I’m trying to get under the skin of our boat. The Story of Eileen is a mixture of social and industrial history combined with fiction, research and imagination. If I’m honest the gaps fascinate me as much as the facts. Given that what I don’t know about the boat would fill a book, perhaps that’s a healthy attitude to have at this point. I’m open-minded about where the journey will take me, and up for a ‘drift’ across the landscape of her stories.
As I go no doubt some of my deductive leaps are likely to ‘fall short of the other side’ but even blind alleys if not exactly leading me forward might enrich the telling.
A landscape of atmospheres, histories, actions and characters coalesce around the boat and charge it’s space. And I’m connected to it. Wrapped up in it. The boat haunts me, fascinates me.
Currently I’m seeking solid ground upon which to moor Eileen’s early history. My hazy understanding of the relationship between key locations in her story; such as the relationship between the Iron Boat Dock, Tipton (where the boat was built in or before 1903 by Eli Aston) and the Spring Vale steel works at Bilston (where the boat worked for decades) has begun to bother me. I feel a need to get to grips with the basic geography of place and so I’ve set myself a few simple questions to answer:
- Where’s Iron Boat Dock?
- Where’s Spring Vale?
- How far between them?
- What did it look like when Eileen worked there?
- What does it look like today?
Here’s what I’ve found out so far.
It’s beginning to make more sense, and i feel I’m getting closer to one of the boat’s stories.