Tuesday, December 6

Grand Union Canal

Me and Madeleine by the Grand Union Canal in Paddington, London, circa 2002.

The surrounding neighbourhood Maida Vale and Little Venice, which owns enormous detached houses made all the more interesting by their proximity to the ancient, industrial, waterways.  The canal connects here to Birmingham 137 miles northwest with 166 locks , each charging a toll. By the mid-19th century, trains and, eventually, lorries, made the canals obsolete. Deserted, they fell into disrepair until an Act of Parliament in 1931 demanded their upkeep.

The canal 5-feet, six-inches at its deepest point with a minimum 26-foot width allowing two boats to cross each other. The canal boats long and narrow : they are still used to transport coal and other stuff but mostly they are kept for leisure purposes. Some weirdos live in the things and a canal-berth in Central London goes for £120,000.

I used to run along the canal toe-path which covers a fair stretch of urban blight before entering the countryside. Along the embankment are white markings which, for the longest time, made me wonder : why? It turns out that anglers own the "rights" to specific spots , which are passed down through the generations. Sunday mornings the fishermen out in force, too, with top-of-the-line water gear and 25-foot poles; some of the better equipped outfits have hydrolics lowering the fishermen into the water. God only knows what they pull up - maybe an old boot or a shopping cart? I asked once and got only a blank stair.

Madeleine: "Dad! You're home! I'm so glad to see you!"
Me: "Hiya, Kiddo. How was your day?"
Madeleine: "My fish almost died."
Me: "No! What happened?"
Madeleine: "I went in to feed him. And he was lying on the surface sort of on his side, breathing through his mouth."
Me: "Oh?"
Madeleine: "So I swirled him around a bit and he moved to the middle of his tank."
Me: "And?"
Madeleine: "What?"
Me: "Is he alive?"
Madeleine: "Yeah, I guess so."