There’ll be plenty of Brum action in the early part of the season so I’ll have my Waterways Routes maps handy on my iPad (Paul does a wonderful job with these IMHO). Not so much for checking where we’re going but for seeing where we could have gone…the maps show all the lost routes, those that have sadly been obliterated for all time and those which, rather more encouragingly, have restoration either in progress or being planned and lobbied for. Gosh, how I’d like to turn the clock back so we could run over the full extent of the BCN as it was in its heyday…there are some absolutely cracking link routes and so many watery arms and fingers creeping into every city nook.
Mind you, I bet the smell and the noise would come as a bit of a seismic shock to the senses. It’s all so sanitised these days (and that’s an observation, not a nostalgic moan) that you have to really concentrate the mind to imagine the endless clamour, the commingled stench of competing industries, and of course the boats, everywhere the boats. I suspect that even in our wildest imaginings we’d still fall well short of what it was really like. All that said, I’m a boater of today with a bad coffee habit so I’d be a total hypocrite if I longed for an old tannery instead of the Costa at the end of the Walsall arm. Legendary as the town’s saddlery and leather output was, tanneries exude a gut-heaving, mephitic miasma that is only surpassed by that malodorous acme, the bone rendering plant. I prefer my first lungfuls with a hint of Arabica, thanks all the same.