The old Lock Cottage at Cropredy…

Twenty four hours after leaving the Winter mooring and things were clicking back into place. Though the route was as familiar as the back of my hand, it was different too. In fact, it’s never the same. Life isn’t. Is it possible to revisit the same place as the same person twice? I doubt it, life rarely has the synchronicity for that.

A scene might be replayed time and again and, at first glance it might outwardly look the same, but the truth is the continuity department have taken their eyes off the ball, the hedges have grown, the ducks cackle in the wrong place, the shrubs and flowers follow their annual cycle…

The scene’s will be both timeless and subtly changed, the bit-part characters are one the move, a dog walker here, a group drinking wine around a table in the afternoon heat there, canoes passing, different vehicles on the bridges or cows in the field… Such overwhelming and humbling variety.

The pace of canal travel encourages you to savour it and reflect upon the vivid fluidity of life. Complexity and interconnectedness.

With so many slippery signifiers how on earth do we ever really know a place or indeed know our place within it? Is it to do with the reassurance of familiar structures and volumes of spaces? Or perhaps it’s the associated memories that make it particular important in our private scheme of things? Familiar shapes and/or everyday stories?

I wish I’d kept more rigorous data. More snapshots. The changes in a single leaf in a single location from day-to-day. The biodegradation of a discarded fag butt on the stone track. The minute-by-minute movement of a single bird through the wood. Maybe these are the things of true importance.

But where do you begin?

p.236 in Rob Cowen’s Common Ground

Moored on the centre rope waiting for a boat to clear Cropredy Lock…

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