2″ and struggle to helm if I can’t see – even Richard’s bike has folding pedals and handlebars.

Why Indigo Dream’s Roof is Clear…

A wise woman from Wales once said

“Don’t put stuff on your roof you don’t want on your head”

For low bridges and branches

Will sweep and dislodge them

And wearing your chimney will wreck your street cred!

I was also immediately reminded of Nb Herbie’s famous blog post about how to define boaters by the appearance of their roofs…

http://nbherbie.blogspot.com/2010/07/judging-boat-and-its-owner-by-roof.html

However, photographs of actual boat roofs were banned from this challenge so we had to be more creative.

Here is our video entry accompanied by a poem.

Note: We found the robin’s nest abandoned in a shed last year – no birds were harmed in the making of this video.

I’ve been tinkering with the “script” below…

Indigo’s Dream Roof

Were all bridges as tall as titans

And trees were all well-trimmed

Our roof would soon be brightened

And with wondrous items brimmed.

***

For all important navigation

A sundial points us to the light,

Signs (port and sherry) lead us to libation,

The telescope guides

us home on a starry, starry night

***

To help us breathe and stay alive

We have mushrooms that will satisfy.

Defibrillators do save lives

But may work better if kept inside.

***

The oils are there to keep us loose,

The mooring rope will keep us tight.

The scrap will pay for some fine foods

For the barbecue tonight.

***

We should flick the feather duster,

The mop and bucket should be cleaning.

But is dirt such a disaster?

To be honest, we’d rather be boating!

**

We have chainsaw, logs and chimney,

Complete with robin’s nest on the top,

So until they’re hatched and flying free

The fiery stove will be on stop.

***

We’re equipped as per regulations

With lights, anchor and fender,

The flag of our proud nations

Enhances our roof’s splendour.

***

We have a bicycle made for two.

The barometer’s set for fair.

We have some dodgy homebrew,

You’re welcome to come and share.

Today’s challenge was

4. From the Galley

As it is VE Day, I decided to look into what food might have been available for the actual celebrations, given that many basic foodstuffs had been rationed for so long.

I was heartened to find that celebrants were given extra sugar rations to enable them to bake a cake for the day. The Board of Trade also announced that people could purchase red, white and blue bunting without using ration coupons. Alcohol was an important part of the celebrations – many people had squirrelled away bottles for this “much-dreamed-of occasion” and it was interesting that first thing on the morning of VE Day, Churchill had “gained assurances from the Ministry of Food that there were enough beer supplies in the capital”.

Speaking of Churchill and alcohol, today’s Gin is Boodles Mulberry gin. This was originally named after the Pall Mall Gentleman’s Club called Boodles. Boodles Gin used to be enjoyed by Sir Winston Churchill and Ian Fleming. It dates back to 1845 but over time it became increasingly difficult to find. It hadn’t been available at all in the UK for a long time, until it was relaunched in 2013.

Boodles gin for ChurchillAlthough our shops were recently short of some food supplies for a microsecond, it’s hard to imagine the scale of shortages during the war (though there was a flourishing black market – plus ca change plus c’est la meme chose)

Apparently onions were a big thing and if someone got hold of an onion they’d “sit around and look at it. It was just like a beautiful, beautiful thing”.

This photograph is for them…

Onion

Given the shortage of sugar, I was surprised to read that the wartime government really promoted the cause of preserving and made extra sugar rations available for that purpose. I guess it’s getting the balance right – the profligacy of using sugar against the waste if fruit and vegetables were not preserved. As a particularly keen marmalade makes I was fascinated by this quote:

“If you got an orange, you’d use the zest in one dish and the juice in another, and you might use one slice in your saved gin and reuse it for three nights running. Then you would keep the husk that you zested and juiced and use that to stew up perhaps with some water and sugar to make some form of syrup to flavour things. Or you might pulp it and mix it up with butter and make it into orange curd, which you’d use sparingly.

Oranges

A wealth of citrus fruit

As you’ll see when I post “Tales from the Geistersammler” the “Idle Women” who worked canal boats (usually between Birmingham and London” during the war, were not given extra rations, despite the heavy work expected of them. One report says that they mainly survived on cocoa made with condensed milk, the truly horrible sounding “national loaf” and peanut butter, together with vegetables and fruit that they, ahem, foraged from the towpaths and surrounding fields.

