Monday, October 4, 2010

Poetry and the Royal Canal

Camper van

My updates are behind. We were away this weekend, so no internet access since last week. Joe had been away visiting his mother, so it was up to me to pack up the van for the jaunt to Galway and then to the opening of the Royal Canal. All this being away on Joe's part was not good as he'd put the van up for sale on Monday. Just to see, he said. We thought we might upgrade to a van that didn't require you to shift seat backs and make up the beds every night - we have ideas of going abroad. So the phone had been ringing with people wanting to view the van and no Joe. No point me showing it - I'd sell it to them for 10 shillings.

Off we went to Galway with Joe and van packed and me feeling nervous about the poetry reading I was about to do and trying not to think about the fact that the Over the Edge Writer of the Year comp results were to be announced afterwards. I'd been shortlisted but wished I didn't have to be there. The reading was ok I think. I didn't stumble or trip up anyway, and it was lovely to have the opportunity to read ten poems to such an audience - very supportive and keen to listen. After the readings and before the open mic competition judge James Martyn was called up to give the results. And, well, I won the poetry section with a poem called 'Pandora's Well'. Astonished and delighted.

The old mill at Clondra

Needless to say my head wasn't great the next morning, but off we went to Clondra in Co Longford. This is a tiny village surrounded by water - three rivers and the Royal Canal. It's fifty years since boats could pass from the Royal Canal onto the Shannon. The canal was closed in 1961 when the railways and roads took commercial traffic off the waterways. Low bridges and culverts were built making it impossible for boats to navigate its length, but at least it was never filled in. In 1974 the Royal Canal Amenity Group was formed to try to restore the canal. Their job is finally done.

Richmond Harbour during the opening
We weren't in Richmond Harbour for the official opening and the speeches. Instead we were crewing for a friend on her old Dutch barge - she was on her own with a baby. It was very windy but gorgeously sunny and I got to take the helm while she did child duties. I've never steered a boat of that size before - the barge is huge. 60 odd feet. Just fits into the canal locks. It has a tiller too, as it's a sailing barge. The wind and current were pushing it sideways so you had to lean all your weight on the tiller to keep us travelling in a straight line. Fabulous trip. Well, until we got to the two locks leading into Richmond Harbour and the entrance to the Royal Canal. Guess who was left holding the baby? Though she is a complete dote and extremely well-behaved. Adorable actually.

I was on a lucky streak. That night there was a jazz band in the Richmond Inn in celebration of the occasion. They were excellent. All dressed up in boaters and so on. Two of them were, I'm sure, in their seventies. There was a raffle too and we came second - the last time I got a raffle prize I think I was about eight. The second prize was better than the first - an €80 voucher for the Purple Onion restaurant in Tarmonbarry just down the road. We'd looked in there once before and decided it was a bit pricey. We had dinner there on Saturday night - it's a pub and art gallery. Great food, great ambience, great service. And not at all coloured by the fact that we only had to pay €11.


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