In exploring the next phase of our old boat Eileen‘s renovation we’ve thought long and hard about the use we’ve made of the spaces within the boat, and we soon recognised that there were many spaces that were being significantly under-used and others that were challenging pinch-points. To help ensure that in future we make better use of the space we’re planning – not surprisingly – to increase the use of the under-utilised spaces and reduce the number of pinch-points.
In my archaeological dig into the history of our old boat Eileen, her builder and owners, the holy grail is inevitably pictorial. Images help me to picture the past. They provide a way into a time and place otherwise difficult to access. Postcards provide a ready glimpse of the town of Tipton that would have been familiar to the boat builder Eli Aston and the boat’s first owner Benjamin Pearson. This was their world.
A few days ago I was surprised to unearth a new photo of Eileen from the 1980’s, imagine my delight then when I found another photo!
This time it must have been taken just after restoration by Jim Macdonald following a catastrophic fire in the late ’80’s.
I’d begun to think that my research into Eileen’s long history was over, as so few new leads have been found in recent months – so imagine my surprise and delight when browsing for something unrelated to the boat to suddenly come across this wonderful image on Wikimedia Commons.
The notes state that it shows ‘N.B. Eileen, Wheaton Aston, Shropshire Union Canal 25.07.1981’ ie. during a period when owner Paul Pepperell was making a solo trip around the English canals in the early 1980’s…
It’s the first time I’ve seen the full extent of the wooden cabin extension that had been fitted after the boat had been sold by Mick & Judy Vedmore.
“The most important reason for going from one place to another is to see what’s in between, and they took great pleasure in doing just that.” ― Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth
The cliche that every journey starts with the first step comes to mind whenever I reach the first lock on a canal journey. That first lock feels like a gateway, marking the ‘leaving behind of the home mooring’ and the ‘heading out or getting ahead’ on the journey. North from Banbury the canal runs parallel to the noisy and bustling Southam Road before turning sharply right at Hardwick Wharf and skirting a new industrial estate on the site of what was once an aluminium factory.
Though ‘Eileen’ is an unfinished project, as much an iron & steel tent or a shed afloat as she is a boat, it doesn’t mean she can’t be used now. She needs the engine to turn, returning her to shivering animation…
For various reasons I’ve been unable to spend much time at the boat so far this year. In the coming months I’m hoping to remedy that, starting with a trip across to Braunston in time for the Historic Boat Rally at the end of June. Although it’s only a relatively short trip in terms of miles covered, psychologically it’s an epic filling my head and crowding my thoughts. A welcome distraction at a difficult time.