At the same time, crumble became the sweet dish of choice – crumble topping could be made with less fat to flour than pastry and needed relatively little sugar, and no eggs (ok, only rich pastries need eggs!).

In tribute to the Idle Women, I acquired a rhubarb crumble and served it with evaporated milk (I didn’t have a tin of condensed in the cupboard). I also made a cup of cocoa using cocoa powder and condensed milk – I actually like evaporated milk but the cocoa was pretty thick and ‘orrible, though it was sweet enough without any extra sugar. However, the cocoa was hot and rich and filling – after a cold day on the canals it might have been just the thing.

Cocoa and Crumble

 

Read more: https://metro.co.uk/2015/05/08/ve-day-2015-back-in-1945-this-is-what-you-ate-to-celebrate-5185160/?ito=cbshare 

https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/articles/world_war_two_foods

5. Tales from the Geistersammler (Ghost Collector)

We thought we’d spend part of the day in 1945 so that we could witness some of Birmingham’s VE Day celebrations. We didn’t stay long – it was their event to celebrate, having lived through the fear and privation of war.

We were enjoying a cup of tea when an old woman popped out of the Geistersammler.

“I’d love a cuppa.” She said. “Ooh, is that real milk? Sorry, where are  my manners, I’m Sarah Fanshawe, Idle Woman. It’s good to be back on a boat again.”

I poured her a cup, it was a bit strong after stewing in the pot, but I doubt if she’d notice after she loaded three spoonfuls of sugar and what looked like half a pint of milk into her mug.

“Sugar and fresh milk…” she smacked her lips with relish, “Nectar of the gods! You learn to appreciate these things when you’ve lived on condensed milk. Cheers!”

She lifted her mug and slurped a big mouthful.

“If must have been hard to be an old lady in the war. How on earth did you manage on the working boats?”

She looked at me askance.

“I was old when I died, that’s me out there…”

I looked out of the window – the road adjacent to the canal was thronged with people, laughing and singing. One was a tall woman in her early twenties, wearing thick trousers, a linen short and a red kerchief. She looked strong and fit. Sarah caught me staring.

“They wanted women with a ‘robust constitution’ – no more plain Jane for me, I was useful, had a place in world, no need for my mother to worry that no-one would court a gangling girl like me.”

I looked again at young Sarah dancing in the street. Her face was alight with joy.“So you never married?” I asked.

“Huh, you sound like my mother, of course I married, see that ring on my finger?” She held out a spectral hand, a tiny solitaire diamond glittered alongside a plain gold band.

“My Ted proposed in 1939, but her was whisked off to war before we could get wed. I got a few letters but then he was captured.”

“You look so happy there though.”

“That’s because they’d liberated his camp a few days before, I’d just heard he was coming home.”

Sarah’s ghost was rather conventional, twinset and pearls, narrow court shoes, beautifully styled hair. I looked again at her younger self, wild and free.

“I was proud to be an Idle Women, though I hate that they called us that. Millie, Janet and me worked a motor and butty between here and London. It was hard, hard work but we were fit, like trees on windswept moors are fit. I was always cold and hungry – they never gave us extra rations, not like the Land Girls, and some shops along the way wouldn’t take coupons from Birmingham.”

“What did you eat then?”

“We made thick hot cocoa from condensed milk; there was always the national loaf though it always crumbled into mush when we tried to spread anything on it. Sometimes we had peanut butter. We took the odd potato or swede from the fields around the canal. We never felt guilty about that, after all, we were part of the war effort. The autumn was the best, we picked blackberries until our hands were stained purple, and saved our sugar ration to make crumble from windfall apples”

“Did you carry on working after VE day?” I asked. “You look so independent there.

“I wanted to be married, to be a wife and a mother. I saved all my coupons so that I’d have enough fabric for a wedding dress. I knew of some empty houses on our road that we could squat in and start our lives together, me and Ted.”

“Did you have a good life?””I had a life, which many didn’t. I won’t say it wasn’t hard, Ted and me had seen things that no-one should really, and I was used to wearing the trousers, literally. But when the children came I found a new place in the world and yes, I had a good life.”

She looked indulgently at her younger self. I thought she might regret the passing of her youth and freedom, but she seemed contented enough.“It’s been nice to visit you dear, but I think you’d better send me back now. Ted is waiting for his tea…”

Idle Women

 

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