A while ago I went to London to see a double bill of poetry, song and theatre about the famous “Idle Women” of the wartime waterways. Heather Wastie performed her fantastic Idle Women and Judies, and Kate Saffin her one-woman play Isobel’s War.
Both were fantastic, really bringing to life the stories of these incredible women who learned to handle working pairs of narrowboats and barges on the Grand Union and the Leeds and Liverpool Canals. But the most exciting moment for me came when Heather performed a new song she’d written, inspired by our very own Willow! She’d read my blog post where I wrote about the report by Molly Traill on the test run from Ellesmere Port to Birmingham with Willow and Ash, and used it as inspiration for her song!
You can read part of the song on Heather’s blog, which also contains the details of their upcoming tour…
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Here’s a poem I wrote in 1993. I was reminded of it by Helen who, like me, is exceedingly busy. Since my mother reads my blog (Hi Mom!), I will explain that the child is an amalgam of me and a boy called Tom whose dad will probably also read this ….
Scene of many a tortuous battle.
Odds against me from the start.
The adversary –
A battery of broad beans.
Under attack from the air.
Enemy circling to reload.
Bring on the bread sauce.
Smother the opposition.
Nothing’s really changed.
Still got a lot on my plate.
Still trying to hide my broad beans
Under the bread sauce.
from The Page-Turner’s Dilemma, available from Lapal Publications
(It’s much cheaper to buy direct from me – bring your copy to one of my gigs and I’ll refund the difference.)
This is how it started. On Twitter. I was booked to perform Idle Women and Judies at the National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port. I tweeted about it. Kate Saffin responded to my tweet and we got talking. We each had a self-penned one-woman show about the women who were trained to operate working canal boats during WWII. Like narrow boat and butty, our shows fitted together, and within 6 weeks we had arranged a double-bill tour of Idle Women of the Wartime Waterways.
At the beginning of April we did a sell-out preview at The Barge House in London. Towards the end of my performance I announced that I would be singing a song inspired by Molly Traill which begins like this:
We took a trial run
From Ellesmere Port to Birmingham
On Willow and Ash
And here’s what we found
The boats need smartening up
The engines need repairing
Here’s my report
I’ve written everything down
As soon as I mentioned Molly’s name, a voice came from the audience: “She steered my boat!” It turned out that the voice belonged to the current owner of NB Willow, and I had found the information for my lyrics on her blog: Severner Willow
She was surprised and delighted to hear a song about her boat and I in turn was chuffed to meet her!
Our tour starts at the Worcestershire Literary Festival on June 16th. See below for the full tour schedule:
Thu 16 June The Camp House, Camp Lane, Grimley WR2 6LX (outdoors unless wet)
Tue 21 June Ashwood Marina, Kingswinford DY6 0AQ
Wed 22 June * Eagle and Spur, 176 Castle Rd, Cookley DY10 3TB
Mon 27 June * Dudley Canal Trust, Birmingham New Rd, Dudley DY1 4SB
Wed 29 June * The Bonded Warehouse, 2 Canal St, Stourbridge DY8 4LU
Mon 4 July Fox and Anchor, Brewood Rd, Wolverhampton WV10 7PW
Wed 6 July The Bridge Inn, 22 High Green, Brewood, Stafford ST19 9BD
Thu 7 July The Navigation Inn, Newport Road, Gnosall ST20 0BN
Mon 11 July The Junction Inn, Norbury Junction, Stafford ST10 0PN
Tue 12 July The Anchor Inn. Peggs Lane, Old Lea High Offley ST20 0NG
Tue 19 July The Shroppie Fly, Audlem Wharf, Shropshire Street, Audlem, Crewe CW3 0DX
There’s a new website “dedicated to the serious art of writing humorous poetry”and I’ve really enjoyed reading the poems posted so far. Today I’m pleased to say that one of mine is up there. Click the link to read it: