The Strange Case of Kent and Avon
I stood under the Gothic bridge as the fury of Beelzebub rained down over Somerset.
‘Detail!’ I could picture my editor shout. ‘It needs as much as you can muster!’
I could feel the warm damp of the Roman concrete, and wanted nothing more than to be indoors and dry. But his suave hair had spoken, I had a job to do. I upped the collar of my coat, which was now little more than a cluster of sodden stitches, and stepped into Poseidon’s lair.
The walkways along the Kent and Avon canal are the social Helmand Province of waterway footpaths; a continuous fight of pedestrians and cyclists, over an opiate of steep houses and brazillian-cut lawns. That is, when the weather isn’t looking to drown you. Underneath the medley of lime and sandstone bridges, the echoes of every footstep were a haunting alter ego. Jekyll. Hyde. Jekyll. Hyde. Once I passed through the final cluster of bridges, I breathed a damp sigh of relief. The rain had stopped.
Unlike the exhaustive “bukhaki” fest you often come across on the coast, the canal boats along the Kent and Avon were a lot more humble and interesting. Gone is Cameron and Montague Windsor, trundling along on their pearlescent overpriced speedboat, boasting portfolio successes as their alienated wives give hand jobs to yoga instructors below deck. In Kent and Avon, the white fibreglass is replaced with good old fashioned wood. Most of the boats are worn and distressed but there was a charm about them; the peeling paint jobs and rotting doors spoke volumes about the quirkiness of the people who owned them. In one case, the boat was covered in olive camo, the windows were greasy, and its owner left his military boots to dry on a stick that hung over the roof. I could picture the rough-shaven, survival tough nut sat smoking over a partially tuned CB radio, trying to communicate to the grey skinned geniuses that hide among the solar system.
Pubs along the waterway were another simple yet sound affair. The stone cobbled steps of The George Inn led way to a barkeep offering the finest of local ale. As I sat in the beer garden drinking a pint named after a local priest, I looked out into the bobbing water, reflecting off a village that oozed with uncharted personality. And I saw the enraged figure on the front of my lighter, ‘Yes,’ I thought, ‘my coat’s for the drycleaners.’